Teresa Cutter's gluten-free carrot cake from 'How to cook gluten free'.
Teresa Cutter's gluten-free carrot cake from 'How to cook gluten free'. Photo: Supplied

Richard Cornish

I find myself long in loquats. What do I do with them? J. Apfelmann

I feel sorry for loquats. These juicy, golden globes of thin flesh, wrapped around a heart of stony pips, are perhaps the least loved summer fruit. The first to ripen, they are always overshadowed by their more glamorous cousins, the cherries. Loquats originated in China and are of the same family as cherries, plums and peaches, but their large volume of pips - about 30 per cent of their entire weight - relegates them to garden variety and they are not often seen in markets. Treat them like any other stonefruit. Eat them straight from the tree, macerate with sugar and serve with yoghurt. Remove the flesh from the pips and mix with an equal weight of sugar and cook to make loquat jam, or slowly cook the flesh with a little honey and dried fruit such as prunes and apricots to make a compote for muesli.

  • Matt Wilkinson's loquat and almond frangipane tart with crème fraiche recipe

When I use gluten-free flour to bake a cake, the cake turns out quite dry. Should the flour-to-liquid ratio be altered to achieve a better outcome?V. Beale

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Unloved: Loquats are heavy with pips. Photo: Jennifer Soo

I have recently been dabbling in the dark arts of gluten-free baking and have come to a conclusion: gluten-free flour is similar to wheat flour but not exactly the same - a bit like Wil Anderson and Adam Hills. You could interchange them in some instances without too many people detecting a great difference, but both have specific uses. The proteins in wheat flour, of which gluten is one, are activated by water and strengthened by mixing. They become elastic and trap expanding gases during baking, giving lightness to cakes and bread. Gluten-free flour is made up of a mixture of gluten-free starches sourced from potato, rice, tapioca, some pulses and vegetables. Xanthan gum is added to the starch and when mixed with water has the ability to trap air like the wheat proteins do. This mix of starch and gum requires more water to hydrate than wheat flour, so you will need to add more liquid when making cakes, muffins and pancakes and substituting wheat flour with gluten-free flour. I follow the recipe's hints, such as ''mix to form a thin batter'' to guide me through the process, then let it stand for the starches and gums to hydrate and see if it needs any more liquid. I find it best to bake with gluten-free flours using recipes developed specifically for these flours.

My grandmother says she remembers stewed bandicoot as being a popular dish. E. McLaurin

This was a fun piece to research. Bandicoots used to be commonplace and were used in coursing in inner city races - like greyhound races but with a live bandicoot instead of a mechanical rabbit. The bandicoot never won. I tracked down a 1933 Australian edition of New Standard Cookery and there are two recipes for bandicoot: one stewed and one creamed. They sit between recipes for Banbury Puff and the Banquet Menu. The creamed bandicoot is jointed and cooked in a white sauce, seasoned with one clove and a blade of mace, for an hour and a half. The stewed bandicoot is fried in bacon fat and chopped onion and slowly cooked in a sauce with tomato and thickened with flour. Today bandicoots are endangered and thankfully they are protected by law. Do not eat them. Eat wild rabbit instead.

Hot product: Bolst's Traditional curry powder.
Hot product: Bolst's Traditional curry powder. Photo: Erin Slattery

Where can I buy Bolst's Curry Powder? S. Norrie

The Bolst family started making curry powders in Bangalore, India in 1932. Their curry powder is reportedly a blend of coriander, cumin, black mustard seeds, dried red chillies, black pepper, turmeric, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves and has something of a cult following. The Bolst family sold the company and moved to Australia. The Matthew family continue production in Bangalore. You can order their product online at www.botanyfoods.com.au or call Botany Foods on (02) 9899 4477 to find your nearest stockist.

Send your queries to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au