A baby squid risotto from Ananas Bar and Brasserie in Sydney.
Slow cooking can tenderise squid. Pictured is a baby squid risotto from Ananas Bar and Brasserie in Sydney. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Richard Cornish

What is the difference between squid and calamari? E. Tobin

About $10 a kilo. Squid and calamari are two different beasts. Squid is cheaper and tougher; calamari is more tender and expensive. Squid is generally Nototodarus gouldi, also known as Gould's squid, but a species named Teuthoidea is also targeted. Calamari come from the genus Sepioteuthis. You can see the word "sepia" in the name, which refers to their ink. You can tell squid from calamari by the fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the squid's hood. The fins of calamari extend almost all the way down the hood. My fishmonger insists you can make squid as tender as calamari by marinating it with kiwi fruit. Try buying smaller squid, chopping up their fins and tentacles and stuffing these back into the hood with breadcrumbs and slowly cooking in a tomato and garlic sauce. The slow cooking tenderises the squid's flesh.

Can I eat beetroot leaves? S. Griggs

Calamari, pictured, is a pricier species and more tender than squid.
Calamari, pictured, is a pricier species and more tender than squid. Photo: Marina Oliphant

If you consider that beetroot's botanical name is Beta vulgaris, then you'll understand that it comes from a perfectly acceptable, albeit humble, family. Beetroot, the red globe we cook for salads, is the swollen root of a plant that started out thousands of years ago as a leafy green growing around the shores of the Mediterranean. It was cultivated and more palatable varieties were selected. These were the forebears of silverbeet and Swiss chard. Some were selected for their sweet roots and these became sugar beets. Some had starchy roots and these became mangelwurzels and fed to cattle and peasants. Some growers selected a variety for not only its swollen root but also for its deep purple colour, a combination of pigments betacyanin and betaxanthin. (These are recognised as beneficial antioxidants. To keep the colour in a beetroot, cook it in its skin so the colour doesn't leach.) The leaves are edible but the outer leaves can be a little harsh-tasting because they contain small amounts of oxalic acid, so peel those off and compost them. Use the smaller, younger leaves and trim off the bottom part of their stem, soak to remove grit, spin dry in a salad spinner or tea towel. Dress with a vinaigrette – I make one with one part seeded mustard to two parts maple syrup and two parts extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.

What are panko breadcrumbs? M. Ellis

The word panko is made of "pao", the Portuguese for bread, and "ko", which is Japanese for flour. Panko is ground-up bread or breadcrumbs. Portuguese traders influenced Japanese cuisine not only with yeasted wheat breads but battered fish dishes such as tempura. Panko is a modern product made by cooking bread dough in steel cases, not by applying heat, but by passing electric current through the uncooked bread dough. The resistance offered by the dough creates heat that cooks the dough. Because there is no heat source blasting from the outside of the loaf, no crust is formed during baking. These large blocks of soft white bread are dried and ground into crumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are long and light and give a lighter, crunchier texture to food fried in them.

Fresh. Beetroot beets.SMH THE (SYDNEY) MAGAZINE Picture by JENNIFER SOO SMAG120426
Beta vulgaris: Beetroot comes from a perfectly acceptable, albeit humble, family. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Where can I get meat glue? B. Mayne-Farnsworth

You are, of course, referring to transglutaminase, an enzyme from animal blood that bonds muscle tissue. For those who haven't come across it, meat glue is used in the food industry to bond cuts of meat to form more pleasing shapes. An example would be when a catering company glues the tapering ends of an beef eye fillet muscle together. Where once these would have been expensive offcuts, meat glue offers the caterer the chance to form a nice round piece of meat and serve it to a male wedding guest (red meat for the gentlemen, chicken for the ladies). When using it, be aware that you're recombining meat, so what was on the outside may now be on the inside, including bacteria. To avoid food poisoning, make sure your kitchen is clean and the internal temperature of the meat once cooked is above 74 degrees. Try redspooncompany.com.

Leave a question for Richard Cornish is the comments below or email him at: brainfood@richardcornish.com.au.