Richard Cornish

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Taste test: Season as you go and if you over-salt, increase the mass. Photo: Steve Baccon

I cooked ossobuco and over-seasoned it with salt. I ended up throwing it out and felt quite guilty about doing so. Was there anything I could have done? B. Leslie

Yes. Taste it as you were cooking it. Cooks who don't taste their food are like car companies who don't crash test their cars. All my chef mates carry a dessert spoon in their back pocket and taste the dish from go to whoa. You often see chefs adding a sprinkle of salt to sauteeing vegetables because the osmotic effect of the salt draws water from the veg, which is then evaporated, thus intensifying the flavour. Remember that salt needs to be in solution to be tasted. So when you are finally seasoning the food make sure to stir it in and give it time to dissolve. If you accidentally over-season a soup, stew or braise, remember that you have a ratio problem - too much salt to the mass of stew. The solution? Increase the mass of stew. You could dilute it with more water, but you will lose taste and texture. By adding more bulk of vegetables, grains or pulses, you will return the ratio of stew to salt to a more acceptable level. Three or four peeled and chopped potatoes added to the sauce and cooked until soft will do the job. Remove the meat first, as you don't want this to get overcooked and turn to mush.

Is rabbit an environmentally friendly meat option in Australia? C. McInnis

Call me cold-blooded, but I like eating rabbits. Wild rabbits. Wild rabbits shot just as they are about to eat another fledgling native plant trying to establish itself. Eat the bloody lot of bush-munching little conies, I say. Cam Walker at Friends of the Earth agrees saying, ''rabbits … constitute an environmentally friendly'' meat option, because of the huge negative impact on vegetation and native species. (Large rabbit numbers can lead to large tracts of vegetation being destroyed, leading to the extinction of many plant species and the native animals that rely on them.) He is not so keen on farmed rabbit saying, ''It is hard to be certain that rabbits have been raised humanely. Feedlot-raised rabbits … will have a smaller footprint than broad acre grazing of cows and sheep, [but] do not bring the same environmental benefits of reducing numbers in the wild.''

When recipes say to put food into the oven at a certain temperature, they never say whether to put it on the bottom, top or middle shelf. W. McNulty

Unless stated otherwise, assume the recipe author intended you to place the food in the centre of the middle rack. One small tip: as many ovens have hot spots, turn baked goods such as cakes and biscuits around 180 degrees in the final quarter of the baking time to avoid one side browning more than the other.

I have so many recipes that require jicama, but can't seem to find any. I've tried some substitutes but they didn't produce the required result. C. Mandell

Jicama is a crunchy, swollen, legumous root that made its way from its home in Mexico to the Philippines with Spanish traders. From there it travelled to Vietnam and arrived here with the boat people. Look for it in Vietnamese grocers where it is known as san nuoc.

Letters

In response to a query about brik or malsouqa pastry, this suggestion came from T. Hoven who wrote, ''I have found spring roll pastry to be a good substitute. It's easy to find, much tougher than filo and definitely crunchy.'' Last month we answered a query about not using butter knives to cut bread rolls at the table, but breaking them by hand instead. To which reader GB2509 commented. ''Wow - I'm 26 and never heard the rule about using your hands to break the dinner role (sic). Can someone please explain this etiquette? I mostly use the knife and have never been picked up on this.''

Send your queries to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au