Bananas.
Fruity advice: Once ripe, bananas can be stored in the fridge. Photo: Andrew Quilty

Richard Cornish

I can only do shopping once a week and find bananas don't keep well. I keep them in the fridge. What is the best way? M. Duff

I once watched a Mexican chef take an unripe banana, slice it, squash the slices with his palm then fry them in oil with garlic, season them with salt and serve them as a crisps. When unripe, the sugar-to-starch ratio in a banana is 1 to 25, but this changes to 20 to 1 in ripe bananas, which contain about 20 per cent sugar. Placing bananas in the fridge when underripe slows down the enzymes that lead to ripening. Sometimes the enzymes don't become active again when you remove them from the fridge so the bananas don't ripen. You need to be picky at the greengrocer: buy some ripe fruit to eat that day and the next, some slightly less ripe fruit for later in the week. Ripen the bananas in a fruit bowl at room temperature - storing them next to other fruit such as tomatoes will speed the process. Once ripe, the bananas can be stored in the fridge; their skin will turn black but the flesh should be good for a few more days. Peel and chop overripe bananas into chunks and freeze for use in banana cakes and smoothies.

Where can I buy duck that has not been factory farmed? A. Cooke

Australians wolf down nearly 8 million ducks a year. Most of these are Pekin ducks, the cute white ones with beaks that same strange orange colour teenagers favour for their fake tans. Most of these are raised in sheds with a stocking rate of about five ducks (not teenagers) per square metre. If you want a duck that's quacked about in the open for its seven weeks on this planet, look out for these producers: Milawa Free Range Poultry (0428 570 492), Great Ocean Ducks (greatoceanducks.com) and Burrawong Gaian (burrawonggaian.com). Free-range duck tends to be more flavourful and can handle robust flavours and, depending on the season, they can be more toothsome and require a little more cooking than factory-farmed ducks.

In cooking and foodie TV shows, people are always poking and prodding food, especially meat, fish and poultry. Can you please tell me what are they looking or feeling for? R. Downs

When you mentioned poking and prodding in the same sentence as ''TV show'' I thought you may have been referencing Nine Network's trashy '90s drama Chances. Alas, back to the job at hand. I was taught to make sausages by the great Richard McGillivray, who comes from a butchering family on the Murray. He said there was no point in making sausages while wearing rubber gloves as you can't feel if there is enough salt in the mix. When mixing minced meat, the texture changes from slippery to sticky as the proteins start to bind. Our skin gives us a complex variety of information that is assimilated as we gain experience. A knife inserted into a baked potato will slide in with ease as the starch breaks down but, when done, the skin will become a little tougher. A skewer poked between the thigh and the body of a roasting chook will cause juice to flow forth; clear juice is a good indication the flesh is cooked. A metal skewer inserted into a piece of fish then placed on to one's skin will indicate the internal temperature. Steak is a classic example - the more well done, the firmer the flesh. There should be more poking and prodding, along with a good probing from a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures of big pieces of meat.

Where can I buy packets of oxtail soup? L. O'Mahony

I think your question should start with ''why'', not ''where''. Have you read the ingredients list on packet soup? Most of them were unknown to mankind before World War II. Batchelors Cup a Soup Original can be bought online from britishsupermarketworldwide.com. Baxters in Scotland do a rather tasty tinned version, available in British food stores in Australia.

Send your queries to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au