Handling food in the temperature danger zone

Danger zone: Leave cooked food out at your own risk.
Danger zone: Leave cooked food out at your own risk. Photo: Eddie Jim

I often cook meals late in the evening. I usually leave the cooked dish out overnight to cool and in the morning freeze a portion of it and put the rest in the fridge to reheat for dinner that night. Is this OK in terms of food handling? M. Tomsic

I often cook meals late in the evening too, usually after a bottle of pinot when the creative juices start flowing. I have made some wonderful dishes but can never remember the next morning what I put in them.

In terms of food handling, what you're doing is as safe as juggling nitroglycerin. While nothing has gone off yet, it's only a matter of time. While your cooked food is above 60 degrees it is considered safe. As it cools below this, your food enters what the health authorities call the "temperature danger zone", between 60 degrees and five degrees.

Food kept in this temperature range for more than four hours is at risk of bacterial spoilage. After cooking your food, try cooling it faster. Also consider using water or ice baths to bring your food down to room temperature, which will then allow you to refrigerate your meals.

What can I use if I can't get buttermilk? V. Fehrends

I love buttermilk. I love the sound of the word. It sounds so wholesome. Traditionally it's the liquid expelled from cream as it is churned to make butter. Mostly water, it contains protein and other nutrients. Traditional buttermilk made during the production of cultured butter is also slightly acidic, which gives baked goods a slight tang and can assist in the aeration of cake batters when made with baking powder. In savoury cooking buttermilk can tenderise meats, as the lactic acid slowly breaks down the muscle fibres. Look out for traditional buttermilks from pepesaya.com.au and thebutterfactory.com.au. Buttermilk available in supermarkets is made from modified milk and culture and will do the same job. If you can't find either, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk and let it stand for 20 minutes before using as per the recipe.

I like the taste of Kewpie mayonnaise but I read the ingredients and saw it contains MSG. Is there an alternative?V. Ho

It's that wonderful combination of fat, salt, sugar and monosodium glutamate that makes Japan's Kewpie mayo such an addictive addition to any meal. If you are really hell-bent on ridding MSG from your diet but still want that umami-inducing savoury tang, try this homemade umami mayo. Place an egg yolk in a bowl resting on a moistened tea towel (this stops it from slipping). Add a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and one of white miso paste and blend with a whisk. Now, while you're continually whisking, ever so slowly dribble in a cup of grapeseed or sunflower seed oil, a tiny bit at a time until the mixture begins to thicken. Now slowly add the rest. For an extra umami hit, and if you don't mind the colour green, grind a sheet of nori into a powder and add this to the rice vinegar before you add it to the egg yolk. Tip: If your mayo splits, put a little commercial mayo in a bowl and slowly drizzle in and whisk your split mayo into it.

What is kosher salt? A. Cartwright

Some American recipe books call for kosher salt, especially in preserving. I spoke to a representative from Kosher Australia who said kosher salt is basically coarse salt that is used for koshering, which involves removing surface blood from meat. Kosher salt has large crystals, roughly one millimetre. Kosher salt is generally not certified ''kosher'', as salt is generally classed as a Group One product, meaning it naturally meets the requirements of Jewish food laws. The exception to the rule is that salt is not kosher if it has something added to it. For kosher salt, I substitute large sea salt crystals of the same weight.

Send your queries to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au