How many times can I use my cooking oil for deep-frying? How can long can I keep it? C. Reen
There was a roadhouse in Albury that I swear had its kitchen listed by the National Trust because it changed nothing for decades, not even the oil in the deep-fryer. If there was a southerly blowing, you could smell the rancid fat from Ettamogah. First, don't eat deep-fried food; it's crap and makes people fat. Second, if you do eat deep-fried food, because it is delicious, don't store the oil in the pan or fryer. It needs to be cooled, filtered and poured into a bottle. Third, use it only twice because particles that escape filtering affect its colour and the flavour of your fried food. Oil takes on aromas of food, so don't fry doughnuts after anchovy fritters. To stop oil smelling, fry a little celery or ginger in it.
I cooked mussels and found them inedibly salty. Any advice about reducing salt? K. Stokes
The liquor - the natural juice found inside a mussel shell - is as salty as the sea. Cooking only intensifies it, unless you add more liquid to dilute the liquor. Try cooking mussels by softening a finely chopped small fennel bulb in a little olive oil, add a splash of white wine, reduce and add a few chopped tomatoes and then toss in the cleaned mussels. There should be enough liquid in that sauce to dilute the salt. My mate Michael ''the Mussel Man'' Harris - who took my role as the Little Drummer Boy in the Christmas pageant at Balnarring kindergarten in 1972 - suggests steaming the mussels separately and pouring away the juice before using them.
While at a barbecue in the country recently, I had beef that was incredibly good. I was told this meat had not been ''cold rinsed''. What exactly is it? How prevalent is it in the meat industry? And where can I buy non-cold-rinsed meat? S. Frankpitt
Warning: this is a bit yucky. Some cows arrive at the abattoir stressed and exhausted. Running on adrenalin, they have used up their muscle sugar. That sugar would naturally turn to lactic acid after slaughter, which makes the beef a nice colour and more tender. An approved proprietary method from the US, called ''rinse and chill'', flushes a cold solution of sugar and electrolytes through the cow's vascular system after death. The cow may be dead but the cells live on and this solution is metabolised to form acid and make the beef a nicer colour and more tender. According to an industry submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, it also accounts for a 2 per cent increase in carcass weight. A respected butcher we spoke to said it made beef more sloppy and said it was an easy way to add value to otherwise poor-quality meat. Representatives of the beef industry said the method was used in Australia but wasn't widespread. Abattoirs such as Greenham, which produces Cape Grim and Greenham Natural, do not use this method. According to Australian Organic, no abattoir that slaughters certified organic beef uses vascular rinses. That said, although the way a cow dies determines the quality of its meat, many other factors such as breed, feed, season, sex and age affect meat quality and flavour.
Recently, you mentioned bull-boar sausages. Where can I get them from? L. Morrison
Bull-boar sausages are made from beef and pork infused with garlic, red wine and sweet spice. Any good butcher in central Victoria will have acquired a recipe from a descendant of the Italian-speaking Swiss immigrants, who first made these aromatic sausages in the 1850s, by befriending or getting them horribly drunk. I've done both. Some of the best bull boars are made by Ross Barker at Newstead Butcher (25 Lyons Street, Newstead, 03 5476 2217). He supplies the Chicken Pantry, at Queen Victoria Market, in the city (0418 329 267). Ken Thorn makes them as part of his range of 150 gourmet sausages on the northern coast of NSW (Ken Thorn Butcher, 80 Hyde Street, Bellingen, 02 6655 2155).
One of Brain Food's followers and fiercest critics, Bob Aikenhead, a former president of the Science Teachers Association of Victoria and a top bloke who keeps me on the scientific straight and narrow, writes about cleaning turmeric from cookware from a few weeks back. ''Turmeric changes in alkaline conditions. A little oven cleaner sprayed on a stained surface will result in the yellow becoming dark orange and washing off. Rinse in water with a little vinegar added.''
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