What are unstabilised oats? W. Isaacs
I am terrified this is going to reignite ''activated almondgate'', last year's online-media lynching of poor celebrity chef Pete Evans. Who would have thought the deactivation of enzymes in food could stimulate such fear and loathing. For grains, oats are high in fat, about 7 per cent to 8 per cent. Good for warming yourself up on a cold Scottish morning. In their natural form, oats contain lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fat, most likely to help the seed sprout. When oats are processed, however, lipase makes the oats go rancid. Neither harmful nor appetising. Stabilised oats are steamed when they are processed to knock out lipase to extend their shelf life. Unstabilised oats have not been subjected to the steam treatment and last about three months. Proponents of unstabilised oats maintain they are better for you and recommend they are kept in the fridge to retard the onset of rancidity. You can find unstabilised oats in health-food stores and online. Look for these brands: Elgaar Farm, Kindred Organics and Four Leaf Milling. You will find unstabilised oats in the US.
Where can you buy new potatoes? These have been listed as ingredients in recipes lately but I've never seen any for sale. Those tasteless, hard-skinned chats are not the same. J. Hanson
We plant sprouting King Edward potatoes in a big wooden box filled with hay and a little compost. In early spring we lay down a big piece of hay, cover it with compost, lay a few sprouting potatoes on it, cover them with loads of straw and then wait until the potatoes send up their sprouts. Then we cover them with more straw to stop the light getting to potatoes forming under the straw. After the potatoes flower we poke our hands under the straw, looking for bulges where potatoes might be, and twist off enough for a new potato salad. The plant survives and continues throwing out new tubers. New potatoes are thin-skinned, so don't travel well, so you won't find them in supermarkets. Look at farmers markets from early to late summer. Perhaps find a grower and ask them to pick a bag for you.
I have tried to buy sweetbreads at several butcher shops, but none had them and one did not even know what I was talking about. K. Stokes
When talking to many modern-day butchers, stick to footy and feed lines for single entendres. And don't mention offal, as you'll find some will automatically change the subject, mostly out of shame, to obfuscate the parlous state of their shop - a temple to defrosted chicken kievs, ribs slathered in maltodextrose and MSG, and a range of ''gourmet'' sausages in collagen skins. Sweetbreads generally refer to the thymus glands of veal and lamb but other glands are sold under this name. Sweetbreads are scarce, as most are frozen and exported. They sell for about $50 a kilogram on the wholesale market, so expect to pay $70-plus. Sydney restaurants we spoke to refused to name their suppliers. But we will. For quality lamb sweetbreads, head to good butchers such as Feather and Bone (Unit 8, 10-14 Lilian Fowler Place, Marrickville, 02 9818 2717) or Hudson Meats (call central office on 02 9358 0000). In Melbourne, try Largo Butchers (411 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 03 9417 2689) or Cannings Butchers (100 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, 03 9815 2245).
What makes turmeric so good at staining everything it touches, and how can I remove its marks from plastic Tupperware and cooking utensils? N. Connellan
Turmeric is used to dye garments in India. The compounds in turmeric that make it stain are complex but also sensitive to light and break down under sunlight. Wash clothing with cold water, wash as normal and dry in the sun. When cooking with turmeric, use non-porous kitchenware, such as stainless-steel saucepans and glass bowls. Avoid wood, plastic and rubber utensils.
A few editions ago, we suggested that if you're making a galantine or ballotine, poached terrine-like dishes, then wrap them up in aluminium foil. B. Dickson wrote in, saying, ''I have made many galantines and I have always used a tea towel with no plastic [wrap] at all. I tie the ends with kitchen string and drop them in the poaching liquid. They have always been a success.'' Suggestions for great black puddings keep rolling in, including recommendations for Hudson Meats (see above) and Sydney Butcher Boys. There has been a recommendation for the ''delicately spiced'' blood pudding from Morrison Street Continental Butchers in Wodonga.
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