How to cook the perfect golden schnitzel

Duck schnitzel
Duck schnitzel Photo: Steven Siewert

​​What is the best way to cook a schnitzel? N. Johnson

When I was young boy a couple from Germany came to live with us on the farm. Wally und Rosa. They lived in a caravan out by the mulberry tree. They were different to us. In an age of International Roast, they made filter coffee. As we munched down on our Findus fish fingers on mash, they ate herring in rye bread. They cooked a lot of the vegetables they grew in the vegetable garden and while pork eaters, they would gladly accept some topside steak when we killed a steer. Rosa would pound it out, dip the pieces in seasoned flour, then egg and milk and then mound them with breadcrumbs – neither fresh nor stale but somewhere in between. "Never press them down," Rosa would say. She would take a huge knob of butter and melt it at low heat until it was liquid and then turn the heat up and add the schnitzel. She said you didn't want the butter too hot otherwise it would burn. She would cook the schnitzel until it was golden on both sides, then put it in a pre-warmed oven to keep it warm and make sure it was cooked through. Today still I follow Rosa's way of cooking but instead of butter, I use ghee. Clarified butter has a high smoking point than butter and is less prone to burning.

Karen Martini's hot cross buns recipe is great for cooking with kids.
Karen Martini's hot cross buns recipe is great for cooking with kids. Photo: Marina Oliphant

My hot cross buns failed to rise. I suspect the yeast. How do I know if it is still active? T. Righetti

I find it slightly ironic that a baked good made in remembrance of Christ's resurrection failed to rise. Yeast loves a warm, humid environment. Think athlete's foot. Placing a bowl of dough inside a large plastic bag will help trap heat and moisture while it proves. Yeast is an incredibly hardy member of the fungus kingdom. Dried yeasts are particularly hardy and you need to really mistreat a packet of yeast to kill them off. To see whether it is still living, take half a cup of warm water (36C), dissolve a teaspoon of sugar in it and then add a sachet or ½ teaspoon of dried active yeast. Stir. If active, a foam will rise to the surface and within 10 minutes it will start to bubble a little.

My friend told me to get rid of my plastic chopping boards and replace them with wooden chopping boards as plastic is unhygienic. V. Kriel

Aaah, the uninvited advice of friends and relatives. Breathe deep. A new wooden board and a new plastic chopping board will both have little bacterial contamination. But give it a few months and some serious chopping and both surfaces will become scratched and dinted, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to live. The porous nature of timber, however, "absorbs" bugs into the wood where they die off. Deeply scarred plastic boards have been shown to harbour more bacteria. So, keep cutting boards in good condition, and clean and dry them after use. Replace chipped and deeply scored boards. Commercial kitchens avoid cross-contamination by using different boards when cutting raw meat, cooked meat and vegetables.

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