How to tell if an avocado is ripe

Soft touch: To ripen a hard avocado for mashing, put it in the fruit bowl.
Soft touch: To ripen a hard avocado for mashing, put it in the fruit bowl. Photo: Simon Schluter

Is there a way to tell if an avocado is ripe without bruising the fruit? P. Furlong

A little etymology is a dangerous thing and can lead to disturbing mind pictures. Avocado is the Anglicisation of the Spanish word ''aguacate'', which in itself is the Hispanicisation of the Nahuatl word ''ahuacatl'', or ''testicle''. With that in mind, the Australian Avocado Association recommends giving your avocado a gentle squeeze or prod to see if it's ripe, particularly with the green varieties such as Reed. The deep-green Hass variety becomes deeper in colour as it ripens, turning to a purplish blush. It is interesting to note that avocados don't ripen on the tree. An enzyme inside the avocado is activated once the avocado is removed from the tree. Refrigerated cooling interferes with this process, so don't put them in the fridge. Instead, ripen hard avocados in the fruit bowl alongside apples or bananas.

Over Easter I was making hot cross buns and found the sweeter yeast dough for the buns took longer to rise than normal bread dough I was making at the same time. K. Linke

A little bit of sugar added to a dough supplies ready-to-digest food for the yeast. You will find some recipes for pizza and bread that call for a little sugar to speed the fermentation. On that, bakers' yeast is made up of very clever little critters. They produce an enzyme that breaks down the starch in the flour, polysaccharide, into simple sugar, monosaccharide. If you mixed just yeast and flour together, not much would happen without water. Water is essential for the yeast to go about its business. Sugar, however, absorbs water - water that the yeast needs to turn sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. So in sweet doughs the process can take longer. Added sugar in sweet doughs also caramelises when baking, making loaves and buns look brown on top when they aren't quite baked through. When baked, the sugar also keeps the water in the loaf locked up, making it unavailable to moulds, which means it keeps longer.

Do you know if there is anywhere I can buy wild Tasmanian salmon? D. Smits

The salmon grown in farms in Tasmania is Atlantic salmon. It is from the northern hemisphere. It is grown in cages. It's known to scientists as Salmo salar. Although these fish, on occasion, escape from farm cages, these escapees are not harvested commercially. You can buy frozen Alaskan and Canadian wild salmon at some fish stores and online at It is quite costly but is quite good eating, a little leaner but more flavourful than our local farmed salmon. There is a wild eastern Australian salmon, Arripis trutta, sometimes called bay trout. When very fresh it's a full-flavoured and delicious fish that is great barbecued over charcoal.

Recently our local Italian restaurant featured ''Tender Lions'' and ''Cane all'Albese". Should we point out the typos to the staff? G. Stockman

A tender loin is the eye fillet muscle of livestock. A tender lion, however, is a feline predator with a caring streak. Carne all'Albese is a raw meat served in the style of Alba, a town south of Turin. Cane all'Albese is thinly sliced dog. As far as bringing these faux pas to light, there is not much in it for either you or the restaurant. Any restaurant that doesn't check its menu probably won't have the acumen to handle that sort of situation with grace. You'll both feel uncomfortable. You may, on the other hand, have a wonderful charming and disarming personality and be able to handle the situation. I do have a pedant friend who marks up errant menu items with red pen, but I have always felt that is a slightly passive-aggressive approach. I think you have taken the appropriate response and simply had fun with it.

Have any other readers spotted some howlers on menus lately? Not just the wayward apostrophes, but some really bad mistakes. Send them in. We'd love to see them.

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