Is it safe to leave out butter so it is always soft? Mike
My partner is a fashion designer and she receives ''fashion forecasts'' - predicting upcoming colours, themes and trends. A few years back, a forecast predicted the return of the glass butter dish in middle-class households. With the recent demonisation of margarine, locally made artisan butters continue to spread across the nation. Butter is a fat that is solid when cold but liquefies when warm - which is why it feels so good in our mouths. I have always kept a small pat of salted butter in our butter dish on the kitchen bench, enough for a day or two. Open to the air, it does lose its freshness and becomes noticeably rancid within a few days. Dairy Australia errs on the side of caution and recommends all butter be stored in the fridge. Thin slices can then be removed from a block of cold butter and left out to soften at room temperature. If desperate, cut off a slice of butter and roll it between two pieces of plastic film with a rolling pin, until soft.
Where can I get low-fat corn chips? I like to make nachos but all the corn chips from the supermarket are 25 per cent fat. A. Falk
Corn chips are the food industry's answer to Mexican totopos. Totopos are made from the previous day's tortillas, baked or fried to remove moisture and an important part of the Mexican diet. Corn chips, however are made from extruded, deep-fried corn and food additives. In Mexico, totopos are served at the beginning of meals with salsa. They are rarely used to make nachos which, although invented in Mexico, were popularised in the US and embraced by the junk food industry. Nachos are served with cheese - roughly 35 per cent fat - and sour cream, again 35 per cent fat. If reducing the fat content is a concern, consider making your own totopos by buying corn tortillas, cutting them into wedges, spreading them evenly on a tray in an oven preheated to 180 degrees (160 degrees fan) and baking them for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. With them, you could make the classic Mexican chilaquiles by topping hot totopos with fresh salsa, ricotta cheese (with fat levels at 15 per cent and lower) and fresh onion. The fat content of home-made totopos is still about 5 per cent as this is the oil content of corn.
The recent article on the best carrot cake mentioned rancid supermarket walnuts. How do I determine fresh walnuts and where do I get them? D. Wynnemere
So many of our nuts are rancid. Oils in the nuts, when exposed to air, oxidise. That makes them taste dull, lifeless, cardboard-like and, in extreme cases, just off. I keep walnuts in shells in a bowl in the kitchen. We make a walnut salsa for vegetables by grinding a few walnuts, an anchovy, a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of capers and a few tablespoons of olive oil. The walnuts need to be super fresh so we crack them open to order. Otherwise, we buy them from a nut specialist, health food store or Middle Eastern grocer. Nuts are not a commodity and are best eaten fresh.
My seven-year-old daughter charmingly asked if garfish and garlic are related. D. Dicks
Oh, D. Dicks. So clever. As if no one would notice a classic Dorothy Dixer. But thank you for the feed line, whoever you are. You, like me, have been studying a dictionary of etymology. (Etymology, for those who don't know, is the study of where words come from. As opposed to entomology, the study of what insects do.) Gar is Old English for spear. So garfish, aptly describes those delicious little silver fishes with that sharp protuberance. The Old English ''gar leek'' describes a plant that smells like leek but produces a spear, on the end of which is a bulbous flower.
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