Brain Food: Do McDonald's use beef fat in their fries?

Fact or myth? McDonald's French fries.
Fact or myth? McDonald's French fries. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Do McDonald's use beef fat in their fries? D. Hartley

Frying chips in animal fat gives deep flavour and superlative texture to chips. Animal fat is more stable at high temperatures but was phased out in the great fat scare of the late 20th century. At this time McDonald's in the US did use beef tallow in its fries but replaced it with vegetable oil in the 1990s. It does however use "natural beef flavour" in the oil blend that the fries are cooked in before being frozen and shipped to stores around the nation. In 2001, the company was presented with legal action by a group of Hindus who were protesting against the use of beef in what they assumed was a vegetarian product. At the time a McDonald's company spokesman said that, "The natural flavouring consists of a minuscule amount of beef extract". In Australia, McDonald's fries are made with potatoes, canola oil, dextrose, (may contain) sodium metabisulphate and antioxidant 306 – also known as Vitamin E.

Neil Perry's JOhn Dory with pine nuts, parlsey and garlic.

Neil Perry's John Dory with pine nuts, parlsey and garlic. Photo: William Meppem

Do you know if anyone grows and sells Australian-grown pinenuts? I have given up buying the stale, bitter, ancient supermarket ones. A. Beckett.

Pinus pinea. Say that three times quickly. It is also called the Italian Stone Pine and is the source of some of the finest pinenuts in the world. There are over 120 different species of pine trees producing seeds embedded in the pinecones wirth varying degrees of edibility. The ones A. Beckett refers to are grown in China, are short and squat and come from species that are less palatable than the smooth and creamy P. pinea. If possible, visit a Middle Eastern nut shop, chat to the staff and tell them what you are after. There are some really lovely pinenuts coming from Afghanistan which are protected by a thin husk that is easily flicked off with your fingernails. At present there are two substantial pinenut plantations in Australia that should be producing local pinenuts in time for the next federal election.

Love 'em or hate 'em? Brussels sprouts.

Love 'em or hate 'em? Brussels sprouts. Photo: Supplied

What do I do with brussels sprouts? L. Edgar

Brussels sprouts are at their best when young, deep green, tight and firm. If you treat them like little cabbages you can peel away their stronger outer leaves to reveal a pale tender heart. Heat the loose leaves through in some butter and serve with lemon juice. Perhaps cook a few anchovy fillets in the butter first and you have an instant umami-rich sauce. Steam the hearts separately and bring them all together and serve them with roast lamb. Delicious. Or slice them finely lengthways and toss with shredded carrot and apple, and dress with sesame oil, fish sauce and lime juice, a little sugar and Asian soft herbs, and serve with cold roast chicken. Superb.

Letters, corrections and apologies

Recently I referred to the passionfruit flower being used as a "pneumonic" to help South American Indians remember the crucifixion of Jesus. The word that should have appeared was "mnemonic". Thank you to all who gave me a good bollocking for such "appalling laziness".

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