What can you do if you add too much salt to a slow-cooked stew? S. Le Roux
You were born with one of the most complex environmental sensing devices ever developed. It fills the gap between your jaws and can detect minute quantities of substances essential for your survival. Your tongue is an amazing tool and should be used frequently when cooking. The good chefs I know carry a spoon in their top pocket to taste their dishes as they go. When a recipe says "season to taste", you add salt, pepper, sometimes acid, to make sure a dish is balanced. Remember that salt needs to be dissolved in water for it to be detected, so when adding salt to a dish, stir it through and give it time to dissolve. Dishes are seasoned towards the end of cooking because liquid evaporates, and if you season a dish at the beginning, the ratio of salt to cooking liquid will become greater and the dish too salty. If you find yourself with a dish that is way too salty, add ingredients to bulk out the dish to rebalance this salt-to-food ratio. You can dilute the dish with more water or stock. You can bulk it out with vegetables, adding chopped potato or pumpkin, or any vegetable that will cook quickly so the meat will not get overcooked. Alternatively, remove the meat from the dish, bulk out the stew with vegetables and cook until they are done, then add the meat back in.
Why do shellfish change colour when cooked? L. Bautista
When our kids were younger, we took them yabbying in the bush. To teach them how to safely pick up a yabby by its thorax, we would put tiny sticks in the native crustaceans' pincers to distract them from nipping the kids. The children would then re-enact great wizarding battles from Harry Potter, with the blue yabbies playing Dumbledore and the green ones playing he who must not be named. After rendering the yabbies senseless on ice in the Esky, the kids would cook them in great pots of boiling water. When done, all the cooked yabbies were the same shade of deep red. Crustaceans have a compound in their shells called astaxanthin, a naturally orange-red aquatic carotenoid that also makes salmon and flamingos pink. When the shellfish are alive, this compound is held tight in a protein called crustacyanin, so instead of appearing red, crustaceans such as yabbies, prawns and crabs can look anything from brown to green to blue. But when heated, this bond between the astaxanthin and crustacynin is broken, and the red colour shines through, giving your shellfish a reddish-pinkish hue.
Recently we discussed ways with feijoas, and J. Logan wrote in with, "Our feijoa bush on the Mornington Peninsula produced a record 400kg this year. I made a tasty jam using the smallest feijoas. After washing and then chopping in a blender – with skins on – they were placed in a saucepan, covered with water and sugar added according to taste. This was all gently boiled, stirred occasionally, and bottled when it was thicker."