The secret to fluffy mashed potatoes

Three Blue Ducks' Paris mash (creamy mashed potatoes).
Three Blue Ducks' Paris mash (creamy mashed potatoes). Photo: Christopher Pearce

How do I make fluffy mashed potatoes? T. Stapleton

There are those who like fluffy mashed potatoes and those who prefer them rich and creamy. If you want fluffy potatoes, you want to avoid releasing the gooey starch that forms as the potatoes cook. The worst thing you could do is put the potatoes into a high-speed blender which simply turns the boiled potatoes into a gloopy puree. Similar if you use a hand beater. To avoid releasing the starch chefs run their boiled potatoes through a drum sieve and mix through the fat and seasonings with minimal agitation to avoid releasing more starch. There is a dirty secret that some chefs in some eateries have – not places at which you or I would dine – and that is to use a percentage of dried-potato powder in their mashed potatoes.

There were yellow citrus fruit at the farmers' market and the farmer was trying to tell me they were limes. P. Teller

Taste it. If it tastes like a lime, it's a lime. If it tastes like a lemon, it's a lemon. In the US, yellow limes are considered a defect so there the shiny green lime is considered the norm. Yet limes ripen over the season and when ripe they have a pale green to pale yellow skin. Fully ripe fruit may be less acidic but they are just as aromatic. To make things even more complicated, the CSIRO has been cross-breeding native limes with Old World citrus, including the Australian Blood, a cross between an acid mandarin and a native finger lime; the Australian Sunrise, a pear-shaped, orange fruit that is a cross between a calamondin (mandarin crossed with cumquat) and a native finger lime; and the Australian Desert, developed from a collection of native desert lime trees.

Letters

Recently we were talking about making stock from scratch. One reader, P. Lennon, suggested that "why go to all the effort of making stock when there are perfectly suitable stock cubes on the market". My only response to this is to quote a chef who had a remarkable restaurant in a country town but has since retired. "The contrast between the pleasure derived from stock cubes and real stock," he once said, "is the difference between onanism and copulation." Last week we were talking about sensitivity to MSG. E. Hattam wrote, "Years ago I had a friend who was adamant that he was MSG intolerant and that he could smell it in food. The next time he visited, when we were having drinks, I opened a bag of Twisties and placed them in front of him, he devoured the lot. The next day he was fine." Conversely, we were also contacted by readers who suffer an extremely rare but dangerous allergy to not only MSG but other foods rich in naturally occurring glutamates, caused by mast cell activation syndrome. If you suffer from this, we'd love to hear from you.

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