What is the best brand of anchovies?

Rather excellent: Ortiz anchovies.
Rather excellent: Ortiz anchovies. Photo: James Brickwood

What is the best brand of anchovies? K. Lynne

I have a memory of standing outside a bar in San Sebastian, quite drunk, speaking in Spanish. And my Spanish is crap. The anchovy buyers I was drinking with all loved a brand called Lolin (conservaslolin.es). There, anchovies are cheap. A 47-gram tin of the rather excellent Ortiz that  may cost $18 at specialist grocers here such as Simon Johnson will sell in Spanish El Corte Ingles department stores for the equivalent of about $5. Don Bocarte anchovies are small, pinkish and sweet, and it is quite possible to eat an entire tin on the tram on the way home (nomadistribution.com.au). I do like the meaty and savoury Conservas Emilia anchovies for about $20 for a 79g tin (alimentaria.com.au). For value for money, try the rather good Cuca brand anchovies (about $6 at alimnetaria.com.au). These are good enough to eat from the tin but sufficient value to use on pizza and caesar salads. When cooking, I have been known to use Always Fresh anchovies, 100g for less than $5 in supermarkets. Anchovies are not Tutankhamun and were not preserved for eternity. Instead they are "semi conserves" or semi-preserved. Shops selling top brands keep them in the deli fridge. You should do the same. Once opened they will keep in the jar, under oil, for up to two months. With tinned anchovies, transfer them to a dish and cover with oil.

We were served kangaroo tartare. Is that safe? J. Eldridge

I have eaten a lot of raw kangaroo (and wallaby) and never had a problem. Kangaroo, however, is a known vector of a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. This can be spread through contact with animal faeces but also by ingesting the parasite by eating raw lamb, pork, or kangaroo. The parasite survives inside cysts, and the body's immune system destroys any that escape these cysts. If you are immune-compromised they can cause serious illnesses, including infection of the brain. You have been warned.

I love Indian food. I'd love to know what saag is. Y. D. Thompson

Saag paneer is a creamy dish of slow-cooked green dotted with fresh cheese. I used to think saag was spinach. But I have learnt that saag refers to the green component of whatever grows best in that part of India. It could be kalmi saag or water spinach from riverine areas, or sarson ka saag, mustard greens, from farming areas. The saag part of the name refers to the greens used in the dish.

I am lactose-intolerant. Is there a good yoghurt substitute? H. Vickery

You're in luck. Jalna does a very good lactose-free yoghurt, available in supermarkets. I have noticed, however, that it is not broadly stocked on the shelves and often sells out.

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @realbrainfood.