What's the best chopping board and how do I stop them from jumping around when I chop my vegetables? U. Le Couter
About a decade ago, there was a stage when you could find old wooden chopping blocks out the back of butchers' shops. Well-meaning meat authorities had deemed them unsafe. Instead, they wanted them replaced with plastic boards that were considered more hygienic. This assertion was put to the test by the University of California, Davis. It turns out that a properly maintained wooden board is more robust than a plastic board and does not get marked by deep knife grooves like a plastic board. However, plastic boards are cheaper and easier to keep clean. Boards made of hardwood are more hygienic than those made of softer woods. Plastic boards can warp under heat, which will render them unsafe to use. Replace boards that are heavily nicked or marked. The Australian Food Safety Information Council advises: "It is easier if you have two boards – one used only for raw food and one for cooked and ready-to-eat food or bread – to prevent cross-contamination. All chopping boards should be scrubbed with hot water and detergent and dried after preparing raw foods." Find out more at foodsafety.asn.au. Whatever type of board you use, you can stop it from sliding on the bench by placing a damp cloth or sheet of kitchen paper under the board before chopping.
My wife can't stand the taste of celery. Are there alternatives? P. Strickland
You could find another on eharmony.com.au. If you're referring to celery, Japanese research has found that it is one of the most disliked vegetables in the horticultural pantheon. Some people are revolted by the mere smell of the plant. They are generally people who are sensitive to bitterness. Celery is from the Apiaceae family, which means that it's a relative of parsley and coriander – and, as the name suggests, is fertilised by bees. It is naturally salty and is one of the triumvirate of taste (diced onion, carrot and celery) known as mirepoix, which are cooked down at the beginning of myriad braised dishes in French cooking. You could substitute celeriac but its taste is so similar to celery there would be no point. To maintain the balance of the ingredients, replace the celery with the same amount of carrot when starting your slow-cooked dish. In a salad, I recommend substituting the crunchy, mild-tasting jicama, the engorged root of a leguminous vine, or yacon, the sweet-tasting tuber of a South American daisy. You'll find them in Vietnamese grocers. Apples, nashi and cucumber will also give you a lovely crunch.
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