The Friday Food Forum

Your food questions answered

Rachel Collins Fri, Nov 8
LIVE: The Friday Food Forum

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  • 13:01
    Good afternoon and welcome to our Friday Food Forum
    We'll be here until 2pm to help with your cooking, baking, food, wine and kitchen queries. You can submit your questions  here    
    Our panel today includes Domini Kemp, Eunice Power, Catherine Cleary, Marie Claire Digby, John Wilson, Alanna Gallagher and our guest, chef Derry Clarke of L’Ecrivain

  • 13:08
    First up, we have a question from Tim Counihan:
    When cooking fresh shell-on shrimp by boiling, I boil salted water first, add shrimp. How long thereafter? If I wait till the water reboils they are overcooked. Thirty seconds seems about ok?

    There is a difference between shrimps & prawns. Dublin Bay prawns I would normally cook as fast as I can as they are very delicate - add to boiling water & remove just before they come back to the boil. Chill quickly under the cold tap. Fresh shrimps are a little more robust - cook until they boil and chill down in the same way as the prawns. If you find yours are over cooked, maybe you have too much water in the pot. – Derry Clarke

  • 13:15

    Billie: I always stress about having to make gravy to go with a roast just as everything is coming out of the oven and people begin to crowd into the kitchen. Then there never seems to be enough! Would love some tips as to how to make a good, tasty gravy - with enough to go around for everyone! Many thanks.

    There is a difference between gravy & jus. Jus has no thickening flour but gravy does.
    Remove your roast from the oven and leave it to rest for at least 15 mins somewhere warm. Remove all the fat from the roasting tin, add a good knob of butter and a tablespoon of flour. Stir for 30 seconds or so over a low heat. Add a good glass of red wine and there will be juices from the meat joint that is resting - add these also. Stir well on a low heat and strain.
    If you want plenty of gravy you will have to have some beef / chicken stock previously ready to add to this mixture. - DC

  • 13:16
    Catherine: Do you have any suggestions for good hearty winter soup recipes?
    Yes - this sweet potato, ginger and chick pea soup from  the Saturday Magazine few weeks ago is delicious and definitely "hearty" - Domini Kemp
  • 13:19
    Sarah:  We are a group of girls looking for somewhere in Dublin city centre for our Christmas night out. We are 5/6 almost middle-aged mammies. We'd like a central location with a buzzy atmosphere. Not McDonalds but not Michelin-starred either - somewhere in the middle. Any ideas please?
    Dublin is your oyster, Sarah. The "not McDonalds but not Michelin" sums up just about every city centre restaurant's business plan since 2008. Some places that spring to mind include: The Winding Stair, the Pig's Ear, upstairs at Fallon and Byrne, San Lorenzo's on George's St.  Younger (and louder) options would be Cleaver East, Coppinger Row, Damson Diner, Bite ... Loads to choose from. Just book soon. - Catherine Cleary
  • 13:23
    Mary Schmidt: Hello team, I have a lovely recipe for a chocolate caramel cake which was very successful the first time I made it. However since then I have the following problem: when I add the butter and chocolate to the caramel, everything goes hard. How can I avoid this? Thank you very much for your help

    Hi Mary, I imagine the temperatures are wrong, the chocolate and butter have cooled down too much – is the caramel warm when added? The three ingredients should be warm when amalgamated. - Eunice Power
  • 13:29
    Ruairi: How long will a fresh truffle keep if kept in oil? 

    The best way to preserve truffles is to make something like truffle oil. Most truffle oils you buy have never seen a real truffle. Here is a recipe I use. When you're making your own truffle oil, you really just have to experiment to find the recipe you like, I've outlined an example below for a Black Truffle Oil, but you can use any truffle you like.
    250ml Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil
    25g Black Truffle
    Sterilize your bottle and any tools you will be using. Then wash your truffle in fresh cold water. You're trying to preserve the truffle, so it is very important that you don't get any contamination.
    Shave or grate your fresh truffle. The more surface area of the truffle you expose to the oil, the more the truffle will infuse with the oil. You may want to leave some of your truffle shaved, so that you can see full slices of truffle in the completed oil.
    Put your truffle in the bottle and pour over the olive oil. Seal your oil and leave for 48 hours to infuse. Taste your oil and enjoy!
    It is really easy as you can see and storing truffle in olive oil will preserve it for 3 months. The aroma of the truffle will be lost over that time and it is important to keep the oil refrigerated to reduce the rate at which this happens.
    Even though the oil may go cloudy in the fridge or even solidify, taking it back to room temperature will make it go clear again. - DC
  • 13:31
    Clare: Is it possible to make a curry from scratch using dried spices that tastes as good as curry made using a shop-bought paste?
    Buy your dried spices from a very good source and you'll get a good result. I heartily recommend Arun Kapil of Green Saffron  where you can buy online from a range of spices and spice blends that are carefully sourced and, above all, fresh. Buy just what you need and reorder. - MCD
  • 13:35
    Daniel: Those amazing chewy chocolate chip cookies at grandma's? I grew up with them and in 30 years, even with her supposed recipe, all attempts are a fail in comparison. How do you get that chewy, denser sweet, and avoid the more cake attributes that plague our amateur attempts?
    Try this gorgeous Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the chocolate genius David Lebovitz - Eunice Power
  • 13:38

    Tom Phillips: What’s the best way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts?

    Sear the chicken in a tiny amount of oil on a non-stick pan until lightly brown on both sides. Add a little thyme, season with salt and pepper, add a cup of chicken stock to the pan, a knob of butter, cover with tin foil and bake in oven at 180 for 10 mins.
    Remove the chicken, reduce the liquid over high heat. Add a little cream and you have a delicious sauce. – Derry Clarke

  • 13:40
    Mark Kinsella: I love risotto but it takes a lot of time and attention to cook so I have never made it for a dinner party. Is there any way I can prep and cook it beforehand and still keep its creaminess when served? How do restaurants do it? Thanks 
    Yes – you can do this by cooking the risotto just over half way. It takes 18 minutes to cook risotto from start to finish. Stop the process/cooking  at 12 minutes. Remove risotto from pot and place in shallow tray - you must cool it quickly. This will hold in a fridge for one day.
    To finish cooking, heat a ladleful of stock in a pot. Add your risotto. Keep cooking, adding more stock if needed and finish with grated parmesan and crème fraîche. – Derry Clarke
  • 13:41
    Cathal K: What is the best way to stop choux pastry from sticking to your tray?

    Use a silicon sheet underneath or parchment paper. I also suspect your choux paste may be a little too wet? – EP
  • 13:44

    Chantal De Barra:  What is the best recipe ever for coffee and walnut sponge (including the butter icing/filling)?

     My favourite is this Coffee and Walnut Traybake  ‑ EP

  • 13:47
    Yann: I have a lot of fresh herbs in the garden and would love not to lose them over the winter, do you know of any good ways of drying them or preserving them?
    There are a few ways: Drying - for sage, rosemary, bayleaves - hang in bunches in a warm, dry place.
    Preserving in oil or butter then freezing. The oil protects the herbs from browning and freezer-burn, and they won’t lose their potency. 
    Alternatively you can make a paste or pesto with the herbs and oil and store in a jar. The herbs will infuse the oil with their aroma.
    In the long term, freezing is best. - EP
  • 13:49
    Lots of you have been asking us about the best recipe for baking sponges. Eunice suggests this method below.
    The secret to a light and airy sponge is beating the eggs and sugar together until they quadruple in size and hold a figure of eight, then fold in the flour with a metal spoon - I would recommend sieving the flour three times to incorporate as much air as possible.
    The recipe I use is  
    5 eggs,
    135g castor sugar
    135g plain flour
    2x 8-inch sponge tins, 170C for 15 minutes.
  • 13:52
    Richard: I bought 4 quail from Aldi, what's the best way to cook them?
    Season them, sear in a pan and roast in the oven for 10 mins at 180 degrees, make a gravy in the pan add some deseeded grapes and port wine. Serve the quail whole and pour sauce the sauce over - DC
  • 13:57
    If you had a problem accessing Domini's  sweet potato, ginger and chick pea soup  or Eunice's Coffee and Walnut Traybake recipes, please try again - we've unlocked them from the archive
  • 14:00
    Oliver: where can I get a good knife sharpener?
    You can get your knives sharpened at Sweeney O’Rourke at 34 Pearse St., Dublin 2, from €1.50 per knife or you can buy one of two home sharpeners; Domini is a fan of the Accusharp sharpener which costs €15.87. A Wusthof sharpener, the brand favoured by professional chefs, costs €16.48.
     - Alanna Gallagher
  • 14:02
    Sue Scott: Can you recommend a healthy side dish to compliment beef daube provencal? Also a nice light starter so we are not too full for the beef. Thank you
    For this time of year, roasted root vegetables- carrot, parsnip, turnip, pumpkin, butternut squash, would make a lovely side dish. Toss in olive oil, with garlic & thyme, salt & pepper and cook in the oven.
    For a light starter try smoked salmon, goats cheese or smoked cold chicken with a nice salad and dressing. – Derry Clarke
  • 14:03
    Una: What is the best, cheap, tin opener around? I can never find a good one.  
    Ikea does a sturdy stainless, wind-round opener that has chunky synthetic rubber coated handles that give extra grip. It’s called Vardefull and costs €5. The old-fashioned tin ones may be short on looks but they work reasonably well and cost €3.50 at Stock Design. 01-679 4317. - AG
  • 14:06

    Phew – that hour flew by. Thanks so much for all the great questions – as it’s our first day, we’ll stay online a little longer to answer a few more. If we didn’t get to your question today, check back next week and we will try to answer as many as we possibly can

  • 14:07
    RB: When baking meringues (using just sugar & egg whites), a clear sugar syrup often seeps out, leaving the base soggy. Is there something I can do to stop this from happening?
    Weeping meringues = oven too hot. Reduce temperature and wipe away your tears! – EP
  • 14:09
    Danielle: What's the best lamb tagine recipe? Also, a few recipes I would like to use call for preserved lemon. Do any supermarkets stock this? Can't find it in my local Super Valu.
    The best tagine recipe I have seen is in Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals book. 
    Preserved lemons are easy to do yourself. Use unwaxed lemon. Cut into quarters, remove the flesh and discard. Keep the juice.  Boil water and sugar in equal quantities and add a cinnamon stick. Add lemon juice and the skin. Remove from heat and leave to cool. – DC
  • 14:12
    A few of you asked for some recommendations for food mixers, and taking into consideration limited space in apartments 
    Robbie Dillon of Expert Electrical, which has a concession in Arnotts, suggests a Kenwood mixer. You will need at least 1,000 watts of power to knead dough, pastry and biscuit mixes. 
    The Kenwood Premier Chef, 28.5cm by 23cm by 39cm, has a 1000-watt motor, comes with a cake beater, a dough hook, a whisk, a creaming beater and has a 4.6 litre plastic mixing bowl. It is currently reduced from €499 to €399 at Arnotts while stocks last. 
    It is slightly smaller than the Titanium Chef, 29.7cm by 22.7cm by 40cm, which has 1400 watts of power in its motor, the same attachments as the Premier. Instead of a plastic bowl it has a stainless steel one. It also comes with a glass blender and a food processor. It is reduced from €699 to €599, while stocks last. - AG
  • 14:14
    Killian Byrne: I like to cook brown bread. I use different recipes but nearly always get the same problem. My bread seems to 'rise' too much and I get a large split in it on the top, this sometimes also leads to large air pockets both just under the crust & in the body of the bread. I follow the recipe! Ultimately while the bread tastes good, it’s very difficult to cut due to the distorted structure and the slices fall apart. Thanks
    The oven is too hot and the bread rises too quickly. You may be following the recipe but your oven may be hotter than the temperature gauge states - this is a common problem with fan ovens. Reduce the temperature, this will ensure the bread cooks at a steady pace. We have three ovens and the temperature and cooking time vary in each one. – EP
  • 14:18
    That’s it folks. Thanks once again for all your questions.
    We’ll be back next Friday at 1pm for the second serving of Friday Food Forum. Until then, you can send us your questions here – and don’t forget to keep an eye on the newspaper and website throughout the week for more Food Month coverage - Rachel