Cooks' Questions on storecupboard
Q: Are there any uses for the expensive smoked paprika other than Goulash? We are a vegetarian family but adapt the recipes with Quorn or Vegemince.
Delia has several recipes on the website using paprika, so you could try Chorizo Hash with Peppers and Paprika below. Or type 'paprika' into the search and make your choice. Obviously as you are vegetarian, meat substitutes and vegetables can be used as an alternative in the recipes as you have suggested.
Q: Do you know where I can buy fenugreek leaves?
You could try The Spice Shop as they do mail order.
Q: Dear Delia - In your recipe for Braised Beef Goulash With Smoked Pimenton, I'm sorry to appear a bit thick, but can you please clarify 1 tablespoon each hot and sweet, mild pimenton.
If you have a look at the recipe below, you will be able to clarify this matter - it is 1 tablespoon of each of the pimentons, we are sorry to have caused any confusion. Also both the sweet and smoked pimentons are available in supermarkets all over the country. Alternatively they are available mail order from Patanegra (tel: 020 7736 1959), there may be a delivery charge though. Delia has several recipes on the website using paprika, so once you have purchased them you will be able to use them in new dishes. You could try Chorizo Hash with Peppers and Paprika below. Or type 'paprika' into the search and make your choice.
Q: So many recipes call for gelatine but as a vegetarian I need to find a suitable alternative. Can you help?
If you are a strict vegetarian who objects to gelatine, it can be substituted with agar-agar, a substance derived from a certain kind of seaweed, or Vege-gel by Supercook which we have had some success with in our test kitchens for the website. Just follow the instructions on the packet.
Q: I recently used dried shrimps in a recipe but they were hard, like stones, and I wondered what was the point of including them?
There are two ways of dealing with dried shrimps. Either soak them in hot water for 15 minutes, or soak them in cold water for about two hours. When we tested the recipes, we found no difference with the finished shrimps and they were certainly never like 'stones'. I wonder which variety you used – we used Lucky Brand. Dried shrimps are often included in recipes because they have a lot of concentrated flavours, unlike the frozen varieties of prawns.
Q: How do I know when to use which type of olive oil?
There are three different grades of olive oil – extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil, the most expensive, has less than 0.5 per cent acidity and is produced by cold pressing. Cooking damages the proteins, so it's best to use it as a dressing. Virgin olive oil is produced in the same regions as extra virgin olive oil, using more mature olives, and gives a greater yield. It has a higher acidity level, so it's lower in price than extra virgin. It can be used for light cooking where the oil is not over-heated and also for mayonnaise and vinaigrette. Olive oil is the simplest of the oils, usually made using a hot-pressing method to extract the oil and sometimes using the 'cake' (the crushed cold-pressed olives that remain after the extraction of extra virgin olive oil). It is frequently used for cooking and is suitable not only for preserving, but also for frying, as it maintains its qualities when heated to a high temperature.
Q: I find that the taste of capers is far too strong. Can I leave them out when following recipes?
Capers are very much an acquired taste. However, the flavour should not be too overpowering if they are drained and pressed between absorbent kitchen paper to remove any excess vinegar. Or you could try salted capers, which are just preserved in brine.
Q: There are a lot of different vanilla flavourings, essences and extracts available – how do I know which one to use?
Pure vanilla extract is, as you'd expect, extracted from vanilla pods and not made synthetically – 'extract' is the key word here; essence and flavouring are not the same thing. It is very useful for sauces, custards and other sweet dishes where a touch of vanilla flavour is required. My recipes always specify which type of vanilla to use.
Q: How do I prevent my chutney from becoming too runny?
Be sure to use a wide-rimmed saucepan or a preserving pan. Chutney should be cooked uncovered and if the liquid is not evaporating properly, you could try raising the heat. But do not be tempted to reduce the quantity of vinegar as this will affect the flavour and the keeping qualities of the finished chutney.
Q: I tend to shop each day for food but would love to see a cookbook that gave a list of all the ingredients you would need for the week for a collection of easy-to-prepare, balanced meals. I end up throwing so much food away due to recipes requiring only a small part of the food purchased, eg half a green pepper, a teaspoon of this or that.
Planning meals for the week is one of the areas where Delia Online can be of help. For example, you could click on our Seasons section and use this information to help you decide what ingredients you'd like to buy for the week – it is always worth using seasonal produce for reasons of value and quality. Then click on the search and enter the ingredients one after the other in the search box - also have a look at What Should You Be Cooking this Month? as it's a roundup of seasonal recipes. You should then be able to see all the recipes on the site that use your chosen ingredient(s).On the other hand, many ingredients can be kept until the following week in the fridge and you can also freeze herbs until you need them again – most herbs freeze well. They don't need blanching but they should be washed and dried before freezing either whole or chopped. To freeze them whole, pack sprigs of the chosen herb into polythene bags and freeze. (You could tie sprigs of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf together for use where a bouquet garni is called for.) To freeze them chopped, chop herbs finely and pack into ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze. Tip frozen cubes into a polythene bag and store in the freezer. Recommended freezer life is 6 months.
Q: I am unable to purchase gelatine leaves needed for the Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake recipe (see below). How much powdered gelatine should I use?
If you cannot get hold of it, then try the following conversion:
1 level teaspoon = ¼ oz = 1½ leaves
3 level teaspoons = ½ oz = 3 leaves
6 level teaspoons = 1 oz = 6 leaves
Q: Which are the best herbs for freezing? Each time I buy fresh herbs, say tarragon or coriander, I always have lots left over and I wondered if some herbs can be frozen satisfactorily.
Most herbs freeze well – mint, parsley, chives, tarragon are all excellent – so it's worth freezing any that you use regularly. They don't need blanching but they should be washed and dried before freezing either whole or chopped. Whole: pack sprigs of the chosen herb into polythene bags and freeze. Tie sprigs of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf together for use where a bouquet garni is called for. Chopped: chop herbs finely and pack into ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze. Tip frozen cubes into a polythene bag and store in the freezer. Recommended freezer life: 6 months.
Q: Do you have any idea where I can buy Asian ingredients online? In particular, dried shrimp and galangal are two things I've been unable to track down in supermarkets (and we have no specialist shops anywhere nearby).
You will be pleased to hear that you can buy galangal (fresh, dried and powdered) from thespiceshop.co.uk Unfortunately they don't stock dried shrimps and we haven't been able to find another online supplier for you.
Q: I would like to try the recipe for braised beef goulash with smoked pimenton but I have no idea where to get smoked pimenton or what it is. I have tried thespiceshop.co.uk but to no avail. Can you help?
Pimenton is a spice that is very similar to paprika but is made from the Spanish pepper, pimiento. Both sweet and smoked pimentons are available in supermarkets all over the country. Alternatively they are available mail order from Patanegra (tel: 020 7736 1959), there may be a delivery charge though. Delia has several recipes on the website using paprika, so once you have purchased them you will be able to use them in new dishes. You could try Chorizo Hash with Peppers and Paprika. Or type 'paprika' into the searchand make your choice.
Q: What are the differences of bicarbonate of soda, arrowroot,cream of tartar and baking powder?
Bicarbonate of soda, also known as baking soda, is a leavening agent that works when mixed with an acid such as yoghurt to produce carbon dioxide thereby causing a dough to rise. Arrowroot is used as a thickener in cooking and unlike cornflour becomes clear when cooked. Cream of tartar is used as the acid ingredient in some baking powders and provides egg whites that are beaten with more stability and volume. Baking powder is also a leavener but contains bicarbonate of soda, an acid (such as cream of tartar and a moisture absorber (such as cornflour).