Peter Gordon: Not mushroom for error
I've been reading a lot recently about foraging for wild food, and I'm especially interested in wild mushrooms. Do you have any pointers for identifying which are edible and which are poisonous? - Christiaan Swanepoel
Foraging has been around forever, and in Europe it's becoming the must-do weekend experience - it's a free meal so that's got to be good too. However, mushrooms range from tasty to deadly, so it's really important you forage with a knowledgeable person, as the wrong mushroom could kill you. The NZ National Poisons Centre has good pictorial guidelines on which mushrooms you should avoid, ph (03) 479 7227.
I went to a Japanese restaurant and had some delicious lamb chops that they said had been cooked at 65 degrees for a long time. What's the advantage of that, and how long should I cook them for at that temp at home? Should I sear them first? - Marcella
It's probable they were cooked sous-vide - which basically means in a vacuum sealed bag, in a water bath. This slow, even cooking (much harder to get right in an oven) stops the meat shrinking or losing moisture, so it remains succulent and juicy. If you do roast your lamb chops at a low heat, make sure the oven temperature gauge is working properly
This is a perennial I know, but how do I avoid lumpy gravy? I stir and stir but the lumps still appear and it drives me crazy. Home-made gravy is so much nicer than the stuff out of the packets and I'd like to get it right - Janine
Place a few tablespoons of flour in a jam jar. Add cold water and shake like mad and use this paste with your pan roasting juices and boiling vegetable water. Otherwise, make sure you have 2 tablespoons roasting fat, add 2 tablespoons flour, work to a paste, and add boiling vege water slowly (whisk it in if you have to) until glossy and smooth. I always add soy sauce to my gravy for colour and flavour.