Peter Gordon: Seaside rival to asparagus
I was wondering why stock is slowly added to rice when making a risotto, rather than adding it all at once. Does it change the taste or texture of the rice? - Sue Bell
It's the stirring in of the stock that creates much of the creaminess - the stirring rubs the outside of the rice, breaking loose tiny bits of starch. You can add all stock at once, but the result is less pleasing.
The use of branded products in molecular gastronomy is slightly frustrating, do you think that Xantana can be replaced with regular xanthan gum? - Phil Auker
I'm no molecular expert but I'd say you can get similar results - although Xantana is made from corn starch and xanthan can be made from wheat, so look out for allergens.
Thank you to readers who wrote in about where you can find samphire in New Zealand:
I have found samphire growing in Panmure Basin and the salt marshes around the airport. Presumably it does grow in many other areas (especially where there is some marshy ground rather than beaches or rocky outcrops). It is both seasonal and tidal and seems to be common in NZ. I've picked it in Auckland as well as Christchurch. Best season tends to be before Xmas when it grows quite lush, as after that it tends to get a bit woody. It does grow here in any salt marsh, however it is not quite as succulent as the European samphire (salicornia europaea). The NZ species (salicornia australis) is a little smaller, not so fleshy but every bit as tasty. - Rob
Samphire certainly grows in New Zealand. I used to collect it all around the coast line of Waiheke Island and on the east coast rocky outcrops of the Bay of Islands. Harvesting season is fairly short as the stems start to become quite woody. I collect during late spring/early summer. It is also called saltwort and grows at the high tide mark of beaches and salt marshes. I believe one of the botanical names is sarcocornia quinquefolia and is of Australian origin as opposed to a UK species of samphire (crithmum maritimum). Seeds are available from Kings seeds. Once picked, lightly wash and pat dry with paper towel. It will keep in the fridge wrapped in paper for a few days. - Bill