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Ask The Chef - Your Cookery Problems Answered

Problems in the kitchen? Are your soufflés more suitable for Pancake Day? Do your dinner guests hope and prey that you will go to your local take away, or buy a 'tastes so great' ding meal? Whatever your culinary calamity, you can ask our resident chef for expert tips and advise to help make your cooking experiences a joy.

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Latest Cookery Questions

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Meet Our Resident Chef - Joy

Joy has over forty years cooking experience. From running a professional kitchen to preparing dinner parties and feasts for friends and family, Joy has seen it all!  
Essex Gourmet - Ask the Chef

How to rescue crab cakes

Question.

How to rescue crab cakes

I have made crab cakes and by accident have added the breadcrumbs & eggs to the main mixture, how can I rescue them please, as have people coming for dinner tonight! Help.

Thank you.

Answer Hi Mandy,

Oh no! Okay, don’t worry - what has happened has happened and everything can be saved in the kitchen, well most of the time anyway...

You will have a crabmeat ‘stuffing’ type mix which can be saved. The egg will act as a binder, and the breadcrumbs should soak up most of the egg, so hopefully you have a mix that you can handle. If the mix is rather sloppy add some extra white crabmeat if you have, just to thicken the mixture and add flavour.

When it comes to cooking the crab cakes, I’d advise you to make small thin cakes in a Thai style; just moulded in your hand and then dusted with a little cornflour. Shallow fry until golden on each side – try one out and see what you think; you can always adjust the size/seasoning/crabmeat to get the desired flavour and texture. Serve with some salad leaves, coriander, lemon or even a little chilli sauce.

I do hope that helps you and you all enjoy your dinner this evening.

Good luck,
Joy.
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Why did my Bread & Butter Pudding collapse when taken from oven?

Question.

Why did my Bread & Butter Pudding collapse when taken from oven?

Dear Joy, I made a lovely bread & butter pudding today and it puffed up beautifully only to fall when removed from oven! I suspect it's some error I've made with the milk/cream/egg/sugar mixture.
Here's what I did:
3 large eggs, 10fl oz milk, 5 fl oz double cream,2oz Caster sugar. I used sliced brioche, soaked sultanas in Cointreau. Poured on the whisked egg mix, left it for 20 mins. before putting on nutmeg and demerara sugar. Gas Reg 4 for 45 mins 2nd shelf from top. Was lovely and browned.
I'd like to make it again but without the collapse! Husband thinks it's fine and nothing to worry about!

Marion.

Answer Dear Marion,

Your recipe and cooking method for bread and butter pudding sounds spot on. The air bubbles in your ‘custard’ mixture will expand when in a hot oven. Like a soufflé, unless the mixture is cooked through and becomes self supporting, the bubbles will collapse when taken out of the oven. Of course, the time span by which you have reached the perfect light consistency and being over cooked and rubbery is minimal.

As you say, your bread and butter pudding was browned and crispy on top, so I would not advise you to cook longer. The temperature and oven position is fine too. So, what I would suggest is placing your pudding tray in a larger tray surrounded by hot water, this will help improve gentle even cooking throughout and should minimise sinking when taken out of the oven.

I expect your husband is happy with your bread and butter pudding as it is, it sounds delicious!

All best,
Joy.
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Freezing Beef Wellington

Question.

Freezing Beef Wellington

Can you freeze beef wellington, it is almost complete, Fillet cooked off, coated with Pate and Mushrooms and Puff Pastry, put hasnt been finally cooked

Answer Dear Claire,

Yes, you can freeze a pre-prepared beef wellington, ready to cook when you need it. Please bear in mind though, that if your beef has previously been frozen and thawed, it is definitely not recommended to freeze again. However, if the meat was fresh, place your beef wellington on a flat surface, such as a baking tray, or cling filmed cardboard, and wrap well and quite tightly in cling film. You can then freeze for up to two months. Just thaw overnight in the fridge prior to use, then unwrap, place on the tray you will be using to bake, and leave out on a worktop to reach room temperature prior to baking.

I hope that helps.

All best,
Joy.
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Indian curry

Question.

Indian curry

Last night I made a curry from scratch. Once I had fried all the spices/seeds I blended them into a paste. But when the curry was cooked there was small pieces of husk off a seed in it. What could have caused this?

Answer Dear Amanda,

Great to hear you are making your own curries using whole spices, the flavour and aroma imparted from whole spices is so much better than using ground spices, particularly if they have been in your store cupboard for a while and their flavour/aroma has faded over time.

Personally, I like to leave a lot of spices whole in curries, the crunch and burst of flavour from smaller spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander and cardomom seeds can be delicious, although I know a lot of people who don’t – including some of my friends! So, what I would advise you to do, is grind your spices first, prior to blending them into the curry paste, this will ensure that they are ground/blended into a fine powder before adding your garlic/ginger/coriander etc. Alternatively, I find the little tea strainer mesh balls ideal for putting whole spices in, add to your curry and let all the flavours cook out, then remove before serving.

I hope that helps.

All best,
Joy.
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Caster or Icing Sugar?

Question.

Caster or Icing Sugar?

'Delicious' mag. recipe for Viennese biscuits says golden Icing sugar. Morrisons have never heard of it. Did it mean Golden Caster which I already have? Recipe also includes an egg white. It says to help biscuits retain their shape. Will this be OK if I have to use Golden Caster sugar or will the shortbread be unlike shortbread? Hope you can help. Many thanks. Trisha

Answer Dear Trisha,

Yes, there is such a thing as golden icing sugar, it is a natural unrefined sugar which actually has all of the nutrients and minerals from the sugar cane juice intact, unlike the refined white icing sugar which is devoid of all nutrients. You can buy this from Health Food shops, Delis, Sainsbury, Waitrose...

Being as you are cooking delicious Viennese biscuits, which lets face it are a wonderful treat, yet not high on the ‘good for you’ balance, it may be a good idea to use unrefined ‘golden’ icing sugar, although normal icing sugar, not caster, will work just as well.

Happy baking!

All best,
Joy.
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