Ask Steins – Your foodie questions answered!


Here’s a round up of all your foodie questions from our live ‘Ask Steins’ Q&A on Friday 28th June.

Q: Is Indian cooking witchcraft? No matter how many recipes I try it never tastes anything like my local restaurant. It’s witchery of the highest degree!!

A: It’s all about the ghee, salt and spice! As far as spices are concerned try to use them whole, not ground, as they lose their flavour and intensity very quickly. Heat in a dry pan until they smoke lightly and then grind with a pestle and mortar, this accentuates the flavour. In Indian cookery they tend to use a lot of ghee and salt in their cooking as well.

Q: I need a tip on how to keep squid lovely and soft. However I cook it it’s always chewy.

A: If deep frying you need it nice and dry, cook in small batches at 180°c and semolina is great to coat it.

Q: What is the best way to cook razor clams please we get them here in Gozo a lot but I have never cooked them?

A: My favourite way is the most simple. First, wash them really well under cold water. Then dry heat a frying pan and put the razor clams in hinge side down and leave them until they open. Remove from the pan and remove the meat carefully from the shell. Cut the clams down into diagonal slices about 1.5cm long, discard the gritty stomach from the centre. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan and quickly fry the clam pieces for 20-30 seconds over a high heat (if the pan isn’t hot enough they tend to boil and go rubbery). Then place them back in the shell, season lightly and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and some finely shredded flat leaf parsley, serve with a lemon wedge. Simple but delicious.

Q: What are the best knives to use?

A: There isn’t really a best knife to use. You need a knife that fits comfortably in your hand and you need to make sure you use the right knife for the right task. I find Japanese steel really sharp and Sheffield or German steel really strong for heavy duty jobs like cracking crabs.

Q: I want to do a fresh crab, but don’t know what dead man fingers look like?

A: They are small feathery gills with an almost velvety texture. They’re easily recognisable as they are attached to the outside of the inner body section.

Q: I love Indian food, love Rick Stein’s India BUT I am one of the 1 in 4 that is repulsed by coriander. Do we leave it out of recipes or can we substitute something?

A: I feel for you as I hear this a lot at the cookery school. Unfortunately there isn’t really a substitute, at a push you could try celery herb but it’s not authentic so I’d just leave it out.

Q: When making a curry they say brown the onions. Should they really go brown

A: Yes, cook the onions over a medium heat adding a tiny pinch of salt (this will help soften them) once softened, the sugars will caramelise and the onions will go nicely brown.

Q: Fenugreek dried, fresh or ground – which do you think gives the most flavour?

A: I would say dried, as it’s easier to get hold of and you can heat it in a dry pan to accentuate the flavour further.

Q: Hi Mark, quick one I really fancy trying oysters but have a slight fear of them since reading about Michael Winner’s experience a few years back which resulted in severe poisoning. What is the main thing to look out for when purchasing them?

A: Look at how they are being stored, as they need to be stored cup side down. Ask the fishmonger where they’re from and have they been depurated properly. When opening, they should have a really fresh and salty smell. They should look wet and juicy, so if they are dried up don’t use them. There is always a risk when using shellfish so make sure you buy from a reputable fishmonger.

Q: Many of Rick’s curries in his fantastic new book ask for tamarind water. I can only get the paste type in little jars. Are they okay to use and do I need to adjust the quantity if using a paste? 

A: Yes you can use the paste type and you can just dilute it with a little water. It isn’t as good in my opinion, as it has added sugar.

Q: What’s the best way to cook a lobster so the tail meat does not get tough?

A: Wrap in a dry tea towel, anaesthetise in a freezer for two hours and then plunge into boiling and salty water. This way, the lobster won’t go into shock and the meat shouldn’t toughen up. Happy cooking, Mark.

Q: How best can I cook my prawn curry?

A: Use raw large prawns, cook in the shell in boiling salty water for approx 1 1/2 mins, peel then add to your curry sauce.

Q: What’s an alternative to tamarind water?

A: Try using lemon juice, it will have the same effect as tamarind water but won’t give you the colour.

Q: Any tips on great lobster butter?

A: Roast cooked lobster shells basted with clarified butter, grind to a fine powder & use to add flavour to the lobster butter!

Q: Hi cooking lobster thermidor for wife’s birthday, best recipe please?

A: Great recipe in Rick’s ‘Seafood’ book as it’s a modern and much lighter interpretation of the classic.

Q: Wanted to know best stock for fishy risotto? Really don’t have time or kitchen suitable for boiling up fish bones?

A: A light chicken stock would be good, and look for one with a low salt content.