Expert Q&A

5 top fruit and vegetable tips and tricks

Expert Pamela Clarks teaches us the best tips and tricks of fruit and veg.

Q: I’ve heard that you can get unripe fruit to ripen quicker by placing it in a brown paper bag. How does this work?
A: The reason some fruits ripen when placed in a bag is because they give off ethylene gas, which is known to ripen some fruit. Ethylene is responsible for the ripening of tomatoes, peaches, apples and the sprouting of potatoes. Bananas give off a lot of ethylene, and are often the fruit of choice to place in the bag with unripened fruit to speed up the ripening process.
Q: Is there an easy way to peel garlic?
A: To remove the skin from a garlic clove easily without having it stick to your fingers, smash each clove with the side of a large, heavy knife. Remove the skin. Another solid whack on the clove will crush the garlic sufficiently to be used.
Q: How do I correctly peel and seed a tomato?
A: Cut a shallow cross in the base of the tomato and place in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and stand about 30 seconds then remove the tomato with a slotted spoon. Peel away skin from the cut end. To seed a tomato, cut it in half crossways and squeeze gently to remove the seeds. Or, cut into wedges and scrape out the seeds with a small spoon.
Q: Is it true that potatoes that have gone green are poisonous? Can you use any part of a green potato?
A: Our advice is that any potato with green patches should be avoided; the greening may indicate that the potato harbours toxins produced by over exposure to sunlight. They can also taste bitter.
Q: Is there a quicker way to roast potatoes? They always seem to take so long to cook.
A: Pour enough oil into a shallow-sided oven tray to barely cover the base of the tray; put the tray into a cold oven. Preheat the oven to hottest setting while you are preparing your potatoes. Peel and halve potatoes, then microwave (or boil or steam) until they are cooked through. Dry potatoes then roughly score the outside with a fork (or just roughly shake in a colander). Once the oven has reached the correct temperature, remove the oven tray and add the potatoes. The trick here is that the oil has to be very hot before the potatoes are added. Return the oven tray and potatoes to the oven, then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/180°C fan-forced; cook until the potatoes are golden brown, about 25 minutes.

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