Ask Abi Anything

InstaQA

Do you have a pressing foodie question, cooking conundrum or a thought to share about anything food related?

Now’s your chance to ask TASTE’s fabulous food editor Abi Donnelly for her expert advice. She’s on stand-by to answer the cooking questions you’re just dying to ask.

Abi will be answering all of your questions between 1pm and 2pm today, 3 September.

How to join the Q&A

Simply click the “ask your question” button below and post your question.
Your comment will be moderated, and will appear (with an answer) within a few minutes. If your comment is not displaying, please refresh your browser (F5 in Windows, or Apple+R on a Mac).

Please submit your question below. Your question will be added to the list of questions, and will hopefully be answered soon.

  • Jane asked: Can I make my own "recipe book" from recipes on this site, and if so, how?

    Hi Jane,

    You can save your favourite recipes by clicking the heart icon at the bottom of the image of the recipe, which will then be stored on 'My Profile' > 'My Favourites'. You can also add your own recipes to the site and this can also be found on 'My Profile' > 'My Recipes'.

  • Sibongile asked: How do you become a food stylist?

    My advice to anybody who wants to be a food stylist:
    It does help to have formal chef's training!
    The best way would be to get hold of a food photographer's assistant and do food tests with them - it can be a store-bought cake but it's the styling that turns it into something beautiful! That helps with confidence and then you have some pictures to show to prospective clients, maybe even showcase them on your own blog.
    Finally, try assist professional food stylists, even for a day - and ask LOTS of questions!

  • Jane asked: Do you grow your own veggies?

    We try to! But it's difficult in sandy conditions next to the sea. We grow spinach, lemon grass, turmeric, pink potatoes, tomatoes and radishes - but I have get to the radishes before the dog!

  • Suzelle asked: Which is your favourite word for the following: aubergine, egg plant or brinjal; zucchini, baby marrow or courgette; and coriander, dhania and cilantro?

    Brinjal - because it sounds exotic (and it's South African)
    Definitely zucchini because it's nice to say
    Cilantro because it reminds me of America - my husband went to America years ago and brought backs seeds and we grew them - this was before coriander (or cilantro) was readily available in SA.

  • Lance asked: What can I make with chicken breast that is exciting?

    My favourite way to make chicken breasts is to butterfly the breasts, heat a cast iron pan, melt butter with olive oil, and fry quickly with lemon juice and chilli. Super easy and delicious.

  • Kelly asked: What's your go-to dinner party dish for a crowd?

    When friends come over and we entertain, they always like me to show them how to do something!
    So I make a lot of homemade gnocchi or pizzas from scratch, otherwise I'll slowcook something in the oven like Asian shortrib or stuffed chickens with a big creamy potato bake with lots of Parmesan.

    We rarely braai, because I don't feel like we're treating our guests! I do love braais at other people's houses though.

  • Anastasia asked: Do you have any budget week-night dinner ideas?

    Try a noodle stir fry with lots of spinach, soya sauce and diced chicken breasts. With lots of soya and a slurry of corn flour!

  • Viwe asked: What do you put in your kid's lunchboxes?

    Believe it or not, nothing extravagant!
    It's often leftovers, otherwise their favourite sandwich (which normally has ham and Hellmann's mayo!). We also always put their water or juice in the freezer the night before so by the time break comes it's slushy.

  • Noli asked: Hi Abi, I would like to know what was your most memorable dish growing up

    Tripe. My grandmother used to make trip in a white sauce with plain boiled parsley buttered potatoes. So now whenever I see tripe on a menu in a restaurant, I order it!

  • Jessica Stein asked: I cook butternut almost every week. What can I do to keep it exciting?

    I love roasting butternut (or pop those bags in the microwave) and toss it with the Thai curry paste and a can of coconut milk.

    Otherwise grate it raw into a salad or toss with a little pesto and olive oil.

  • Sarah asked: What is your favourite week-night dinner to make?

    As a family we love making nasi-goreng especially when we have leftover rice. It's really quick, spicy and topped with a fried egg. Easy!

  • Jackie asked: Where do you get your inspiration from?

    A lot of my inspiration comes from eating out at restaurants, meeting chefs, where I might take a complicated technique or clever taste combination and simplify it for our readers. Also, travel is really important whether it's around SA or overseas!

  • T asked: Hey Abi. What's the most legendary Sunday lunch you have ever been to and what did they serve? Was it more about the food or the people you were with?

    My husbands 50th last year we had on a Sunday with special friends at home. I cooked 6 roast chickens stuff with pork sausage and mushrooms, lots of roast potatoes and other stuff... I made 4-layered granadilla vanilla cake which is his absolute favourite.

    THIS year though, I have a feeling that the Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards on 15 November will be the biggest and best Sunday lunch ever! ;)

  • Beth asked: I'm hosting my child's 6th birthday party this weekend and I'm looking for some fresh ideas. Any tips?

    I have 2 boys, one 8 and the other 14. I still make jelly oranges where I cut oranges in half, scoop out the fruit, and then place each half in a muffin tray. Pour in ready-made jelly. Leave them to set in the fridge, and then quarter the piece.

    Everyone loves them - even the adults!

    I also dip plastic spoons into melted milk chocolate, sprinkle them with 100s and 1000s and leave them to set in the fridge. Kids love them.

  • Leigh asked: What is your quickest meal that you put together for your family?

    It has to be thai-green chicken curry. I use three ingredients: green curry paste, chicken breasts and coconut milk.

  • Thando asked: Do you have a fancy kitchen?

    Ahhh Thando! Unfortunately I don't. People always expect me to have the fancy stuff and they get quite shocked when they see my kitchen - and what I can produce from it!

    I do have a good industrial oven with a gas top and I collect old pieces of marble, especially from butcheries and fish shops which I have used on free standing tables.

  • Werner asked: How often do you make nice meals for your work colleagues?

    After our food shoots (especially the baking ones), we often bring all the goodies back to the office for everyone to feast on! I would love to cook for colleagues but I just don't have the time... but I have thought about it!

  • Oomesh asked: Abi, where do you get your ideas/inspiration from? i am in awe of you and see you as a mentor in the world of food. Ps. you should try making a date and chocolate pavlova topped with soft scoop vanilla ice cream, Nigella Lawson's warm chocolate fudge sundae sauce and salted roasted peanuts scattered over. Goodness, yum.

    Oh wow! That sounds absolutely divine, I'll definitely try it.

    Thanks so much for your lovely comments. My inspiration comes from the people I work with, eating out and chefs. It could even be when I pass a beautiful orchard full of blossom which makes me happy. I follow many bloggers (local and international), food writers and magazine editors which inspire and challenge me to do my best.

    I learnt to cook in my gran's kitchen and she inspired me to love food.

  • Karin asked: What's your best foolproof dinner party dish?

    That's a difficult question! I go into different stages of cooking, sometimes its curries, sometimes Japanese etc etc

    Right now - my last dinner party I made the most beautiful chicken pie. I roasted the chickens first to get more flavour, fried off some leeks and bigs chunks of gammon and tossed this with the chicken, cream, and some of the roasting juices from the chicken. We topped it with Woolies buttery puff pastry and decorated it with big pastry roses and cooking-cutter chicken cutouts (in pastry). It was a winner!

  • Karin asked: I am also about to make my daughter's birthday cake and was wanting to attempt swiss meringue butter cream instead of normal buttercream in the hopes that it won't be as sweet. My question is, will it behave in the same way as normal buttercream when it comes to decorating/piping? (The cake will be covered in piped roses).

    Hi Karin,

    Swiss-meringue always seems to be a bit looser than regular buttercream. It kindof depends on what icing technique you're looking for. If you want to make BIG piped iced roses, it really works well, but not on the more delicate ones.

  • Astrid Sheena asked: Hi Abi. Can you please tell me what the best way to cook haddock is?

    Hello Astrid.

    This is something my family and I eat once a week. I love haddock!

    We poach it in a little bit of milk for about 5 minutes. Don't cover it with a lid else the milk will boil over. Eat it with mashed potato and peas and some of that lovely milky poaching liquid!

  • Sarah asked: What's your best kitchen gadget/tool for beginners learning to cook?

    Measuring cups and measuring spoons!

    Why? Because they give you the confidence, especially when baking, that everything is precise!

  • Kelly asked: Hi Abi! What's your secret to the perfect roast chicken?

    I have 2 ways:

    One is to stuff it into a roasting with rosemary, butter, olive oil, salt and pepper. THis makes it really soft and fall off the bone.

    My second way is to roast it on a bed of carrots for an hour and a half. Then before serving, turn the chicken over onto it's breast and cover tightly with tinfoil for 15 minutes. This allows all the yummy juices to fall into the breast and the carrots have also absorbed the juices!

  • Nikita asked: What are your tips and tricks to making perfectly poached eggs?

    Once again, my gran being my inspiration, used to make fabulous poached eggs that just had the right vinegar-y taste. That's the trick when making poached eggs. Add a little bit of vinegar to your boiling water which keeps the egg white together. Before you add the eggs, swirl the water and place the egg in the centre of the whirlpool - although this is not necessary.

    Another tip, is to break your egg into a small cup or plate which is easier to pour into the water with more control.

  • Lauren asked: How do you prevent cream cheese icing from becoming too runny?

    Unless you're using a full-fat cream cheese, you really can't whip or overbeat cream-cheese.

    What I do (especially with carrot cake) is to gently sieve the icing sugar over the cream cheese and with a wooden spoon, fold in. Be careful not to overmix - and leave out any liquid! Don't add milk or anything else.

  • Sarah Borchert asked: Hi Abi, thank you for this! My question is baking related. What is the best icing to use under fondant? I'm about to tackle my daughter's birthday cake and would like to use something a little special. We had one recently (I'm a six-year-old birthday party veteran) that clearly used white chocolate, but it wasn't too sweet. Is there anything you could recommend?

    Hi Sarah,

    I wouldn't suggest using an icing as it will soften the fondant too much but what I would suggest is using icing inside the cake between layers.

    My favourite, for chocolate, is to melt a couple of bars of milk chocolate and mix in a can of condensed milk. It's delicious and fudge-y, and I use it for cupcakes, brownies, birthday celebration cakes, and it's a real winner and easy to do!

  • Sam asked: What are you best at baking?

    I am known as the pavlova queen! I always make them oversized, crispy on the outside and all gooey inside. My best tip in getting these just right is to warm the egg whites slightly in the oven which make them whip up to triple volume.

    Serve it with homemade lemon curd and fresh granadilla pulp and either yoghurt mixed with a little bit of cream or creme fraiche.

  • Adele asked: Hi Abi, what is the secret to fluffy roast potatoes?

    I learnt from the best: my gran!

    She used to cut the potatoes in half lengthways (from top to bottom, not across) and then after parboiling them, she used to chuck them into a roasting pan that had been heated with PLENTY of beef dripping. She then used to roast them until they were just crispy and meltingly soft inside.

    I think also the trick was her very old special baking roast potato pan.

  • Jessie asked: Hi Abi! Thanks for this awesome opportunity... I'd like to know, what is the one food or ingredient that you absolutely refuse to eat? And why?

    I eat absolutely everything... except green peppers! I find them quite astringent and they repeat on me for quite a while. I'd pick them out of a salad. Luckily not many people cook with them anymore!

  • Lilly asked: Hi Abi. I never know what to do with my pot lid when I'm stirring or adding ingredients to a pot on the stove. Do you have a handy tip for balancing it or putting it somewhere (facing up or down?) until it needs to go back on the pot?

    OK Lilly... if I need to take the lid off... I don't really do that after thinking about it. I just balance it on the side of the pot. Or stand it upside down, and use the upside-down lid as a spoon rest.

    (PS: Le Creuset lids balance on the pot very well!)

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