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EXPERT Q&A - Here to help.

Summary: All your culinary and decor questions answered.

Expert chef, Marta Yanci, founder of bespoke catering company Marta's Kitchen, addresses your cooking dilemmas.

What is the difference between waxed and unwaxed lemons? What are each good for when cooking, and how can I identify one from another in the supermarket?

A. The main difference is that waxed lemons last longer. A waxed lemon can have a shelf life of around three weeks, whereas an unwaxed one will stay fresh for about a week when refrigerated. It is best to use unwaxed lemons when a recipe calls for lemon zest, or if you want to add a slice of lemon to a drink. Waxed lemons are good for juicing. Both can be found in the UAE but there is no easy way to tell which is which - for instance, the fact that a lemon is less shiny doesn't necessarily mean it is unwaxed. The best way is to ask the staff!

When making sticky toffee pudding, how do you keep the cake moist inside?

A. I would suggest cooking it in a bain marie - that is placing the baking dish in a larger container with water, and cooking it between 160-180C, so that you can really control the doneness as it cooks. Also bear in mind that, as all puddings, it will continue cooking once it is out of the oven, so make sure you plan your baking time accordingly.

I tasted grilled avocado recently, and wanted to know if there's a special technique involved when making it?

A. You can grill avocado either in thick slices or in halves. It is important that the avocado is a little firmer than usual, especially if you are going to grill it in slices. Just sprinkle some lemon juice, salt and pepper and brush with a little bit of olive oil and grill for 2 minutes. If you grill the halves, stuff them with a nice tuna salad and you have a perfect packed lunch! The sliced version is ideal for sandwiches. Once grilled, keep it in the fridge and use within the next 24 hours.

My kids hate Brussels sprouts but I know they're good for you. How can I get them to eat more?

A. A great way is by combining the Brussels sprouts with dishes you already know your kids like. For instance, prepare spaghetti with cream, beef bacon and finely sliced Brussels sprouts, and then grill it in the oven with some cheese. Another great way is baking them in the oven with cranberries, and adding a sauce or marinade of honey, olive oil, orange zest and a pinch of cinnamon.


Interior design expert Pavitra Soans, founder of interior design firm Pure Coalesce, offers practical

decor advice.

What are the latest decor trends for 2015?

A. When adopting a new trend it is always advisable to make practical choices. You should approach it in the same way as updating your wardrobe - the core elements remain, yet accessories can be included to make it current. I find that fashion and interior design are closely connected. Shades in blue and the blush pink family are the ones to try this year. Trend experts predict the colour for the year will be Guildford green - this colour is said to have a calming effect, and combines well with blue and blush as well. Another trend that will gain more popularity this year is the adaptation of industrial design in furniture, to create a raw unfinished look that evokes the feeling of a factory or warehouse; for example, professional lighting equipment like tripod stands, being used as a lamp in a living room.

I love fresh flowers but they are quite expensive. Any other ideas on how to brighten up my dining table?

A. Fruits and vegetables can add so much colour to a dining table. They are inexpensive and can be found in your own kitchen as well. Pine cones, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg, coupled with candles, create a rustic vibe, and also lend a natural, seasonal fragrance, perfect for cooler days.

Marta's ingredient of the month

Endive is in season right now, and they are rich in vitamin K and folic acid, and low in calories. Enjoy it in salads, with blue cheese and walnuts, or anchovies.

They also taste delicious when cooked! For a quick and healthy recipe, cut the endives into quarters, add some olive oil, 2-3 spoonfuls of good vegetable stock, salt, pepper and oregano. Cover with cling film and microwave for 5 minutes or until tender.

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Publication:BBC GoodFood Middle East
Date:Jan 11, 2015
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