Ask Lucy

Weight Watchers Senior Food Editor, Lucy Kelly, answers your cooking questions.
Lucy Kelly
Do you have a cooking question to ask Lucy? Send an email to and your question might be published here.

*Please note: Unfortunately we will not be able to reply to e-mails.
I’ve seen sumac in recipes. Can you tell me what it is, what it tastes like and how you use it? Pauline, Sydney, NSW
Sumac spiced tuna and fennel salad
Sumac is a Mediterranean spice that is deep red in colour and has a slightly lemony flavour. It’s made by grinding sumac berries, which come from a shrub that grows wild in Mediterranean countries.

With a slight tang, it’s great added to dips, dressing, marinades or spice rubs for barbecued meat. Use about two teaspoons in a recipe to serve four.

Sumac is available at most supermarkets and for a recipe using it, see our sumac-spiced tuna and fennel salad.
Which fruit and vegetables are best stored in the fridge and which will last longer stored at room temperature? Dianne, Wyong, NSW
Certain fruits and vegetables, such as pineapple, bananas and sweet potatoes, are cold sensitive and should not be stored in the fridge. To prevent bananas becoming overripe, place them in a sealed plastic bag in the fruit bowl and they’ll last a few extra days.

Stone fruit, avocados, rockmelons, papayas, pineapples, pears and mangoes need to be ripened at room temperature and only stored in the refrigerator for a very short time, if at all.

Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature as they can lose their flavour quickly and become floury in the fridge.

Try to buy fresh fruit and vegetables a few days ahead and top them up as you run out.
There seem to be so many different methods of cooking rice and mine always turns out gluggy. Can you recommend a simple way to get it right? Caroline, Randwick, NSW
Cooking rice perfectly can be a challenge and you’re right, there are many different ways such as absorption, in the microwave, boiling, baking and in a rice cooker.
For an easy way to produce great rice every time, use an electric rice cooker. You can get one from department and appliance stores. It takes the guess work out of cooking rice and another huge plus is you can turn it on and forget about it.

But it doesn’t hurt to be able to cook rice another way. I use the absorption method. To cook one cup of white rice, measure it into a sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Tip the rice into a saucepan and add 1½ cups of cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to very low and cover with a lid. Simmer on very gentle heat for 12 minutes. Don’t be tempted to peek inside! After 12 minutes, remove your saucepan from the heat and stand with the lid on for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff up with a fork and serve, or you can simply put the lid back on – it’ll stay warm for about 20 minutes.

If you’re cooking brown rice, add a ½ cup of water and cook for 30 minutes instead of 12. Soaking brown rice prior to cooking reduces both the time it takes and the water required.

For further cooking methods, have a look at our cooking class.