Calm too-spicy soup with mellow coconut milk

The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: The other day, I made a big batch of yellow lentil, cauliflower and curry soup. I used a new-to-me Thai red curry paste and the soup, which usually has some nice balanced curry/spice to it is mouth-numbing hot. Is there anything I could do to temper the hotness and rebalance the flavors? Add coconut milk or something else (gluten free) to make it edible? It’s too gorgeous to toss out, which is what I did with the rest of the red curry paste.

A: Your instinct to add coconut milk is a good one. You could also try adding more cooked lentils and cauliflower, with its base ingredients to balance the seasoning. If it was just a little too hot, dropping in a whole, peeled and uncooked or partly cooked potato could help, or a peeled apple, but if it’s far, far too spicy try bulking it up and adding coconut milk. – Daniela Galarza (DG)

Q: My question concerns a Persian chicken recipe. My rice came out kind of soggy even though I wrapped my lid in a towel. The instructions say to fluff the rice several times (I didn’t) but if you uncover the rice you’ll let all the steam out. This doesn’t seem right to me. I just couldn’t do it.

A: I’m sorry to hear the Persian chicken and rice came out soggy. It is OK to uncover the rice a few times to check on it, though. Some steam escaping is perfectly fine! – DG

Lentil Soup with lentil puree, cumin taduka, turmeric, coconut milk and cilantro. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Q: A brown rice pudding recipe includes a whole cup of dried fruit – raisins are among the ones suggested. I made it and was going to leave them out but then thought omitting a full cup might screw up the result, so I put them in, but I wasn’t terribly excited at the finished pudding. It would have been delicious unsullied (it’s not just raisins I don’t like in my pudding but any sort of fruit). Would I need to adjust something to compensate for leaving out a cup of dried whatever?

A: Raisin or any other dried fruit won’t affect the chemistry of the baked good, so you should be able to leave them out without issue. However, the dried fruit does factor into the overall sweetness of the dessert, so omitting it would affect the flavour. If you’re okay with less sweet desserts, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, you could try compensating with extra sugar, but then that would alter the baking chemistry and the recipe results can’t be guaranteed. The dried fruit will soak up some of the moisture from the batter. So depending on the ratio of dried fruit to other ingredients, the absorption could be negligible or not. – Aaron Hutcherson