l have been cooking for more than 60 years but am still unable to make rissoles out of minced beef - they have always broken up. M. Goard
As a young man, and contrary to what the boarding-house masters lectured us, I followed the words of a kindly German butcher who said: ''Richard, you must use your hands on your meat.'' While he struggled with the nuances of the English language, he did impart the basic philosophy that chopped meat, when used to make sausages, rissoles, meat loaf and the like, must be worked to get the protein to bind together. So get your hands scrupulously clean and get them into the rissole mix and work it for a few minutes until the texture changes from gooey to sticky. This means the meat protein has been released and is binding the ingredients together. It will set like a glue when cooked.
How do I store anchovies and for how long? B. Grice
A mate of mine imports anchovies from Spain in refrigerated containers, stores them in coolrooms at his warehouse, and prefers his retail clients sell them from refrigerated display cabinets. Like most anchovies, they are stored in oil that will oxidise when exposed to heat, light or air, and then taste rancid. They are high quality, costly and incredibly fresh-tasting, and delicious enough to eat straight from the tin as a tapa. I keep these in the fridge, consume them on the same day they're opened, or keep them in the tin and use within a few weeks for cooking. Regarding cheaper anchovies for cooking, I prefer those packed in tins to store in the cupboard. Anchovies packed in jars, because they have already been exposed to light, tend to suffer from oxidation more frequently, so I store these in the fridge. Keep to the use-by dates and use within a few weeks after opening if you are sensitive to rancidity.
A lot of American cake recipes use corn syrup. Is there an alternative? F. Atkinson
The alternative is to use something that is not the product of an out-of-control US food policy, which subsidises farmers to produce cheap corn, the starch from which is treated with mould enzymes that break the starch into glucose or corn syrup. It is not as sweet as sugar and has a pH of between 3.5 and 5.5, so is quite acidic. Or try making a syrup of one cup of sugar to ¼ cup of water, mixed in a saucepan over a medium heat until dissolved. Allow to cool and use as directed. Cane sugar doesn't have the same moisture-holding properties of glucose and could be a little drier to taste, depending on how much fat is in the recipe. Cane sugar tastes twice as sweet as glucose, so your cake will taste sweeter. Because corn syrup is slightly acidic, check the recipe to see if it uses baking soda. The addition of corn syrup to baking soda will set off the reaction needed to make gas for the cake to rise. In this case, try using equal amounts of honey, which is acidic. The only problem is that honey, because it is made of both glucose and sweeter-tasting fructose, tastes sweeter than glucose, so you will end up with quite a sweet-tasting cake.
What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda, and can they be interchanged? S. Joseph
We have covered this before. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and is alkaline. When it comes into contact with acid in the batter, it creates a chemical reaction in which carbon-dioxide is released to raise cakes. Acids include tartaric acid from cream of tartar, citric acid from lemon juice, or gluconic acid in honey (see above). Baking powder contains a raising agent that is activated by heat. Substitute baking powder for baking soda and you'll end up with a flat cake that tastes like soap.
''I can't find MON sauce or Thin Captains in my local supermarket,'' K. Moyles writes. While I am tracking these down, are there any favourite branded items in the supermarket you have noticed disappearing to make way for home branded goods?
Thanks to T. Davidson, who wrote in with this: ''When I was in Bolivia recently, the locals were amused by my pronunciation of their native grain quinoa as 'keen-wah'. The local pronunciation was 'key-no-ah'.''
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