How do you cook perfect chicken wings? K. Tupuola
I think the concept of "perfect" chicken wings is way too philosophical for my pay grade. However, many people like wings that have a golden glaze. This means you need something sweet, such as honey or brown sugar. You also need the oven to be hot enough to evaporate the water in the glaze and cook through the connective tissue in the wings. Preheat the oven to 200C. I use a mix of half a cup of tomato sauce – which is high in sugar – three teaspoons of smoky paprika, a hefty pinch of salt, pepper, and a dash of olive oil, which I mix together in a large bowl. I take off the wingtips and use these to make stock. I cut through the second joint to divide each wing in two. These get coated in the tomato sauce glaze and set aside, covered, while the oven heats. I roast them in the centre of the oven on a heavy foil-lined baking tray, making sure the wings are well spread out. If they are crammed together, there is the possibility that the liquid released won't evaporate. Once cooked and glazed (about 40 minutes), then let them rest and serve them warm.
Can I turn plain flour into self-raising flour? J. O'Riordan
Back when Queen Victoria started her reign, there was no self-raising flour. Instead, cakes were leavened with either yeast or beaten eggs. Then a chap from Birmingham called Alfred Bird started to investigate how to get his wife's cakes to rise without using eggs or yeast, as she was allergic to both. In 1843 he discovered that if sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, was added to a weak acid, carbon dioxide forms. This gas gets trapped by the gluten in the elastic batter formed by flour and liquid. When baked, the gluten sets and the bubbles remain. Today self-raising flour uses this method plus raising agents that are activated by heat. You can make a basic form of baking powder, similar to Mr Bird's, by mixing one part sodium bicarbonate to two parts cream of tartar (both available in the supermarket), or use commercial baking powder. Take two teaspoons of either mixture and sift it with 250g of plain flour. Once the wet ingredients are added to your homemade self-raising flour, the chemical reaction will kick off straight away, and the carbon dioxide will be released, so you need to get the cake into the oven quickly.
Apart from colour, what are the differences between red and green capsicums and their cooking purposes? D. Turnbull
Out near Warragul, in Victoria's Gippsland, you'll find Flavorite, where the Nicols and Millis families grow capsicums in 30 hectares of glasshouses. I posed your question to farm manager Chris Millis. He says all capsicums start green and ripen towards the colour they were bred to become. Some varieties are red when ripe, some are yellow, some orange. Green peppers have a slight bitterness and a sharp chlorophyll tang you associate with parsley and salad greens plus an aromatic compound known as bell pepper pyrazine. Green capsicums are great for salads, stuffing, and some Asian dishes such as stir-fries and fried rice. Yellow and orange peppers are slightly sweeter and not as aromatic as green peppers and add a splash of colour to a dish. Red peppers are sweeter still, have a less distinctive aroma and can be used for colourful salads, roasted or grilled, and served with white meats. They are essential in many Spanish dishes such as paella.