European cookery is dominated by French terms but there are also Italian-derived and Spanish-derived terms within cookery’s repertoire. As recipes also derive from places all across the world terms and names have come into cookery from a range of languages and cultures. For instance, did you know that the name “ketchup” is derived from the Asian palm sugar flavored sauce Ketjap Mais.
Below is a short glossary of cooking terms:
- Abats — The French for offal (hearts, livers, brains, tripe, pancreas, thyroid, kidneys etc) which are sometimes term ‘variety meats’ in America.
- Al dente — An Italian phrase literally meaning ‘to the tooth’ and it describes the perfect texture of cooked pasta, which should be tender on the outside but with some resistance when bitten into.
- Bain-marie — This is a method for the gentle cooking of delicate dishes. It can be something as simple as a perspex bowl set within a saucepan (hence the common name of ‘double boiler’).
- Bard — Barding is the process of layering or tying bacon or pork fat over a joint of meat, a game bird, poultry etc which is to be roasted.
- Baton — A baton is a way of cutting vegetables where they are cut into a long, thin rectangle shape.
- Batterie de Cuisine — This is the French term for the essential equipment that every good cook needs to prepare food in the kitchen.
- Beurre noisette — Literally ‘brown butter’, a classic French accompaniment to fish (especially skate) and is simply made by browning butter in a pan so that it develops an nutty taste and turns a light brown before adding lemon juice and pouring over the fish.
- Bouillon — this is a simple stock or an un-clarified broth. The name derives from the French verb bouillir — to boil.
- Carpaccio — This is a classic Italian starter made from very thin shavings of raw beef fillet and which is served cold with olive oil and lemon juice as a dressing.
- Chiffonade — These are strips or fine shreds of vegetables (classically sorrel and any type of lettuce) that are either lightly sautéed or used raw as a garnish or topping for soups.
- Croûte — A croûte is literally a crust. Generally this is pastry that’s used to entirely cover and wrap the food, as in boef-en-croute.
- Dariole — Dariole moulds, also known as madeleine tins are small steep-sided metal moulds (usually steel or aluminium) about 8cm in height that are conic sections (ie the sides are flared and narrower at the bottom than the top).
- Deglaze — The process of deglazing is that of adding stock, wine, or other liquid to a hot pan or roasting tin in which food has been roasted or sautéed.
- Dépouiller — This is the process of skimming-off the scum from a sauce or stock.
- Escabèche — This is a traditional spicy Spanish pickle made from herbs, spices, vinegar and olive oil.
- Farce — this is the French term for stuffing.
- Fines Herbes — Fines herbes is the classic French mixture of chopped aromatic fresh herbs frequently used in egg-based dishes, sauces, salads and soups. The classic ‘fine herbs’ are chives, chervil, parsley and tarragon.
- Fumet — Fumet is the French for ‘aroma’ and refers to a concentrated stock that is added to sauces to enhance their flavour.
- Garam Masala — Garam Masala is an aromatic mixture of ground spices that’s used as the base for many Indian dishes (the literal meaning of the name is ‘warm spice’. Though there are many variants, the most traditional mixes use cinnamon, roasted cumin, cloves, nutmeg (and/or mace), black pepper and green cardamom seed or black cardamom pods.
- Gratin — A gratin is and dish that’s been topped with cheese or breadcrumbs mixed with knobs of butter and which is then heated in an oven or under a grill.
- Harissa — This is a hot red sauce popular in North Africa which originally derives from Tunisia. It is made from smoked chilli peppers and garlic though coriander, cumin, caraway and olive oil are frequently added.
- Ile Flottante — This is a classic French dessert. The concept is fairly simple: a very light meringue floating on a bed of custard sauce.
- Julienns — this is a classic way to cut vegetables, where they are cut into thin matchsticks or very fine shreds, each about 4cm long.
- Jus de Bissap — Jus de Bissap is a tea made from the red calyxes of the roselle hibiscus Hibiscus sabdariffa. This infusion is often termed the ‘national drink of Senegal’.
As you can see cookery terms are many and varied and the selection given above is only a small selection of all possible terms. I hope that these are useful to you and show you that a little understanding can greatly enhance your understanding of recipe instructions and gives you a better grasp of basic cookery techniques.