Archive for the ‘Food Glossary’ Category

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Yields about 1/2 cup


  • 1/3 cup white or rice vinegar
  • 4 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB ketchup
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 4 teaspoons water


Mix the vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce together and bring to a boil in a small pot. Mix together the cornstarch and water, add to the other ingredients and stir to thicken.

(If desired, you can add 1 green pepper, cut into chunks, and pineapple chunks as desired after adding the cornstarch. For a thicker sauce, increase the cornstarch to 4 teaspoons while keeping the water constant.)


Monday, November 5th, 2007


A saltwater bivalve with a sea-salty flavour and a succulent texture. Aficionados insist that they’re best eaten raw, perhaps with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice or a drop of Tabasco sauce. However, they can be steamed, grilled or poached, too, and they make excellent canapés.

Only use oysters that are tightly shut in their shells or that close when tapped. Any oysters that stay open are dead and should be thrown away.

Curry powder

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Packaged curry powder was probably a British invention. Hoping to recreate the dishes they had enjoyed in India the British probably took back with them some Indian spice mixtures. Indian cooks don’t use one single spice mixture to flavour all of their dishes. Each dish will be flavoured with a different mixture of spices, called a masala, which varies from dish to dish and region to region. However, the curry powder that you can buy in the UK is usually a mixture of turmeric, chilli powder, coriander, cumin, ginger and pepper, and can be bought in mild, medium or hot strengths.


Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Pancakes are thin cakes made from a batter of milk (or milk and water), eggs and flour which is then cooked in a frying pan or on a griddle until golden brown on both sides. You can buy special pancake pans which are shallow and non-stick with curved sides.Pancakes are delicious eaten simply with lemon juice and sugar, but they can be filled with a variety of sweet ingredients such as maple syrup, fruit, ice cream or chocolate sauce.

They make a good base for savoury fillings too, such as fried mushrooms, cheese, spinach, seafood – anything goes, really.

Pancakes are made from a wide variety of flours and in a range of styles in many countries. French pancakes are made slightly thinner and are called crêpes. Scotch pancakes are small and thick, usually cooked on a griddle and sometimes flavoured with sultanas or raisins. American pancakes are normally served at breakfast. They tend to be light and fluffy, served in generous stacks with bacon and maple syrup. There is also the Russian blini, Chinese pancakes served with Peking duck, Italian crespelle, and so on.

Pancakes are traditionally eaten in the UK on Shrove Tuesday.

Maple syrup

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

The boiled-down sap of the maple tree, this syrup is very popular in the US and Canada. It’s expensive because of the low yield from the sap (40 gallons of sap are needed for one gallon of syrup!) but the cheaper imitations labelled ‘maple-flavoured syrup’ made from a mixture of maple syrup and cane syrup just don’t compare with the real thing.True maple syrup from Canada and the north-eastern states of the US carries a maple leaf mark to guarantee its authenticity. It’s a little luxury to pour over pancakes or waffles or over ice cream and can be used in baking or even savoury dishes – spread a little on top of streaky bacon before grilling.

Double cream

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Cows’ milk contains butterfat which is removed from milk using a centrifuge system. The longer the milk is centrifuged, the thicker the cream becomes.

Double cream is very rich, with a fat content of 48 per cent, making it the most versatile cream because it withstands boiling, whips and freezes well. Take care not to whip it too much though, because it goes grainy and separates. And if you keep whipping you’ll end up with butter! It will keep for up to five days in the fridge.

Serve it with desserts for pouring or spooning over fruit salad, cake or puddings, or use it as the basis for desserts – whipped up in a trifle, on top of a pavlova, mousse, crème brûlée, soufflé or cheesecake.

Decorate cakes with stiffly whipped cream or use it to sandwich cakes together. Stir double cream into savoury dishes such as risotto or soup to add richness and flavour. In the US double cream is known as heavy cream. You can also buy extra-thick double cream in the UK, which is more of a spooning cream – the thickness is a result of it being homogenised.

Cayenne pepper

Friday, October 26th, 2007

A red, fiery hot spice ground from the pod and seeds of dried chillies. A pinch of cayenne over devilled kidneys or stirred through gravy for game birds adds a gutsy kick and heightens the flavour of the dish. It’s also good used sparingly in vegetable or lentil soups, in curries or sprinkled over stir-fried prawns or over crispy whitebait. If you like a little heat then add some to shepherd’s pie, chilli con carne or to cheese fondue.


Friday, October 26th, 2007

Also known as ladies’ fingers because of their shape, this is a vegetable that’s widely used in Indian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and southern US cookery, where it’s an essential ingredient of gumbo. A long green pod with a slightly fuzzy skin, it’s full of edible creamy seeds.

Okra exudes a glutinous juice in cooking which thickens stews and braised dishes. It isn’t as popular in the UK as it is in the US, but is usually available in supermarkets and grocers.

Choose stems that snap cleanly and don’t bend. It can be eaten raw in salads or cooked with curries or vegetable stews – add a handful of chopped okra to a ratatouille.


Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Margarine was invented in the 1860s by a French chemist as a cheap replacement for butter. Nowadays it’s bought as a product in its own right, frequently in the belief that it’s a healthier option than butter. All margarine contains as much fat as butter, but some are lower in cholesterol and saturated fats.

However, the health benefits of many of these types of spreads has been called into question in recent years because most of them are made with hydrogenated (chemically hardened) vegetable oils and this process is believed to convert the polyunsaturated fat into trans-fats which have a negative effect on cholesterol and are now thought to be linked with heart disease even more than saturated fat.

Aside from this, margarine is a highly processed food made by combining water and vegetable oils and usually containing emulsifiers, preservatives, additives, artificial colourings and flavourings and salt.

There are many types available using different fats and with differing flavours and uses. Some are purely vegetable-based, containing no animal products at all, and are labelled dairy-free or vegan. Others contain a mixture of animal and vegetable fats. Some are designed for spreading, and others are hard and designed for baking so always read the packaging before cooking with margarine.


Thursday, October 25th, 2007

The small oval fruit of the olive tree, widely cultivated in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece.

Olives are harvested and preserved in oil or brine at various stages of their development. The early olives are green, while the later, more mature olives are black but there are hundreds of varieties and more shades of colour in between.

They all taste very different; black olives tend to have a more intense flavour. Kalamata olives are rich purple, almond-shaped olives grown in southern Greece; Spanish green olives have a milder flavour but because of their large size, they’re often stuffed with anchovies or almonds.

Experiment with different varieties until you find a favourite. The fleshy pulp of the fruit is also the source of olive oil. The whole fruit is available in a variety of guises: flavoured, stuffed, stoned or with stones, in oil or in brine, sliced or whole. They’re used a great deal in Mediterranean cuisine, as hors d’oeuvres, in salads, stuffings, sauces or dips such as tapenade and as an ingredient in main dishes.