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Food's Glossary

A to Z commonly used food's glossary and cooking terms.



Another name for aubergine, probably resulting from the appearance of the egg-shaped, white-skinned variety. This term is more commonly used in the US.

Egg Wash
Beaten raw egg, sometimes mixed with water and a little salt, used for glazing pastry or bread to give it a shine when baked. Useful for blind baking because it seals the pastry base, ensuring it won't absorb moisture, and also gives the pastry a good golden colour.

Flaky meat pies made from olive-oil pastry and served as tapas in Spain and as a popular snack in Latin America. Meat filling is most common but they can be filled with anything - fish, vegetables, cheese, even fruit. The classic empanada comes from Galicia in north-west Spain and is made with chicken, onions and peppers.

An emulsion is a stable suspension of fat and another liquid. To emulsify is to combine fats (such as butter or oil) with a liquid (such as vinegar or citric juices) into a smooth and even blend using an emulsifier (such as an egg yolk) which binds to each set of ingredients and prevents them from separating. Hollandaise is a classic emulsified sauce.

A boneless steak of beef cut from the sirloin, more commonly known as a sirloin steak. It’s a prime cut of beef so is best cooked quickly - either grilled or fried.

A thin slice of boneless meat, often beaten even thinner for quick cooking. It's cut from the leaner parts of certain animals, in particular veal, pork and turkey. It can also be used to refer to thick slices of fish with a strip of skin on one side. The classic method of preparing veal escalopes is to coat them with breadcrumbs before frying them.

Espagnole (à la)
À l'espagnole is the name given to several ways of preparing food inspired by Spanish cuisine. The main ingredients are tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions and garlic, usually fried in olive oil. Not to be confused with sauce Espagnole, which is a sauce based on a stock thickened with a roux and flavoured with herbs.



A popular Middle Eastern street food made of spiced chickpea fritters, often served in warm pitta bread with tahini sauce. It's often served as part of a selection of hot meze dishes.

Literally 'butterfly' in Italian, this is pasta shaped like little butterflies or bow-ties. It's very popular with children because of its novelty factor. Allow about 75g of pasta per person. If you can't find farfalle, fusilli is a good substitute. Certain pasta shapes hold different sauces better than others. Cheese or rich tomato sauces cling well to farfalle because it's a relatively small pasta shape with a large surface area.

Fava Beans
Fresh or dried broad beans. Fresh broad beans only have a short natural season during the summer and are often sold frozen or canned. They're sweet and delicious with a smooth creamy texture. Fresh beans are more popular than the dried variety, which tend to be quite floury. Young thin beans are eaten pods and all, but larger, older broad beans need to have the tough pods removed. After boiling or steaming them (for about five minutes), peel away the thin, pale sheath covering the bean.

There are two main types of this aromatic plant - the vegetable and the herb. Both have pale green, celery-like stems and bright green, feathery foliage. Florence fennel, also called finocchio or Italian fennel, has a broad, bulbous base with a mild aniseed flavour and is treated like a vegetable. Both the base and stems can be eaten raw in salads or cooked by braising or roasting. Look for small tender white bulbs - the darker green bulbs tend to be bitter.

Feta Cheese
A creamy white Greek cheese traditionally made from ewes' milk or ewes' and goats' milk mixed together (but now sometimes made using cows' milk) and preserved in brine or oil. It has quite a salty flavour but it shouldn't be so salty that it detracts from the flavour of the cheese. If you want to remove some of the saltiness, just soak the cheese in milk or water for a couple of minutes.

Long flattish noodle-shaped pasta, similar to tagliatelle. A very good pasta to serve with oil or butter-based sauces because the sauce goes a long way to coat the pasta evenly and also helps to prevent the strands of pasta from clumping together.

The term used to describe a boneless, lean cut of meat, fish or poultry. Fillet of beef is a prime cut and different parts of it are called different names depending on which part of the fillet they're cut from, including filet mignon, tournedos and châteaubriand. You also 'fillet' a fish to remove the bones.

Fish Sauce
A powerful thin brown sauce used in the cooking of numerous countries in Asia. It's made by fermenting small whole fish in brine and drawing off the liquid, which is then bottled. It smells pungent and tastes very salty, although cooking greatly reduces its 'fishiness' and simply adds richness and a layer of flavour to cooked dishes. It's frequently used in the cooking of Thailand, where it's known as nam pla. In the Philippines it’s known as patis and shottsuru in Japan. Fish sauce is available in most Asian shops, as well as in supermarkets. If you can't find it, use a light soy sauce.

Five-spice Powder
A pungent mixture of five spices commonly used in Chinese cookery; it's a brown powder made of ground star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper. It's available from Chinese grocers, and is becoming more widely available in supermarkets too. A good blend should be fragrant and spicy but also slightly sweet.

Flaky Pastry
A type of pastry that's rolled, folded and re-rolled several times to create layers of pastry which in the heat of the oven will rise into thin leaves. Heavier than puff pastry, but easier to make, it's usually used for savoury pies and is often baked with a roasting pan full of water at the bottom of the oven because the steam helps the pastry rise evenly and develop a crisp crust.

An open pie with a pastry base containing a sweet or savoury filling in a custard of eggs and cream. Spinach flan or leek and bacon flan are examples. In Spain and Latin America 'flan' is used to refer to the egg custard dessert that we know as crème caramel.

Florets are the small, individual flower stems that make up the heads of vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

An Italian olive-oil bread, quite flat and usually round or square. It has an almost cake-like texture and is often flavoured with herbs such as rosemary, sage or basil, perhaps olives or tapenade, and sometimes has a filling of ham or cheese. It's fun to experiment making your own with various toppings and fillings.

A glorious Swiss dish of melted cheese and wine served at the table in a large pot (also called a fondue) set over a burner to keep the cheese warm. Each person spears bite-size pieces of bread with a long-handled fork and dips it into the melted cheese. It's a dish associated with ski chalet cuisine.

Fragrant Rice
An aromatic long-grain rice favoured in Thai and Vietnamese cooking. It’s also known as jasmine rice and is quite similar to Indian basmati, but is slightly stickier. Serve it with Thai-style curries or spicy, saucy dishes. For something different try using it to make a sticky rice pudding.

French Dressing
Also known as vinaigrette (French for 'little vinegar') this is a fairly thick salad dressing made from a mixture of olive oil, wine vinegar (red, white or balsamic) and salt and pepper to which various flavourings can be added such as herbs, mustard, honey or chilli.

A delicate creamy dish of chicken and vegetables, often served with rice. The chicken is cooked gently in butter, after which a creamy white sauce (usually made with double cream) is added. It's often garnished with small glazed onions and lightly cooked mushrooms.

A fritter is any piece of raw or cooked meat, fish, fruit or vegetable coated in batter and deep-fried until crisp, golden and cooked through.

Fritter batter is usually made from flour, eggs, milk, salt, pepper and a little oil to help them go crisp. If it's a sweet batter for fruit then a little caster sugar is added and often the fritters are dredged in icing sugar before serving.

Fromage Frais
A fresh, low-fat curd cheese (similar to cottage cheese but processed until the texture is smooth and lump-free) made from pasteurised cows' milk. Fromage frais has very little fat but there are ones that have cream added which make them better for cooking. It's delicious eaten on its own or with honey or fresh fruit purée. It can also be used in desserts or savoury dishes. Use it to make savoury sauces or as a topping for jacket potatoes.

A strong-flavoured cooking liquor used for flavouring sauces; fumet usually refers to concentrated mushroom and fish stocks. The liquid left over from cooking is boiled down rapidly to a syrupy consistency, to be added to an accompanying sauce. For meat, poultry and game stocks, the word fond is normally used.

Spiral-shaped pasta which comes in plain, wholewheat and flavoured varieties such as spinach or tomato. Fusilli tricolore comes in three colours: white (plain egg pasta), green (coloured with spinach), and red (coloured with tomato). The twists and turns are good for holding rich, chunky pasta sauces. Fusilli bucatti has slightly rounder, tighter spirals.



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