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  Most Commonly Used Terms in Cooking

Food's Glossary

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



Galangal is a member of the ginger family. It's widely used in South-east Asian cuisine, particularly Thai cookery; it's an important ingredient in Thai curry pastes. It can be bought as fresh root, dried root or a dried, ground powder. The root looks a bit like a knobbly Jerusalem artichoke.

Garam Masala
An aromatic mixture of ground spices used as a base for many Indian dishes ('masala' means spice). The proportion of spices changes according to the dish being cooked but the basic ingredients are cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper and cinnamon. The mixture can include other spices (such as caraway, nutmeg or bay leaves), depending on whether the dish includes meat, vegetables or fish. It's usually added towards the end of cooking.

Garlic is a member of leek and onion family. There are many varieties, differing in size, pungency and colour. The bulb or 'head' of garlic is formed of 12 to 16 bulblets, called cloves. Garlic has many culinary uses. The cloves are separated, peeled and then used whole, chopped or crushed.

A product derived from the bones of animals, and used as a setting agent for sweet or savoury jellies and pudding fillings. Gelatine comes in powder form or in leaves and is tasteless.

A form of clarified butter used in Indian cookery. The clarified butter (the butter is slowly melted, thereby separating the milk solids, which sink to the bottom of the pan, from the golden liquid on the surface) is simmered until all the moisture evaporates and the milk solids begin to brown, giving the resulting butter a nutty, caramel-like flavour and aroma.

A spice that comes from the rhizome (a thick underground stem) of the Zingiber officinale plant. Ginger can be used fresh (often called root ginger or ginger root) or dried and ground to a powder. Ginger adds a touch of heat to both sweet and savoury dishes and is used in cuisines throughout Asia and Europe.

Globe Artichoke
The globe artichoke is related to the thistle. Its leaves are eaten, along with the bottom part of the flower, called the heart (which you can also buy tinned). It makes a delicious starter simply boiled whole and served with melted butter, mayonnaise, hollandaise or vinaigrette for dipping the leaves into. Break off each leaf and draw the soft fleshy base through your teeth.

Gluten is a mixture of two proteins present in cereal grains, in particular wheat. It's a key factor in the success in all kinds of baking because it's gluten that absorbs liquid, giving dough its elasticity and strength. The kneading process helps to develop and distribute the gluten present in the flour.

An Italian blue cheese made from pasteurised cows' milk. It's pale yellow streaked with greenish-blue veins. It has a distinct smell and can be mild, strong or sharp in flavour depending on its maturity. Gorgonzola is rich and creamy, generally used uncooked. It's often eaten as a dessert cheese but is also good in salads and dips.

Gram Flour
A flour made from ground chickpeas. It's pale yellow and powdery and has an earthy flavour best suited to savoury dishes. Gram flour contains no gluten and is widely used in Indian cookery.

A gratin is any dish that's topped with cheese or breadcrumbs mixed with knobs of butter, then heated in the oven or under the grill until brown and crisp. The terms 'au gratin' or 'gratinée' refer to any dish prepared in this way. Special round or oval gratin pans and dishes are ovenproof and shallow, which increases a dish's surface area, thereby ensuring a larger crispy portion for each serving.

Traditionally, 'gravy' meant simply the naturally concentrated juices that come from meat as it roasts. The juices can also be combined with a liquid such as chicken or beef stock, wine or milk and thickened with flour, cornflour or some other thickening agent to make a thicker, more sauce-like gravy.

A flat cast-iron pan traditionally used for breads and scones. More recently griddles tend to have a ridged surface and are used for cooking vegetables, meat and fish. It tends to be thought of as a healthier method of cooking as the fat from the meat drains away down into the grooves.

Also known as a peanut or monkey nut. This edible nut is the seed of a member of the pea family, so is not a true nut. The pods mature underground and each contain two to four seeds.

A Mexican dish of mashed avocado mixed with lemon or lime juice and various seasonings (usually chilli powder and red pepper). Sometimes finely chopped tomato, onion and coriander leaf are added. You can make it as chunky or as smooth as you like.

A thick, gelatinous, soupy stew from Louisiana, thickened with okra. Made with chicken, fish, pork, turkey or seafood, it's typically spicy in flavour, as is much Cajun cooking. It's also a popular dish in many other southern states and in the West Indies.




Habanero Chili
Habanero chili is one of the most intensely spicy species of chili peppers of the Capsicum genus. Unripe habaneros are green, but the color at maturity varies. Common colors are orange and red, but white, brown, and pink are also seen. Typically a ripe habanero is 2–6 centimeters (1–21⁄2 in) long.

A white sea-fish similar to cod (and subject to the same problems of overfishing). It has flaky flesh, is available fresh or frozen, whole or as steaks and fillets. It can be cooked just like cod - poached, baked, fried or grilled, and served with or without sauce.

The various fish that come under the banner 'hake' are deep-sea members of the cod family and are popular throughout Europe and America. Hake is quite a mild fish, having a more subtle flavour than cod.

By far the largest of all flatfish, halibut is available mostly in steaks, fillets and cutlets. Its firm, meaty white flesh has a delicious flavour but, as it can dry out quite easily, it needs careful cooking and is probably best prepared with plenty of liquid, such as melted butter or olive oil for basting, and served with a sauce. Allow a 200g fillet or steak per person. If you can't find halibut then turbot is a suitable substitute. Cook until the flesh has turned opaque and is just starting to flake.

There are numerous forms of halva, which is basically a ‘sweetmeat’ or dessert depending on which version you’re eating. The Middle Eastern sweet known as halva is made from ground roasted sesame seeds and honey. It's usually made in a slab and is often studded with chopped dried fruit or nuts.

North African pepper paste is orange-red in colour and usually served with couscous. It’s a mix of dried red chillies, garlic, caraway seeds, ground cumin and coriander, tomato purée, salt and olive oil. It can be used as a condiment or as an ingredient in cooking.

A type of hard-shelled nut with an oval or round kernel, also known as a filbert. Hazelnuts are high in dietary fibre. Turkey is a major supplier of hazelnuts, along with Spain and Italy, but they do grow wild in the hedgerows around Britain.

Heavy Cream
Heavy cream is the term for double cream.

Hoisin Sauce
A thick, reddish-brown sweet and spicy sauce, widely used in Chinese cooking. It's a mixture of soya beans, vinegar, sugar, garlic, chilli peppers and various spices.

Hoisin sauce is mainly used as a table condiment and for flavouring meat, poultry and shellfish dishes. It’s sold in jars or cans and is widely available from Chinese grocers and supermarkets. It keeps for weeks in the fridge.

Hollandaise Sauce
Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolks, a vinegar reduction and hot melted butter. It's the basic sauce from which other sauces, such as béarnaise and mousseline, are made.

A naturally sweet, viscous liquid made from the nectar of flowers, collected by honey bees. Honey comes in numerous varieties with different colours, textures and flavours. The flavour, colour and sweetness is dependent on which type of flower the nectar was collected from.

Horn of Plenty
A common woodland mushroom, so named because it grows in the shape of a long horn or funnel. It's also known as black trumpet and trompette de la mort. It has a fluted edge and dark gills and is very dark brown, almost black in colour. It looks and tastes like a dark version of the chanterelle mushroom.

A perennial plant originating in eastern and south-eastern Europe, horseradish is cultivated for its tough, twisted root. Horseradish is a member of the mustard family. The root, which is similar in appearance to a parsnip, releases a distinctive aroma when bruised or cut and it has a very hot, peppery flavour that's more powerful than mustard.

A Middle Eastern chickpea purée made from cooked crushed chickpeas flavoured with tahini (pounded sesame seeds), oil, garlic and lemon juice. As part of Arabic mezze it's served as a dip with hot pitta bread.

In Egypt hummus is often flavoured with cumin. If you’ve got a blender or food processor then it’s very quick and easy to make your own hummus - use dried, soaked chickpeas rather than canned for a better flavour.

A strong-flavoured aromatic herb from the Mediterranean region, similar to rosemary or lavender. During the Middle Ages it was popular as a flavouring for soups and stuffings, but now its main use is in the distillation of liqueurs, such as Chartreuse.



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