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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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 is the term for double cream.
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 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
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.