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Food's Glossary

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



The internal organs and innards of an animal or fish, including brain, liver, kidney, tripe, and heart. It can also refer to the animal's extremities, too, such as head, tail, trotters and tongue.

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.

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

Olive oil
Pressed from olives, this is a rich, fruity oil used for marinades, dressings, baking and shallow frying. Hundreds of varieties of olive are used to make olive oil so the range available is huge, varying in colour, flavour, aroma and character.

A pungent green culinary herb with a great affinity for a variety of foods, from lamb to vegetables, stuffings and egg dishes. There are many species and varieties of the genus Origanum, each with quite different characteristics and flavours.

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.

Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce is a thick, rich brown southern Chinese condiment, flavoured with extract of oysters. Spend a bit more on a good brand of oyster sauce - it will have more natural oyster flavour and less monosodium glutamate (MSG).




A Spanish dish of rice and saffron that usually includes tomatoes, chicken and seafood. It originated in the Valencia region of Spain and gets its name from the broad shallow pan (paella or paellera) in which it's traditionally cooked and served from.

Pak Choi
Closely related to bok choi, this leafy green Chinese vegetable belongs to the cabbage family (although it tastes nothing like cabbage!). It has long green, slightly ribbed leaf stalks and soft oval green leaves.

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.

Also called a paw paw, this is a large fragrant fruit that looks a bit like a large mango, with green skin and sweet orange flesh filled with round black seeds. It's delicious on its own with a squeeze of lime juice, or use it in salsas, add it to fruit smoothies or fruit salads or even savoury salads.

Paprika is the ground bright red powder from sweet and hot dried peppers. It's much milder than cayenne pepper and has a characteristic sweetness. It's a favourite ingredient in European cookery: in Austria and Hungary paprika is a main flavouring in meat stews such as goulash, of which paprika is the essence.

This means to boil vegetables until they’re just slightly cooked. It’s a technique that’s used to part-cook potatoes and other hard root vegetables prior to roasting them at a high temperature to ensure the inside is cooked while the outside crisps up well. The technique can also be used for meats, such as pork or chicken, before it is cooked on the barbecue, in order to ensure they're fully cooked throughout.

Originating from around Parma in the north-west of Italy, this is one of the world’s best-known cheeses. It's stamped with the official Parmigiano Reggiano mark as a guarantee of origin. Fragrant and tangy, it has a hard, grainy texture and a buttery yellow colour. Buy fresh parmesan where possible; the taste is far superior to pre-packed cheese - and avoid ready-grated cheese at all costs.

This is a multi-purpose herb. It can be used as a garnish and flavouring and as a vegetable. Parsley can be used in almost any savoury dish. It's especially good used in great quantities in fresh salads or in soups and sauces. Chop or shred it and mix with butter to melt over fish or to glaze vegetables.

Passata is made from ripe tomatoes that have been puréed and sieved to remove the skin and seeds. It's sold in jars and can be smooth or chunky depending on the level of sieving.

Made from a dough of durum-wheat semolina, water and sometimes eggs, which is kneaded and cut into a wide variety of shapes. There are basically two types - fresh or dried.

Fresh pasta is often made with eggs, giving it a richer flavour and texture than the dried varieties; it has the consistency of a soft dough and only needs to be cooked for a very short time compared with dried pasta.

Patty Pan
A small, round flattish summer squash, yellow, green or white in colour with pretty fluted edges. It's sometimes known as a custard squash or custard marrow and can be cooked in a similar way to courgettes. They don't need to be peeled, just washed clean and the ends trimmed.

Patty Tin
A baking tin with six, nine or 12 shallow round compartments used for making individual pies and tarts.

Also known as a groundnut 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. Peanuts can be roasted, salted and eaten whole or used in cooked dishes. They're used a lot in South-east Asian cookery.

Also known as a hickory nut, the pecan is related to the walnut and grown mainly in North America. It’s a delicious nut with a toffee-like taste that’s perfect for just eating as it is. In cooking it’s probably best known as the basis for pecan pie, but it can be used in all kinds of cake recipes, in sweets and in savoury dishes.

A natural gelling agent found in ripe fruit. Pectin is an important ingredient in making jams and jellies. The levels of pectin vary from fruit to fruit. Some fruits, such as citrus fruit, blackberries, apples and redcurrants have high pectin levels. Others are low in pectin such as strawberries - so lemon juice is added to strawberry jam to help it set. It's possible to buy pectin as a liquid extract or in powdered form.

Ridged pasta tubes shaped like quills and cut at a diagonal. Penne is a good pasta to serve with fairly thick creamy or tomato-based sauces as its shape holds the sauce well. It’s also good for using in pasta bakes. Rigatoni makes a suitable substitute.

An alcoholic drink, similar to cider, made from specially grown varieties of pears. Look out for single variety perry, which is still made in small amounts by artisan producers; otherwise, sparkling perry is available in supermarkets. A subtly flavoured vinegar is made from perry. Use it in salad dressings and marinades. Cider and cider vinegar are suitable substitutes.

An Italian dark green sauce for pasta originating in Genoa. It's made from pine nuts blended with fresh basil, parmesan or pecorino cheese, garlic and olive oil.

An adult sardine, pilchards are an oil-rich fish. They're rarely available fresh and are mainly sold processed and canned. You're most likely to find them fresh during the summer months. If you do, cook them as you would sardines.

Pine Nut
Also called pine kernels, pine nuts are the edible seed of about a dozen species of pine trees. The cones are sun-dried, then threshed to shake out the seeds, which are then hulled. Pine nuts are oily and rich in protein, so they tend to go rancid quite quickly; store them in the fridge and they'll keep longer.

Pink Fir Apple
A knobbly, pinky beige-skinned, waxy potato, good for use in salads.

Piri-piri is an African word for chilli and also a hot chilli sauce used in Portuguese, African and Brazilian cookery. The Portuguese introduced chillies to their African colonies after discovering them in Brazil, so piri-piri plays a major part in the fiery food of Mozambique - chicken, fish, seafood and vegetables are all cooked with piri-piri.

A pale green nut encased in a creamy coloured shell, pistachios have a sweet flavour and are eaten as a snack or used in cooking. The green colour makes pistachio a popular flavouring for ice creams, desserts and sweets, such as nougat and halva. In savoury dishes pistachios go best with veal, pork and poultry. Buy unsalted nuts and use them in homemade pâtés or crush them and mix with breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning to make a crusty topping or stuffing for fish or meat.

Pitta Bread
An oval-shaped Middle Eastern flatbread. It can be opened up to form a pocket which can be stuffed with a variety of fillings. Throughout the Middle East, pittas are served alongside main dishes or cut into wedges and used to dip in mezze dishes such as baba ganoush and hummus. If they’re warmed for a minute or two in a medium oven they puff up a bit making them easier to cut open.

The fruit of a Central and South American cactus, the pitahaya has a knobbly yellow skin and a deep-pink, dense flesh. The fruit can be cut in half and the flesh, which has a mild, sweet flavour, eaten with a spoon (along with the seeds) - a squeeze of lemon or lime juice will help it along. Add the bright pink flesh to a fruit salad for a splash of brilliant colour.

An orange-spotted flat sea fish. It's available fresh or frozen, whole or in fillets and has a mild sweet flavour. Fry or grill it on the bone, poach whole fish or fillets and use the poaching liquor to make a sauce, or coat fillets of plaice in egg and breadcrumbs and pan-fry in butter and a little oil. Sole or brill can be used instead of plaice.

A small, immature chicken, sometimes called a spring chicken, and weighing about 400g to 500g. Because the bird is only four to six weeks old, the flavour hasn't developed and there isn't much flesh on the bones, but one bird is perfect for a single serving.

A brittle sweet made of almonds and caramelised sugar. It can be eaten as a sweet, served as an after-dinner treat with coffee, or crumbled or ground and used in desserts as an ingredient, filling or crunchy topping.

A type of shellfish. Prawns are available fresh or frozen, in or out of their shells. Fresh, raw prawns are grey and have a better texture than frozen prawns. If you buy whole prawns, the shells and heads are excellent for making stock.

Prickly Pear
The fruit of a type of cactus and also called a Barbary pear, cactus pear, Indian pear or Indian fig. The fruit contains yellow or red flesh with a sweet mild flavour that's similar to watermelon. The prickles are usually removed before they're sold but if they’re not, take care when handling them because the needles can stick into your hands.

Puff Pastry
A very light pastry made in layers that expand when cooked, leaving large air pockets inside. Used for sweet or savoury dishes. Puff pastry can be bought ready-made either chilled or frozen. Look for all-butter varieties for the best flavour.

A word used to describe either the act of making a smooth sauce or paste from various ingredients (verb), or the final result of such a process (noun). Meats, fruits and vegetables can all be puréed. Purées can be made in seconds if you have a blender or food processor. Otherwise use a sieve and push the ingredients through with a spoon into a bowl.

Puy Lentils
A small slate-green lentil with a delicate blue marbling. Puy lentils are considered by many to be the best lentil because of their unique peppery flavour and the fact they hold their shape during cooking.



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