A to Z commonly used food's glossary and cooking terms.
Quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds in
the Pheasant family Phasianidae. Quails include edible game species.
The Common Quail was previously much favoured in French cooking, but
quail for the table are now more likely to be domesticated Japanese
Quail. Quail are commonly eaten complete with the bones, since these
are easily chewed and the small size of the bird makes it inconvenient
to remove them. The eggs of quail are considered a delicacy, and are
sometimes used raw in sushi.
A fine minced fish or meat mixture formed into small portions and poached
in stock and served in a sauce, or as a garnish to other dishes. The
term quenelle is also used to describe the decorative shape of the portions
- a neat, three-sided oval (a bit like a mini rugby ball!) formed by
smoothing the mixture between two dessertspoons. A quenelle can be formed
from other foods such as chocolate mousse.
A quesadilla (from "queso", Spanish for "cheese")
is a tortilla folded over shredded cheese or a cheese slice (often a
Mexican-style soft farmer's cheese such as Chihuahua cheese or other
light colored melting cheese), which might also include cooked meat
and/or bean filling. It is then fried, deep fried or toasted using a
broiler, griddle, or open fire, and sometimes spiced with salsa. The
term can also be used for a pair of tortillas, with the cheese and other
fillings between them, similarly cooked. Quesadillas are sometimes cut
into strips before being served as an appetizer to a meal of Mexican
An open flan or tart with a savoury custard filling, usually of egg
and milk with other ingredients added to taste - fish, meat or vegetables.
Originally from the Lorraine region of north-east France (hence quiche
Lorraine with bacon, onion and cheese), the quiche has become a classic
of French cuisine but is eaten across Europe and in many other countries.
Quince (Cydonia oblonga) belongs to the same family as apples and pears.
It has a shape that's similar to a pear, but larger. It has lumpy yellow
skin and its hard flesh is quite bitter so it shouldn't be eaten raw.
Quinine is a flavor component of tonic water. According to tradition,
the bitter taste of antimalarial quinine tonic led British colonials
in India to mix it with gin, thus creating the gin and tonic cocktail.
Dating back to the Incas, this grain is still grown in Bolivia and Peru.
It's extremely rich in complete protein, so is excellent for vegetarians.
The small round grains look similar to millet but are pale brown in
colour. The taste is mild, and the texture firm and slightly chewy.
It can be cooked like millet and absorbs twice its volume in liquid.
When cooked, the grains sweeten and become translucent, ringed with
The radish is a root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family. The most
popular part for eating is the napiform taproot, although the entire
plant is edible and the tops can be used as a leaf vegetable. The skin
comes in a variety of colours. Most commonly known is the round, red-skinned
variety. Other varieties may have a pink, white or grey-black skin.
A large, round yellow-skinned variety has a subtle taste of lemon.
A member of the chicory family sometimes known as red chicory, radicchio
has distinctive pink-red leaves with white veins and a bitter peppery
taste. It's generally used in salads mixed with other salad leaves.
A French stew of meat, poultry, fish or vegetables. 'Ragout' (ragù
in Italian) is French for stew but the term can also refer to a sauce.
Raita is an Indian condiment based on yogurt. The yogurt is mixed with
diced cucumber, cumin, garlic, mint, cayenne pepper, as well as other
vegetables if desired. The mixture is served chilled. Raita has a cooling
effect on the palate which makes it particularly useful as an accompaniment
to hot curries.
A relation of the lychee, but slightly bigger in size, this exotic fruit
has a brown leathery skin with soft red spines and a white, translucent
flesh that resembles the lychee in taste and texture.
Ramen is the Japanese name for a type of noodle or the soup dish containing
these noodles. Ramen is now manifested as a form of instant noodles
and is prevalent in Japan, East Asia (including China and Korea), North
America and Europe. Ramen has been firmly integrated into the Japanese
culinary landscape, and many regional variations exist.
A Moroccan dried-spice mixture. The mixture can be used in couscous,
rice, meat and vegetable dishes; as with garam masala, the mixture of
spices in ras-el-hanout depends on the maker and the spices available,
but may include a wide variety of spices, such as cardamom, cayenne,
aniseed, nutmeg, mace, ginger, galangal and dried ground rosebuds.
Light biscuits made with almond essence, very similar to the Italian
amaretti biscuit but usually smaller and a little darker in colour.
They can be used in trifles or crumbled into puddings or served after
dinner with coffee.
A rich vegetable Provençal stew, made from aubergines, courgettes,
sweet peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic simmered in olive oil with
herbs. It can be eaten hot or cold, as a main course or served as an
accompaniment to meat dishes. It also makes a good filling for other
vegetables or a stuffing for chicken.
Small, square pasta cases that are stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables,
then cooked in a pan of boiling water and served with tomato or other
flavoured sauces and, often, grated cheese.
In cooking, reduction is the process of thickening a liquid mixture
such as a soup or sauce by evaporation. A reduced stock is called a
The prized white meat of the red snapper is firm in texture, low in
fat, mild and delicate in flavor. A meaty, all-purpose fish with edible
skin. Almost anything goes with this popular, versatile fish. Whole
red snapper is excellent baked and stuffed, or poached and glazed (salmon-
style). Fillets can be steamed, broiled, roasted, pan-fried, or (with
a fish basket) grilled. Chunks can be added to stews and chowders (leave
the skin on for a colorful touch). Not all snapper is red snapper--be
wary of fish market labels, which can be ambiguous. Look for whole fish
with deep red fins and red backs fading into pinkish-silver bellies;
check for healthy red gills (the fish should look alive). Choose fillets
with red skin left on, as skinned fillets can easily come from other
(less premium) kinds of snapper. White meat should be moist and reflective,
free of gaping and drying.
A relish is a cooked or pickled sauce, usually made with vegetables
or fruits, generally used as a condiment. It can be smooth or chunky,
sweet or savory, hot or mild.
An extract from the stomach of cows or sheep, used to curdle milk for
cheese-making. A vegetarian alternative to rennet is used in making
vegetarian cheese. Vegetarian cheeses are becoming more widely available
and there are now vegetarian alternatives to most kinds of cheese.
Rhubarb is now grown in many areas, primarily for its fleshy petioles,
commonly known as rhubarb sticks. In temperate climate rhubarb is one
of the first food plants to be ready for harvest, usually in April/May.
The petioles can be cooked in a variety of ways. Stewed, they yield
a tart sauce that can be eaten with sugar or used as filling for pies,
tarts, and crumbles. This common use led to the German slang term for
rhubarb, piestengel or "pie plant." Rhubarb is also used to
Rice flour is made from ground raw rice and is used to make rice noodles
and some pancakes, such as south Indian appams. It can be used to thicken
soups and stews, as well as providing an alternative to wheat flour
in cakes and biscuits. It's gluten-free so can’t be used to make
yeasted loaves of bread.
Wine vinegar made from rice used in Chinese and Japanese cookery. Rice
vinegar, whether of the red or black variety, tends have a mild taste
and is relatively low in acidity. If you can't find rice vinegar, use
wine vinegar but dilute with water, using three parts vinegar to one
part water (unless you're making sushi, in which case you'd need to
use rice vinegar to get the desired result).
An essential ingredient in Chinese cooking and other oriental cuisines.
Rice wine is made by fermenting freshly steamed glutinous rice with
yeast and spring water. It's relatively low in alcohol and, as well
as being drunk, it's used in cooking and in marinades and glazes. Rice
wine is widely available in Asian markets and some supermarkets, often
labelled as Shaoxing wine.
A soft Italian curd cheese made from whey which is drained and then
lightly cooked. It's light and creamy with a slightly grainy texture.
It has a delicate flavour and is quite low in fat, making it a good
substitute for mascarpone. Ricotta can be used on its own or in sweet
and savoury dishes. It's used in many Italian dishes, especially as
a stuffing for ravioli or in pastries such as cannoli.
Large ribbed pasta tubes cut straight across (rather than diagonally
like penne). Rigatoni 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. Penne makes a good substitute.
Risotto is a traditional Italian dish made with rice. It represents
one of the noblest and at the same time one of the most common ways
of cooking rice in Italy. It originated in Northwestern Italy, specifically
Eastern Piedmont and Western Lombardy, where rice paddies are abundant.
It is one of the pillars of Torinese and Milanese cuisine. When risotto
is cooked, the dry rice is always fried briefly in oil before the broth
is added. Other dishes exist that are similar, but they should not be
called "risotto" if the rice is not toasted. Recipes include
"Risotto alla Milanese," made with beef stock and saffron,
which is traditionally served with osso buco (a stew made from veal
bones) and "Risotto al Barolo," made with fine red wine, but
thousands of variations exist, both with vegetables and meat, as well
as risottos made with various other wines, cheeses, or even fruits.
Risotto Negro is a specialty of the Veneto region, made with cuttlefish
cooked with their ink-sacs.
Savoury little patties made from chopped meat or fish mixed with breadcrumbs,
shaped into balls or cakes and shallow-fried.
Salt crystals derived from the huge seams of impacted salt that have
formed below dried-out, underground saline lakes. The crystals are quite
large and hard so are best used in a salt mill.
A spicy, rich red lamb stew from India. It literally translates as 'red
meat juices' and traditionally gets its rich red colour from crushed
dried red chillies. Use braising steak or shoulder of lamb for the best
Rosemary is a most versatile herb with a flavour that complements a
wide variety of dishes and ingredients. Native to the Mediterranean,
its bittersweet green leaves look similar to pine needles. The plant
is an evergreen shrub, so the leaves are available fresh all year round.
A flavoured water made by steeping rose petals in water, rosewater has
been used as a flavouring for centuries in Middle Eastern, Indian and
Turkish cooking. It can be added to jellies and syrups, and it's often
sprinkled over cakes and milky puddings.
A pungent Provençal sauce often served with fish stews such as
bouillabaisse, made from a garlic and olive oil emulsion pounded with
chillies and breadcrumbs.
A roux is a mixture of equal quantities of melted butter and flour that
is cooked in a pan and used as the base for thickening sauces such as
white sauce and béchamel.
A tender cut of beef from the lower back of the cow, sold as roasting
joints and steaks. It's slightly less tender than sirloin but still
only needs quick cooking. Rump steaks can be grilled or fried and accompanied
with a sauce such as peppercorn or red wine sauce. It's also good for
stir-fries and kebabs.