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Food's Glossary

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 food.

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 white.




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.

Ratafia Biscuits
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 consommé.

Red Snapper
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 make wine.

Rice Flour
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.

Rice Vinegar
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).

Rice Wine
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.

Rock Salt
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.

Rogan Josh
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 flavour.

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.



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