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Food's Glossary

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



The nuts of all the species are edible, but the walnuts commonly available in stores are from the Persian Walnut, the only species which has a large nut and thin shell. A horticultural form selected for thin nut shells and hardiness in temperate zones is sometimes known as the 'Carpathian' walnut. The nuts are rich in oil, and are widely eaten both fresh and in cookery.

Wasabi is bright green condiment is often referred to as 'Japanese horseradish,' a traditional accompaniment to sushi and sashimi, but it can also be used to make dressings and sauces. Fresh wasabi is rarely available outside Japan, but in the UK it's available in paste or powdered form. The latter is a better choice, because you can use it as you need it by mixing to a paste with water.

Wassail is a spiced punch drunk at Twelfth Night and Christmas celebrations. Wassail is most commonly recognized as an obscure reference in various traditional Christmas carols (for example, "Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green").

Water Chestnut
The (Chinese) water chestnut is native to China and is widely cultivated in flooded paddy fields in southern China and parts of the Philippines. The small, rounded corms have a crispy white flesh and can be eaten raw, slightly boiled, grilled, pickled, or tinned. They are a popular ingredient in Western-style Chinese dishes. In China, they are most often eaten raw, sometimes sweetened. They can also be ground into a flour which is used especially to make fried cakes called matigao.

Wattle Seed
Certain varieties of Acacia seeds collected by Aborigines west of the Great Divide are dry roasted and ground to enhance their natural nutty, coffee-like flavor. Wattles are an Australian native plant. You could probably leave them out of the recipe if you can't buy them. These biscuits (cookies) are similar to ANZAC biscuits that were made during the war when eggs were scarce and have become one of our traditional Aussie foods.

Welsh Rarebit or Welsh Rabbit
A traditional British speciality consisting of a slice of toasted bread covered with a mixture of Cheshire or cheddar cheese that has been melted in pale ale with English mustard, pepper and sometimes a dash of Worcestershire sauce. It's then grilled and served very hot so the cheese is bubbling and tinged with brown. The dish is also punningly called 'Welsh rabbit', and food historians continue to argue about which is the proper term.

Wheat is a grass that is cultivated worldwide. Globally, it is the second-largest cereal crop behind maize; the third being rice. Wheat grain is a staple food used to make flour, livestock feed and as an ingredient in the brewing of beer. The husk can be separated and ground into bran. Wheat is also planted as a forage crop for livestock and as straw.

Whelks are saltwater molluscs with grey or brownish shells. They resemble pointy snails. They're usually sold already cooked and shelled and can be eaten with a sprinkling of vinegar or with slices of bread and butter. The chewy flesh is quite juicy and salty.

Whipping Cream
A lighter version of double cream with a fat content of over 35 per cent - the minimum amount necessary to allow it to stay firm once beaten. It's the fat globules that trap whisked air, creating the characteristic foam and texture of whipped cream. Whipping cream whips well without being quite as rich as double cream and also makes a slightly lighter pouring cream. It makes a good topping for desserts, meringues and puddings that need a slightly lighter touch..

A whisk is a cooking utensil used in food preparation to blend ingredients smooth, or incorporate air into a mixture, in a process known as whisking or whipping. Most whisks consist of a long narow handle with a series of wire loops joined at the end. The wires are usually metal, but some have plastic for use with nonstick cookware. Whisks are also made from bamboo.

Whiskey or Whisky
Whisky (or whiskey) (from Irish uisce beatha and/or Scottish Gaelic uisge baugh, both meaning "water of life", and ultimately a calque derived from Latin 'Aqua Vitae' (see below)) is an alcoholic beverage distilled from grain, often including malt, which has then been aged in wooden barrels.

Coregonus Linnaeus, 1758, is a genus of fish in the salmon family (family Salmonidae). The type species is the common whitefish (C. lavaretus). The Coregonus species are known generically as the whitefishes. A flesh of salmon- or trout-like cold-water fish of cold lakes of the northern hemisphere. It has high fat and a mild flavor. The flesh is firm and white.

White Sauce
The most basic white sauce, from which numerous other sauces stem. White sauce is made with a roux of butter and flour mixed with milk and cooked over a gentle heat until smooth and slightly thick. Béchamel is the king of white sauces. It differs slightly from the basic white sauce in that the milk is flavoured first with onion and seasoning (often nutmeg).

A white round sea fish, whiting is a member of the cod family. It's more economical to buy than cod, although it has a relatively bland taste.

Wild Rice
The four species of wild rice comprise the genus Zizania, a group of grasses that grow in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams. Often, only the flowering head of wild rice rises above the water. True rice, genus Oryza, is also a grass; the two genera Oryza and Zizania are closely related, sharing the tribe Oryzeae.

Wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by the fermentation of grapes and grape juice. Wine-like beverages can be produced by the fermentation of other fruits and flowers (fruit or country wines), barley (barley wine), rice (sake), honey (mead), and even herbs (Chinese wine). However, in such cases a qualifier is often legally required (e.g., "elderberry wine"). The English word wine and its equivalents in other languages are protected by law in many jurisdictions.

Wonton, also written as wantan, wanton and numerous other variations, are a type of dumpling common in Chinese cuisine. Each wonton is made with a thin 10cm square lye-water pastry wrapper (made of wheat flour, water, salt, and lye) and filled with savory minced meat. The filling is typically made of minced pork, coarsely diced shrimp, finely minced ginger, finely minced onions, sesame oil and soy sauce. Wontons can be served in soup or deep fried with rice or noodles..

Worcestershire Sauce
A classic English bottled sauce that is said to have originated from an Indian recipe. It's a thin, spicy, dark-brown fermented sauce made from a variety of ingredients including anchovies, shallots, garlic, soy sauce, tamarind, salt and vinegar, which is then left to age in barrels.




A cream soup or consommé thickened with arrowroot or rice flour and garnished with diced chicken.

XO stands for 'extra old' and is used to show that a cognac has been aged for an extended period of time. The legal minimum for this designation is seven years old but most XO cognacs are much older than that, many ranging from 20 to 50 years old. The minimum age of the youngest cognac in the blend must be at least seven years old. The minimum age of VS (very special) cognac is two years old and that of VSOP (very superior old pale) is four years old.

Xylitol, also called wood sugar or birch sugar, is a five-carbon sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute. It can be extracted from birch, raspberries, plums, and corn, which is primarily imported from China and is the most popular source due to its potential renewability, unlike birch trees.




Bite-sized pieces of chicken skewered and grilled, Japanese-style. In Japan, all parts of the chicken, including the head, skin and gizzards, would be cooked, but in the UK, it's usually just pieces of breast meat. The meat is threaded on to bamboo skewers, dipped in a type of sweet teriyaki sauce, and then grilled for four to five minutes.

The yam is a staple food in many tropical countries, particularly the Caribbean. Yams have brown tough skins and the flesh can vary in colour - anything from white to yellow to purple - depending on the variety.

Small yams can be cooked in their skins, but larger ones should be peeled and blanched for ten to 20 minutes in boiling salted water before being used. Yams can be used in the same way as potatoes or sweet potatoes.

A microscopic living fungus that multiplies rapidly in suitable conditions. It's an essential ingredient for bread-making and brewing. When mixed with warm water, sugar and flour, yeast produces carbon dioxide, which causes dough to rise.

The Yellowtail amberjack or Great amberjack, Seriola lalandi is a large fish found in the Pacific and Indian oceans. It can be divided into three sub-species: The California yellowtail, (Seriola lalandi dorsalis), The Southen yellowtail (Seriola lalandi lalandi), known in Australia and New Zealand as the Yellowtail kingfish is the largest, with an all-tackle mark of 114 pounds, 10 ounces. The smallest is the Asian yellowtail (Seriola lalandi aureovitta) at 61 pounds, 8 ounces.

Yogurt is made from fermented milk and has a great many uses. It can be consumed as a drink (such as the Indian lassi) or eaten as a kind of relish (such as the Indian raita, a cooling mixture of yoghurt and cucumber), or made into a kind of cheese (such as labneh). It can also be used as a dressing or as a marinade to tenderise meats, as in tandoori chicken.

The youngberry is a hybrid of a blackberry and a dewberry grown in western and southern U.S.




A rich, foamy Italian dessert made by whisking egg yolks, Marsala wine and sugar together over a gentle heat. It's usually served barely warm. Some versions might have the addition of fresh fruit or fruit coulis. Zabaglione is quite similar to the French sabayon.

A spice blend found in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. To make it, sesame seeds, powdered sumac, and dried thyme are ground together. Zahtar is used to flavor meats and vegetables, or mixed with oil and used as a spread for bread.

An Italian pork sausage that has a creamy texture and a very spicy flavor. The sausage is usually made from minced pork shoulder, other pork meat and pork skin, and then is encased in the skin of a pig's foot. When served, it may already be partially cooked and require only to be heated before eating. This sausage can be eaten as an appetizer or cut into round slices and served as a main ingredient to a meal.

A large freshwater game fish found in the rivers and lakes of continental Europe. If you happen to find some fresh zander (it isn't readily available in the UK) then you can cook it whole, stuffed and either poached or baked. It has firm flesh that has a tendency to dry out.

A soup that is Spanish in origin and is much like French bouillabaisse. It is usually prepared with several types of fish and shellfish along with onions, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, spices, wine, and stock. It is generally believed that the more types of seafood thrown into the pot, the better the result will be.

The outer rind of citrus fruit containing aromatic essential oils. Remove the zest carefully using a grater, potato peeler or zester, depending on the intended use. Take care not to remove any of the white pith with the zest, because it can be very bitter.

Zinfandel is a grape variety that has been important almost exclusively in California. The Zinfandel grape can make solid red wines with good fruit and structure. And white Zinfandel is a Zinfandel rose that is left slightly sweet with an acid balance.

Ziti Pasta
A type of pasta that is shaped like thin tubular pieces of pasta that are approximately 1/4-inch in diameter and available in long or cut lengths. If ziti is unavailable, other types of tubular pasta, such as penne, mostaccioli or rigatoni may be substituted.

The Italian and American word for courgette. Zucchini are very versatile to cook with, but buy the younger, smaller ones, because older vegetables tend to have large, tough seeds and can be very watery.



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