If you can read, you can cook!  Right?

An image of a book with the words, if you can read you can cook!

There’s a classic saying that’s been tossed around in kitchens for ages: “If you can read, you can cook.” But let’s be real; it’s only half the truth. Julia Child, the culinary icon, uttered these words, but even some of her recipes might leave you scratching your head.

Sure, her recipes outline the method, but many don’t dive deep into the nitty-gritty of essential techniques. Now, I know most of us don’t find reading textbooks a thrilling pastime, and I’ve seen that people tend to gravitate towards recipes with the least amount of text in Bake Club. That can be a bit of a pickle for those who haven’t mastered certain techniques yet.

Classes if you are local (Melbourne) or Zooms from anywhere 🙂

The secret to truly unlocking the power of a recipe lies in understanding its unique language. From sautéing to tempering, mastering the culinary lingo is the key to transforming words on a page into mouth-watering dishes.

Fear not, my fellow foodies! If you’re feeling a bit lost in the world of cooking terms, I’ve got your back. I’ve whipped up a colossal list of culinary jargon to help you find your way through the kitchen with confidence. So, let’s get cooking and elevate your gastronomic game to new heights! 📚🍽️✨

A library of cook books.
No that’s a cookbook library!

I always say “The first thing you must do is read the recipe all the way to the end”. 

One of the golden rules in cooking is to read the entire recipe from start to finish before you even consider tying on that apron. And I’m not just talking about skimming through the ingredients; it’s crucial to absorb every bit of information, including the method and any sneaky tips hiding in the text. I know, I know, it might seem like a bit of a drag, but trust me on this one – it’s worth it.

Picture this: you’ve had a long day and are ready to whip up a delicious dinner at 7:30 pm. But, oh no! You’re halfway through the recipe when you realize you need to let your dish simmer for 2 hours, or let it rest for an hour, or even perform the mysterious “chiffonade” technique on a head of cabbage. Yikes! That’s a one-way ticket to Hangry Town, my friend. 🤣🤣🤣

So, save yourself from potential kitchen disasters make it a habit to read through your recipes like a detective on a culinary case. Not only will this help you avoid any last-minute surprises, but it’ll also give you a chance to plan ahead, sharpen your skills, and truly savour the joy of cooking.

Let’s face it; nobody wants to be caught off guard with a chiffonade crisis when they’re already hungry! 🕵️‍♀️🍽️👩‍🍳

Rolling out pastry.
Pastry and recipe development

Embracing the art of learning cooking and baking techniques and mastering outcomes is truly a game-changer in the kitchen. With a little experience tucked under your apron, you’ll soon find yourself swapping out ingredients, tweaking quantities, and even whipping up dishes without needing a recipe to guide you.

But beware, my fellow food enthusiasts – too much tinkering can lead to culinary chaos if you’re not familiar with the role each ingredient plays. For instance, overloading a cookie dough with flour can result in tough, rock-hard cookies that’ll have you questioning your baking skills. And skimping on the leavening agent in a cake recipe? You might end up with a dense, soggy base that’s far from the fluffy, delicious treat you had in mind.

Now, when it comes to whipping up a quick evening meal, there’s usually a bit more wiggle room. Adding an extra half cup of stock to your soup or using 600g of mince in your lasagna instead of the recommended 500g probably won’t spell disaster. However, truly understanding the “why” behind each step and ingredient can be your secret weapon, transforming you into a culinary maestro ready to tackle any mystery box challenge that comes your way.

So, dear aspiring master chefs, let’s dive deep into the world of cooking techniques and ingredients, turning our kitchens into laboratories of deliciousness. And who knows? You just might find yourself donning a chef’s hat and conquering the culinary world with your newfound expertise! 🍲👩‍🍳🌟

Teaspoons with various spices.
Spice testing

I’m going to repeat myself here so get ready. Taking on any recipe starts with one crucial step: reading it from top to bottom. If you stumble upon any phrases that leave you puzzled, don’t be shy about admitting it! There’s absolutely no shame in not knowing every culinary term under the sun. After all, how many people knew what Mire Poix was until Master Chef was aired on our TM? 😉

To make your culinary journey a little smoother, I’ve decided to create a handy culinary dictionary right here on the blog. While it might not cover every term you’ll ever encounter, it’ll certainly be a trusty guide for those moments when a recipe throws you a curveball. And hey, if you come across a term that’s not on my list, give me a shout, and I’ll be more than happy to add it.

Consider this your go-to resource for those head-scratching moments in the kitchen when you’re just not quite sure what the recipe is asking of you. This list has been crafted with the help of trusty sources like Wiki, Gourmet Magazine, and of course, my very own chef training and teaching.

But before I unleash my ultimate culinary dictionary, let me leave you with one more nugget of wisdom: “No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.” So, my fellow food lovers, let’s roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and learn the language of cooking together – one delicious dish at a time! 📖👨‍🍳🌟

My Huge list of Cooking Terms


The Malay name for a gum extracted from red seaweed, used as a gelling or setting agent. Its advantage over the more commonly used gelatin include its resistance to heat (it stays jellied until near-boiling point) and the fact that it is vegetable rather than animal-based, and can thus be used in vegetarian cooking. It is available from Asian grocers, specialty stores and even some supermarkets these days.

Aged balsamic vinegar

Fragrant, sweetish vinegar from Modena, Italy, made from concentrated grape juice and aged in wooden barrels for at least 10 years.


A stuffed pasta shape, usually translating to small, crescent-shaped or semicircular ravioli in Australian restaurants.


French for sour-sweet. See also the Italian, agrodolce.


Garlic Mayonnaise. A speciality of Provence, in the south of France.

Al dente

Italian for ‘to the tooth’, a term denoting the texture to which pasta should be cooked – that is, still firm, with some resistance to the bite. Also used in describing the texture of rice in risotto.


A Catalan sauce of garlic and oil mixed in to a paste, much like aioli, only without the eggs.


Can be purchased as blanched, skins removed; flaked, paper-thin slices; ground, also known as almond meal; or in slivers, small lengthways-cut pieces.

Ancho chilli

A broad dried chilli of a reddish-brown colour. Ranging from mild to hot, it’s one of the sweetest dried chillies. In its fresh state it is referred to as poblano chilli.


A southern French sauce made from anchovies, garlic and olive oil, often served on toast or with raw vegetables.


Meaning before the meal. A selection of hot or cold appetisers. The plural is antipasti.


A pre-dinner drink served to refresh and stimulate the palate. The Italian term is aperitivo.

Arborio rice

Small, round-grain rice well-suited to absorb a large amount of liquid, especially suitable for risotto. See also carnaroli and vialone nano.


Armagnac is the oldest brandy distilled in France. Brandy from France’s Armagnac region.   A single distilled alcohol.


French for plate or platter, in common English use it means a selection of the same ingredient prepared different ways, such as an assiette of pork.  You will often see “Assiette du jour” on menus in France which means “Plate of the day”.   That sounds so much better than our Aussie “Special of the day”, doesn’t it.  LOL


Italian term for salt cod. The Spanish is bacalao, Portuguese bacalhau, French morue. Salt cod needs to be soaked in several changes of water for at least 12 hours before it is ready to cook, and it contains bones which must be removed before serving. It can be bought at Spanish and Portuguese grocers, as well as some Italian delicatessens.

Baking powder

Raising agent that is two parts cream of tartar to one part bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), occasionally salt and a stabilizing ingredient is added.


Something boned, stuffed and rolled. Classically applied to poultry, now often seen with fish. See also galantine, a similar preparation, typically made with a whole beast, glazed with gelatin, and served cold.

Balmain bugs

A saltwater crustacean that broadly resembles clawless, narrow-bodied crab in size and shape. The Balmain bug (Ibacus peronii) is more commonly caught in the southern states of Australia and has its eyes set towards the middle of the head. Available year-round, Balmain bugs have full-flavoured meat in their tails, and are bought whole or as frozen tail meat. Their shells turn red when they’re cooked. Substitute large king or banana prawns where necessary.

Banh mi

The Vietnamese term for a Vietnamese sandwich. These light, crusty baguettes are typically spread with pate and mayonnaise before being filled with Vietnamese-style cold cuts, freshly cooked pork or chicken (or a combination thereof), shreds of pickled carrot, ribbons of raw cucumber, sprigs of fresh coriander and chopped hot red chilli. They are dressed with nuoc cham, the chilli, lime, soy and fish sauce condiment, sometimes also with a splash of Maggi brand seasoning. Vietnamese sandwiches are sold at most Vietnamese-run hot bread shops around the country.


One of the great French sauces, an emulsion of egg yolks, butter, shallots, vinegar or lemon juice (and sometimes white wine), tarragon and chervil. It is often served with grilled steak or fish.


The classic French base white sauce, made by adding milk simmered with aromatics (usually bay, onion, nutmeg and pepper) to a roux of butter and flour and cooking it gently, stirring to a smooth consistency. Known as besciamella in Italian cooking.


French for butter. ‘Sel’ means salted, ‘demi-sel’ lightly salted.

Beurre noir

A French sauce of butter browned in a pan and mixed with lemon juice, parsley and capers.  Confusing because the direct translation would be butter black?

Beurre noisette

Butter lightly browned in a pan.

Bicarbonate of soda

Also known as baking soda.

Birdseye chilli

The most commonly used fresh chilli in Thai cuisine, sometimes called bird peppers, these tiny, fiery chillies are red, green, lime or orange, depending on the variety. Dried birdseyes should not be used in place of the fresh ones; if necessary, substitute another fresh chilli.


Blanching is scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time not cooking them through. It is typically followed by quick, thorough cooling in iced water. Blanching stops enzyme actions which otherwise cause loss of flavour, colour and texture.


Also blanc-manger. A French dessert of almond milk set with gelatine, served cold.


The Russian plural for blin, a kind of small, thick pancake traditionally served hot with caviar.

Blue eye trevalla

Also known simply as blue eye, this fish (Hyperoglyphe antarctica) is often mistakenly termed blue eye cod. A prized eating fish, its flesh is off-white, firm and fine of flavour.

Bonito flakes

Also known as kezuri-bushi. The bonito fish is a relative of the mackerel and tuna. The filleted fish is dried rock hard and shaved into pale pink, strongly aromatic flakes and used to make dashi and as a garnish. The larger flakes generally provide more flavour. Available from Asian food stores.


In the style of Bordeaux. Sauce Bordelaise is a brown sauce flavoured with red wine and bone marrow.


The salted and air-dried roe of tuna or mullet is considered a delicacy throughout the Mediterranean. Thinly sliced and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, bottarga makes an unequalled entrée.

Boudin blanc

A French white sausage of chicken, pork or veal.

Boudin noir

French term meaning black pudding – a blood sausage usually made with pig’s blood. Other blood sausages include the German blutwurst and Spanish morcilla.


A fish soup from the French Mediterranean consisting of a broth made from several different fish (rockfish, dory, conger eel, monkfish and gurnard are traditional), garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, onions, parsley and saffron. The meat of the fish and the broth are served in separate courses, the broth with toast and rouille as a condiment. See also bourride, rouille.

Bouquet garni

A bundle of fresh parsley, thyme and bay tied with string used to flavour soups and braises and usually removed before serving.


Also Bourguignonne. In the style of Burgundy – with red wine, mushrooms and bacon.

Broccoli rabe

This bitter winter green is part of the brassica family, and popular in southern Italy for its peppery flavour. Available from selected greengrocers.


French for burned, it refers, as in the case of creme brulee, to caramelisation.

Buffalo mozzarella

Soft, spun-curd cheese; originated in southern Italy where it is traditionally made from pure buffalo’s milk.


These Australian saltwater crustaceans broadly resemble clawless, narrow-bodied crab in size and shape. The Balmain bug (Ibacus peronii) is more commonly caught in the southern states and has its eyes set towards the middle of the head, while the slightly narrower Moreton Bay bug (Thenus orientalis), caught in the northern states has eyes towards the edge of the head. Available year-round, both have full-flavoured meat in their tails, and are bought whole or as frozen tail-meat. Their shells turn red when they’re cooked. Substitute large king or banana prawns where necessary.

Burghul (cracked wheat)

Hulled steamed wheat kernels that, once dried, are crushed into various size grains. Used in Middle Eastern dishes such as kibbeh and tabbouleh.


Use salted or unsalted (sweet) butter as directed (125gm is equal to one stick of butter).


Sold alongside other milk products in supermarkets. Low in fat (1.8gm fat per 100ml) and with a refreshing, sour tang, it is used in desserts and for baking.

Calasparra rice

Short grained rice grown in the mountains of the Spanish province of Murcia and typically used in paellas and other Spanish rice-based dishes.


A famed apple brandy from the French region of the same name.


A French cheese made in the Auvergne region from cow’s milk curds.

Caper flowers

The flowers of the caper bush, salted and preserved in oil. The resulting flavour is more delicate than other caper products – capers (the buds) and caperberries (the fruit). They are used throughout the Mediterranean in many salad, fish and meat dishes and as an accompaniment with other vegetables. Available from specialty food stores.


A Belgian dish of beef (usually shin) braised in beer.

Carnaroli rice

Short-grained rice grown around the Italian towns of Novara and Vercelli, between Milan and Turin. Like arborio or vialone nano, it’s typically used in risotto and other Italian rice-based dishes. Carnaroli has a reputation for being harder to master than other risotto rices, but is considered by many cooks to give superior results.


Italian dish of thin slices or shavings of raw meat, traditionally beef, but now extending to fish, so named at Venice’s Harry’s Bar for the Italian painter Carpaccio and his love of bloody hues.


An Italian method of cooking in which the food (seafood or poultry, typically) is wrapped in parchment paper (or foil) before being baked. The French equivalent of ‘in cartoccio’ is ‘en papillote’.


A dish presented in a small casserole – not to be confused with cassoulet.


A traditional dish from France’s southwest – essentially a gratineed braise of white beans with a combination of goose, pork, lamb and duck (often confit), and sausages.

Cavolo nero

A long-leafed, dark or black cabbage. It has a sweet, rich, earthy flavour and is available year round, although it is mainly eaten in autumn and winter.


The French term for the boletus mushroom called porcini by Italians. Its traditional English name is the penny bun.


South American dish of raw fish marinated in citrus. Pronounced seh-VEE-chay.


Also girolle. An orange mushroom much admired by French cooks.


A herbal liqueur made by French monks. In cooking, a dish of partridge braised in cabbage leaves.


A fine shredding of herbs or leaves for example cabage for a slaw.


Hot peppers, generally the smaller the hotter. It’s advisable to wear gloves while preparing hotter chillies, or wash hands thoroughly and avoid contact with eyes and other sensitive tissue. See ancho, birdseye, habanero, jalapeño, padron and serrano.


A chinois is a conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh. It is used to strain custards, purees, soups, and sauces, producing a very smooth texture. Pronounced  jin wa.


A bearnaise sauce with tomato.


A custard tart, often scattered with cherries.


Available fresh from Asian greengrocers select greengrocers and some supermarkets these days; the flesh should be soft, gelatinous and almost translucent. To shave the flesh, use a vegetable peeler or a large sharp knife.


A ramekin. Dishes served en cocotte are typically baked in ramekins or set in a bain-marie.


French for roughly chopped. Often mentioned with peeled and chopped tomatos


French for preserve. Traditionally pieces of duck, pork or goose cooked and preserved in their own fat, in contemporary restaurant usage it also refers to any dish slow-cooked in fat or oil. Pronounced con-FEE.


Also known as cornstarch; used as a thickening agent in cooking.


The French word for small gherkins.


An aromatic broth used for poaching, usually associated with fish or poultry.

Cream of tartar

White powder made from crystallised acid collecting inside wine barrels, used to stabilise and add volume to beaten eggwhite and in baking powder.

Creme Anglaise

French for English cream – a light custard.

Creme fraiche

Cultured thick cream, with a fresh, sour taste. Does not separate when boiled. If unavailable, substitute with sour cream.

Creme patissiere

Custard filling for pastries and cakes.


To cook en crepinette is to wrap in caul fat. A crepinette is usually a small patty of meat wrapped in caul fat, not unlike a rissole.

Croque monsieur

A French toasted or pan-fried ham and cheese sandwich. When made with an egg, it is known as a croque madame.


To cook en croute is to wrap or seal in pastry.


Solid which separates from coagulated milk or soy milk used to make cheese or soya bean curd.


Japanese long white radish.


An oval-shaped mould used for baking and pastry.

Dark soy sauce

A soy sauce often used for the colour it imparts. It’s less salty than light soy sauce.


Japanese fish stock made from dried seaweed.


A French braise of beef, mutton or lamb enriched with red wine and onions. A stew.


Style of potato dish in which they’re thinly sliced and baked with cream, milk and sometimes cheese.


Loosening and dissolving meat residue from the pan base or roasting dish with water, wine or stock.


A tasting or sampling menu, typically of several smaller courses.

Demerara sugar

Light brown sugar with coarse crystals.


Japanese style of cooking grilled skewered food with a sweet miso paste.


Indian dish of cooked dehusked split pulses such as lentils seasoned with spices.


French term for an after-dinner drink. Often strongly alcoholic (as in the case of Cognac), they are supposed to aid digestion. The Italian term is digestivo.

Dijon mustard

French mustard with a smooth creamy consistency and a mild flavour made with brown mustard seeds, salt, spices and verjuice.

Dim sum

Cantonese term denoting both a style of morning or midday meal (also known as yum cha although yum cha can mean dinner usually with small but more substantial dishes served) and the small dishes served at that meal to accompany tea. Steamed and fried dumplings, both sweet and sour, are among the best-known dim sum dishes.


Greek dish using vine leaves to wrap a filling of rice or meat and other vegetables.

Dried shrimp

These small sun-dried prawns are soaked in hot water or pounded to a paste before using. Available from Asian food stores.


Minced mushrooms and shallots cooked in butter and mixed with cream.

Eccles cake

English puff pastry cases traditionally filled with raisins.


Green soybean pods, usually bought frozen and boiled and salted to be eaten as a snack.

Egg custard

Custard made from whole egg or yolk and sweetened milk and cooked gently over a bain marie or double boiler.


White flowers of the elderberry tree used for decoration, fried, or made into a sweet cordial.


Hard cooked-curd cow’s milk cheese from the Emmental valley in Switzerland with a sweet nutty flavour.


South American sweet or savoury pastries often containing meat, vegetables or cheese. These can be prepared by baking or shallow frying.


Combining of two separate substances by adding small amounts of one into the other.


Bitter salad plant with curly ragged leaves.


Japanese mushroom with long delicate stems and small white caps. Also enokitake. These need to be cooked quickly.


Thin slice of meat cut from a large muscle beaten thin prior to cooking.

Farro perlato

Also known as spelt barley.


Sheep’s or goat’s milk are the traditional base for this salty, crumbly cheese, giving the cheese a more complex taste. It is often stored in brine; if so, rinse it before using to remove some of the saltiness.


En feuilletage means in pastry.


A small rectangular French almond cake.

Fines herbes

A mix of fresh herbs, usually parsley, chervil, thyme, chives and tarragon.


A small pale dried bean.

Fleur de sel

The flower of salt, a fine sea salt from France.

Floating islands

‘Islands’ of poached meringue afloat in creme Anglaise. Also oeufs a la neige.


In contemporary restaurant usage, this means a sauce brought to a foamy consistency, typically under pressure from a whipped cream siphon in the manner popularised by pioneering chef Ferran Adria of Spain’s El Bulli restaurant. Most foams contain gelatin or agar-agar to stabilise them.

Foie gras

The fattened liver of a duck (de canard) or goose (d’ois).


French for melting, in pastry it can refer to cooked, worked, flavoured sugar used in icing or high-cocoa chocolate.


Almond custard pastry filling.


Bone ends cleaned of meat: cutlets, chicken drumsticks.


A mixture of sauteed ingredients, classically enriched with butter and cream.


Rhizome broadly resembling ginger in shape but with a pink-hued skin. The flesh is more dense and fibrous than ginger, while the flavour is more delicate. Chop finely or slice thinly before use. Available from Asian food stores.


In classical French cooking, a bird or large cut of meat which has been boned, stuffed, rolled an cooked before being glazing with gelatin, and is typically served cold. See also ballotine.


A flat round of pastry or cake.

Garlic shoots

Green garlic sprouts, or shoots as they are sometimes called, are sold in bunches and resemble garlic chives but are thicker and rounder.


French for jelly, or a dish set in jelly.


Italian plural for ‘little dumplings’, typically of mashed potatoes, but also of semolina (gnocchi alla romana), pumpkin and even sweet gnocchi of a choux paste base. See also gnocchetti Sardi.

Green onion

Sometimes known as shallot (UK) or scallion (US); an immature onion pulled when the top is green, before the bulb has formed. Sold by the bunch.

Green papaya

Unripe papaya. Varying in length and shape, it is used in Thai cuisines raw and cooked.


An Italian preparation of finely chopped lemon (sometimes orange) peel, raw garlic and flat-leaf parsley used to cut the riches of braises such as osso buco alla Milanese. Also gremolada.


French sauce of chopped capers, hard-boiled eggs, cornichons and herbs bound with mayonnaise. Commonly served with cold meats or poached dishes.

Habanero chilli

By far the hottest of the commonly available chillies, the orange habanero or bonnet pepper has a fruity taste and a lingering, white-hot burn. It is advisable to wear rubber gloves while preparing them in any great number and to wash your hands and utensils after handling them.


Salted and smoked small cod.


Scottish dish of sheep’s stomach stuffed with minced heart, liver, lungs and oats then poached or boiled.


Middle-Eastern sweet made from ground sesame seeds or almonds with sugar syrup.

Haricot bean

Shelled and dried mature French bean.


A fiery north African condiment usually made from dried chillies, garlic, olive oil and cumin. Refrigerate for up to two months, covered in a layer of oil to help preserve it.


Semi-hard scalded-curd cows milk cheese.

Herbes de Provence

A mixture of rosemary, thyme, parsley, summer savoury and bay, typically dried.


A classic base sauce of butter and lemon juice thickened with egg yolks over gentle heat. Paired with eggs and ham on muffins to make eggs Benedict.

Honeycomb tripe

Tripe from the second stomach of cattle, with the appearance of honeycomb.


Middle Eastern puree of cooked chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic.


A small-leafed Meditteranean herb with a slightly bitter, mint-like flavour.


Bringing liquid into contact with food, herbs or spices so that the flavour transposes from one to the other.

Italian pearl barley

Smaller, whiter and quicker to cook than regular barley. You can substitute with regular pearl barley, but you will need to cook it for 45 minutes.


Malaysian fruit with brown spiky skin, fibrous yellow flesh and large white seeds, the flesh is eaten raw or roasted and the seeds are dried, roasted and ground.


Long, tapering thick-fleshed green chillies with strong flavour and middling heat. The jalapeño is a popular chilli in Mexican cuisine and is often stuffed or pickled. Ripe, they can be dark green or red. Pronounced HAL-uh-PEN-yah.


Creole long grain rice dish with varied ingredients such as chicken, ham, sausage and seafood with onions, celery, green pepper and tabasco.


French for ham.


Spanish for ham. See also serrano and jamon Iberico.

Jamon Iberico

A Spanish ham widely regarded as the world’s best, jamon Iberico de bellota, to use its full name, is the cured leg of a black Iberian pig fattened on grain and then foraged on acorns (bellota in Spanish) in the months before slaughter. The hams are cured for a minimum of nine months. See also serrano.

Japanese rice seasoning

Mix of chopped nori, sesame seeds, caster sugar, sansho pepper and sea salt, available from Japanese and Asian food stores. To make your own, place 2 sheets of finely chopped nori, 1/3 cup sesame seeds, 3 tsp caster sugar, 1 tsp ground sansho pepper and 1 tbsp sea salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, grind to a coarse powder.

Japanese rice vinegar

Colourless vinegar made from fermented rice and seasoned with sugar and salt. Also known as seasoned rice vinegar.

Japanese rice wine

Otherwise known as sake, an alcoholic beverage fermented from steamed rice also used as a replacement for mirin in cooking.


Technique of cutting vegetables, fruit or citrus rinds into matchstick-sized strips.


French for juice, in restaurant parlance jus usually refers to the pan juices from a piece of meat used to sauce it on the plate.

Kaffir lime leaves

Two glossy dark-green leaves joined end to end; used fresh or dried in many Asian dishes in the same manner as bay or curry leaves, especially in Thai cooking. Sold fresh, dried or frozen; dried leaves are less potent so double the number called for in a recipe if using instead of fresh leaves.

Kang kong

See water spinach. When you purchase this you should use it the same day, it doesn’t last long.


Thin strands of dough, not unlike noodles, common to Greek, Turkish and Lebanese sweets, but latterly used in savoury dishes in contemporary cooking, as in the case of kataifi-wrapped prawns.


Meat cooked on a skewer or brochette until lightly charred on the outside and sliced or served on the skewer.

Kecap manis

Indonesian dark soy sauce sweetened and thickened with molasses.

Kidney bean

Kidney-shaped bean ranging in colour from white to black.


Korean fermented cabbage flavoured with salt, garlic and chilli.


Alcoholic infusion of cherry and cherry kernels used for drinking or flavouring.


Mild Indian braise of meat or vegetables in yoghurt or cream.


A yeasted, ring-shaped cake from Alsace.


Strained yoghurt with the consistency of thick sour cream and a mildly acidic taste. Labne is available from some supermarkets and Middle Eastern food stores. To make your own, place thick Greek-style yoghurt in a muslin-lined sieve over a bowl and refrigerate overnight. Also labna.


A spicy Chinese-Malay noodle soup common to many countries in southeast Asia. The type of noodle used varies from country to country, as does the broth (laksa assam is piquant with tamarind, while laksa lemak is rich with coconut milk) and the ingredients (prawns, fish, chicken, tofu and combinations thereof).

Lamb’s lettuce

See mache.

Langue de chat

French for cat’s tongues; thin, delicate sweet biscuits.

Lap cheong

Dried Chinese pork sausages, usually smoked, seasoned and sweetened. They are available vacuum-packed from Asian food stores and do not require refrigeration until after opening.


A meat salad of Lao origins common to Thai cooking, made with minced raw or cooked pork, poultry or fish, and ground rice, flavoured with chilli, fish sauce and lime juice. Also laab, larp, laap.


Rendered pork fat, used in cooking as a frying medium, a shortening in baking and as a preservative. See also lardo.


Italian pork backfat cured with salt and spices and eaten raw with other salumi. Also white prosciutto.


Indian yoghurt drink salted or sweetened with sugar and flavoured with spices such as cumin or mint.

Leavened bread

Bread made with yeast to help it rise.

Lebanese eggplant

A long, slender variety of baby eggplant (or aubergine), ranging from pale to dark-purple in colour.


Plants with two pods attached along one join (beans and peas). Usually, the seed itself is used for eating, and when dried they are known as pulses.


Grown in tuft-like clusters, with long-bladed leaves which contain a pale central stalk, the lower white part of which is either pounded, bruised or finely chopped in South East Asian cuisine. The leaves are dried and used to make tisanes. Available from Asian food stores and supermarkets.


A large fish of the cod family.


Lobsters caught in Australian lobsters are spiny lobsters, sometimes called crayfish, but properly known as southern, western, eastern and tropical rock lobsters. They differ from Atlantic lobsters in the absence of claws, but are otherwise similar (if not superior) in the quality and characteristics of their flesh.

Normally sold live, cooked or frozen, buying uncooked, chilled rock lobster is not advised, as it is hard to know how much time has passed since the lobster died. The RSPCA recommends live crustaceans be killed as humanely as possible, specifically by placing the animal in the refrigerator or freezer until it is asleep, and then killing it by splitting it or spiking it to destroy the nerve centres.


Also macaron; a small French biscuit made from almonds, sugar and egg white.


This spice, the dried lacy covering of the nutmeg seed, tastes and smells like a pungent version of nutmeg.


A salad leaf available in the cooler months, mâche has a soft, velvety texture and a mild refreshing flavour. Also lamb’s lettuce.


Italian for the style of the sailor. Not, as is commonly supposed, necessarily seafood, but sauced in the southern Italian manner with tomato, garlic, oregano and olive oil.


The most widely available variety is sweet marjoram. It can be used to flavour a variety of foods, particularly meats such as lamb and veal, and vegetables.


A native Australian crayfish (Cherax cainii), the third largest crayfish in the world) prized for the sweetness and quantity of its meat. Yielding 40% of its weight in meat, the marron has the most favourable flesh-to-shell ratio of any freshwater crustacean. Farmed chiefly in South Australia and Western Australia, marron are available fresh year-round, and are black when mature. See also yabby and redclaw.

Marrons glaces

A French confection of peeled chestnuts preserved in sugar.


Fresh, smooth, unripened, triple-cream cheese with a rich, slightly acidic taste.


French for a thousand leaves; traditionally puff pastry of many delicate layers, in common restaurant usage it has come to mean an interleaving of ingredients, typically (though not always) with layers of something crisp such as pastry between each. Pronounced Mill-Foy  The Italian term is mille foglie.


Diced carrots, onions and other vegetables used in braises.


Sweet rice wine, used only in cooking. Found in Asian food stores. Sweet sherry is an acceptable substitute.


The Japanese name for a paste of cooked, mashed, salted and fermented soy beans and, typically, rice, rye or barley. It is a common ingredient in soups, sauces and dressings. Miso varies in colour; the darker the miso is, the longer it has fermented and the more intense and mature its taste. Some are sweet, some are salty. Miso keeps for many months refrigerated.


Feathery, delicate salad green often found in mesclun.

Moreton Bay bugs

A saltwater crustacean that broadly resembles clawless, narrow-bodied crab in size and shapeThe Moreton Bay bug (Thenus orientalis), caught in the northern states of Australia, is slightly narrower than the Balmain bug and has eyes towards the edge of the head. Available year-round, Moreton Bay bugs have full-flavoured meat in their tails, and are bought whole or as frozen tail-meat. Their shells turn red when they’re cooked. Substitute large king or banana prawns where necessary.


Ingredients which have been lightened with whipped cream or egg white.


A strongly scented, tangy, soft cow’s milk cheese from the Alsace town of the same name.


An aged, sweet fortified wine.


See enoki, oyster, porcini, shiitake and Swiss brown mushroom individual glossary entries.

Mustard fruits

A sweet/hot Italian condiment (the most famous mostarda, as it’s called in Italian, is mostarda di Cremorna) of fruit preserved in syrup with mustard oil, often served with cold meats or rich braises, or with cheese. The jars of mostarda seen in Australia usually contain a mixture of fruits (pears, quince, cherries and peaches, say), though more single-fruit varieties (fig, for instance, or mandarin) are becoming available. Delicatessens and Italian specialty stores are the best source.


French for swimming; denotes dishes served in a light, aromatic poaching liquor.

Nam prik

Thai relishes made from spices, herbs and chilli, with ingredients such as dried shrimps, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, shallots, tamarind, lime juice and peanuts.


Asian pear.

Nasi goreng

Indonesian fried rice with soy sauce, spring onion, garlic,and vegetables, often served with chicken or seafood.

Nasi lemak

A Malaysian dish of rice cooked in coconut milk, served with ikan biliis (crisp anchovies), boiled egg, peanuts, cucumber, sambal and aceh (pickles). It’s often accompanied by a curry or grilled fish or chicken.


A French braise of lamb or mutton.

Nigella seeds

Small black seeds of the nigella plant with a mild peppery flavour often used as a seasoning.

Nonya cuisine

Chinese, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine.


Paper-thin sheets of dried seaweed, ranging in colour from dark green to black. Nori has a sweet ocean taste and is generally used for wrapping sushi and rice balls however, when finely cut, it serves as a seasoning or garnish.


Sweets made from nuts and sugar with honey and egg whites.

Nuoc mam

A Vietnamese fish sauce made from liquid drained from fermenting fish such as anchovies.

Oeufs a la neige

See floating islands.

Oeufs en meurette

Poached eggs in a red wine sauce.


Broadly, the edible internal organs of an animal, such as tripe, liver, sweetbreads, brains and kidneys. Other definitions include any edible parts of the beast that aren’t muscle, including extremities such as feet, ears, snouts, tails and lips, as well as tendons and skin (many of these last ingredients, incidentally, can be found in the average commercially produced Australian meat pie).

Olive oil

Made from ripened olives. Extra virgin and virgin are the first and second press, respectively, of the olives and therefore considered the best, while extra light or light is diluted and refers to taste, not fat levels.


Gordal: Also known as the queen olive and the Sevillano, is a firm, plump green olive. Because of its large size, the gordal is a favourite before the meal, especially when served with cocktails.

Ligurian: from the Italian Riviera, these are black, small and high in oil, with a delicate sweet flavour.

Sicilian: Green vibrant green, large, fleshy olives prepared in the traditional Sicilian manner, using water and Mediterranean sea salt, giving them a subtle, buttery olive flavour and meaty texture. They contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives and must be refrigerated and used within a few days of purchase.

Orange flower water

Alcoholic extract from Seville orange flowers used as a flavouring.

Organic food

Food which has been grown without the use of synthetic or chemically produced fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on land which has been organic for at least two years.

Ortiz anchovies

Fished from waters off northern Spain, only the largest grade of anchovy is preserved whole in rock salt and cured for four months, resulting in plump meaty fillets. Trimmed and filleted by hand, the hairy texture of lesser-grade anchovies is eliminated.


Italian barley- or rice-shaped pasta used in soups. Also known as risoni.

Osso buco

In Australia, this can mean the butchers’ term for slices of beef shin on the bone (osso buco being Italian for bone with a hole), or the northern Italian braise of the same cut. Osso buco alla Milanese, its most famous form, sees the white-wine braised shin sprinkled with gremolata and served on a risotto enriched with saffron.


Greek aniseed-flavoured liquor used for flavouring in cooking.

Oven Spring

In bread baking, the final burst of rising just after a loaf is put in the oven and before the crust hardens. When the dough hits the hot oven, it can puff up to as much as a third of its size in a matter of a few minutes.


Generally considered to be a wine fault. Oxidation will dull and flatten the fruity flavours of a wine.

Oyster mushrooms

Also called shimeji in Japanese, this mushroom takes its name from its shape and greyish colour, and has slight peppery overtones and a juicy texture.

Oyster sauce

Chinese sauce combining soy sauce and dried oysters.

Palm sugar

Dark and light palm sugar are made from the sap of the sugar palm tree. Dark palm sugar is also known as nam tan pip, jaggery, jawa or gula melaka. It is usually sold in rock-hard cakes; the sugar is shaved off the cake with a sharp knife (though many good Asian palm sugars are softer). Widely used in South-East Asian cuisine in sweet and savoury dishes, it will keep indeterminately at room temperature.


Italian bacon that is cured with salt and spices but not smoked. Available in both round and flat shapes.


To wrap food in parchment (or foil) to cook it is to cook en papillote in French usage. The Italian equivalent is in cartoccio.


A red powdered spice ground from a variety of sweet red capsicum. There are many types and grades, including smoked, hot, mild and sweet.


Traditionally a dessert mousse, but also a mousse-like puree of duck, chicken or goose liver resembling a fine pate.


Also known as parmigiano, parmesan is a hard, grainy cow milk cheese which originated in the Parma region of Italy. The curd is salted in brine for a month, then aged for up to two years in humid conditions.


Sieved, puréed tomato, available in bottles from supermarkets and delicatessens.


A French anise-flavoured alcohol, such as Pernod or Ricard, traditionally served as an aperitif. Bottled as clear liquids, they become cloudy when ice or water is added.

Pate brisee

Basic shortcrust pastry.  Like what you would find in a savoury tart crust.

Pie Pastry.


French for paving stone, on a menu this usually means a thick slice of meat.


Dry, sharp, salty, Italian sheep’s milk cheese.

Pedro Ximenez sherry

Made from grapes with the same name, this dark, rich Spanish sherry is full-bodied and very sweet. Used as a dessert wine, it’s also great for sauces and deglazing a pan. Pronounced Pedro HEE-men-EHZ.

Pin bone

Method of removing small bones from fish fillets, using tweezers.

Pine nut

Derived from the pine cones of several varieties of pine trees. Generally to harvest the nuts, the cones must be heated. This labour-intensive process is the reason pine nuts are expensive. There are two main varieties. The Mediterranean or Italian nut is torpedo-shaped, has a light, delicate flavour and is the more expensive of the two. The Chinese pine nut is more triangular and has a pungent flavour. Pine nuts are often toasted gently in a pan or the oven before use to bring out their flavour. Because of their high fat content, these nuts become rancid easily. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than three months or freeze for up to nine months.

Piquillo pepper

A middling sized mild red Spanish pepper, wood-roasted and peeled by hand, they’re a speciality of the region of Navarra, and are sold packed in their own juice in jars or tins at delis and speciality stores.


A pizza-like savoury tart from Nice topped with anchovies, onions and black olives. It takes its name from pissalat, an anchovy-based Nicoise condiment. You have to be an anchovie lover for this one.


Pale green, delicately flavoured nut inside hard, off-white shells. To peel, soak shelled nuts in boiling water for five minutes and then rub the skins off with your fingers.


Traditionally a French puff pastry filled with almond cream from the Loire Valley town of the same name. In contemporary restaurant use, pretty much anything served in a round or sphere of pastry; often a fancy way of saying ‘pie’.  It usually has cuts or scores around it in a fan like style.

Poire William

A variety of pear, but also a clear French pear brandy made from the same fruit.


Yellow or white coarse granular meal made from corn.

Pomegranate molasses

Made from the juice of pomegranate seeds boiled down to a thick syrup. Available from select delicatessens and grocers, and Middle Eastern food stores.


A poolish is a wet (almost liquid) pre ferment.  It’s usually made with commercial or dried yeast and flour the night before using in a recipe.


An Italian term for a suckling pig, boned, stuffed (rosemary, fennel seed, garlic and plenty of salt usually feature) and roasted, often in a wood-fired oven. It is served both hot and cold.


Italian name for a prized boletus mushroom (known to French cooks as cepes), it is uncommon in its fresh form in Australia, but readily available dried from delis and specialty stores. Like other dried mushrooms, porcini must be softened in hot water for 20 minutes before use.


Chat: Baby new potatoes.

Kipfler: Long knobbly waxy potatoes ideal for boiling, roasting and pan-frying. Also known as fingerling potatoes.

Nicola: Creamy, firm-textured potato with yellow flesh and skin. Suits boiling, mashing or roasting.

Sebago: Brown skinned, white fleshed potato. Suitable for boiling, baking, frying and particularly good for mashing.

Spunta: Brown skinned, yellow fleshed potato. Suitable for baking, frying, mashing and roasting, but not for boiling.


A traditional French dish of beef and vegetables gently poached or simmered together, the meat and the broth usually served as separate courses, with mustard and cornichons among the condiments. Bollito misto is a loose Italian equivalent.


A baby chicken.

Pouring cream

Also called fresh or pure cream, pouring cream contains no additives and has a fat content of 35 per cent.


Caramelised almonds.

Preserved lemons

Lemons preserved in salt and lemon juice. A common ingredient in North African cooking, available from speciality food stores and select greengrocers.


White wine grape that is grown primarily in the eastern part of Italy’s Veneto region. Prosecco is made into light sparkling, full sparkling and still wines. The wines are crisp and appley and, though they can be sweet, are more often dry.


In the style of the southern French region of Provence: it usually means the dish inolves garlic, tomatoes and olive oil.


A small game bird, usually readily available from David Jones Food Halls and specialty butchers.

Queen of puddings

A traditional British pudding of baked, breadcrumb-thickened custard layered with jam and meringue.


Savoury custard tart made from shortcrust or puff pastry.


Cinnamon bark rolled up into a cigar-like tube.


A relative of the apple and pear, this large fragrant, lumpy yellow fruit has very hard, astringent flesh which, cooked long and slow with sugar, fruit juice or other sweeteners, develops a fine flavour and soft, pink flesh. Though their season is relatively short, they keep for some weeks unrefrigerated.


A grain native to South America. Gluten-free, with a nutty flavour and high in protein, it has latterly been dubbed a superfood. It’s available from health food stores, and can be used in breads, salads, soups and stews. It’s pronounced KEEN-wa.


A Swiss unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese, and also the name of dish of the same cheese served melted under a grill with potatoes, pickles and various condiments.


Member of the chicory family used in Italian cooking as well as salads. Radicchio has attractive red leaves with a bitter flavour. Pronounced RAD-ick-ee-YO


French term for a thick stew, usually of meat. Pronounced rag-OO, its Italian equivalent is ragu.


Dried white muscatel or seedless Thompson grapes.


Combined chopped vegetables, often apple or cucumber, in a thick creamy yoghurt flavoured with spices such as cumin and coriander and served as an accompaniment to meats, curries or vegetables.

Ras el hanout

Means ‘head of the shop’. A traditional blend of Moroccan spices, showcasing the best spices a merchant might have for sale. It can include paprika, cumin, ginger, orris root, saffron, dried flowers, ginger, turmeric, fennel and bay leaf.


A southern French classic of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, capsicum, garlic and olive oil cooked together and served either hot or cold. Pronounced RAT-a-TOO-ee.


A filled pasta, typically consisting of two sheets of pasta pressed together to contain a mixture of meat, cheese or vegetables in a square or circular package. Raviolo is the singular form.


The opposite process to oxidation, in which a wine is deprived of oxygen. It can give a wine a whiff of overboiled cabbage. While there’s little you can do to improve an oxidised wine, a bit of aeration should get rid of reductive odours.


A French condiment of celery or shredded celeriac with mayonnaise, capers, mustard, cornichons and herbs.


Soft white cow’s milk cheese; roughly translates as ‘cooked again’. Is made from whey, a by-product of other cheese making, to which fresh milk and acid are added. Ricotta is a sweet, moist cheese with a fat content of around 8.5 per cent and a slightly grainy texture. It is used in both savoury and sweet recipes.


A French dish of pork, duck or goose meat (or rabbit or fish) cooked to shreds in fat and served cold as a spread for toast, like a coarse pate. Pronounced REEY-et.


A blue-veined French cheese made with raw sheep’s milk. Its importation has had a chequered history with Australian quarantine and customs.


Distillation of rose petals that retains the intense fragrance and flavour of fresh roses. Rose water has been used for centuries in Eastern countries. Available from specialty grocers.


The Indian term for bread, it also often indicates the flatbread chapati, and the Indian-derived pancake-like flatbreads common to Indonesian and Malaysian cooking, as well as in the West Indies.


An Italian term for a roll, usually a sheet of pasta rolled to contain sweet or savoury ingredients. See also roulade.


Literally, rust, a French condiment (essentially mayonnaise with chilli, garlic, bread and fish broth) traditionally served with bouillabaisse and other fish soups.


A roll; a piece of fish or meat or a pancake used to contain and roll up other ingredients. The Italian equivalent is rotolo.


Butter and flour cooked together to form a paste used to thicken sauces or soups.


See zabaglione.

Saffron threads

Dried stigmas from the crocus flower. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice because each flower produces only three stigmas, which must be hand-picked and delicately dried. It takes thousands of the tiny stigmas to make up a gram of saffron. Sometimes sold in powdered form, though it does not have the same intensity of flavour. Threads are available from specialty food stores and select delicatessens.


Japanese rice wine made from fermented rice. It can be drunk hot or cold, or used in cooking, particularly in sauces and marinades.


A spicy sauce made from tomatoes, onions, and chillies

Salsa verde

Italy’s green sauce – a cold condiment of coarsely chopped or pounded (or processed) parsley, capers, garlic, vinegar, anchovies and olive oil.


Spicy, chilli-based condiments common to Malaysia and Indonesia.


French for sausage.

Sautéing (or saute)

a method of cooking food that uses a small amount of oil or fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat.


Traditionally a yeasted ring-shaped cake soaked in syrup.

Self-raising flour

Plain flour that is sifted with baking powder in the proportion of 1 cup flour to 2 tsp baking powder.


Italian for semi-frozen, a style of dessert most often like a chilled mousse or parfait.


Granular flour made from durum wheat (hard wheat). Used in pasta-making and in Middle Eastern and Indian sweet-making. Available milled fine, medium and coarse from supermarkets and delicatessens.


Jamon serrano, Spanish for mountain ham, is a dry-cured Spanish ham, typically served in thin slices, similar to prosciutto.

Serrano chilli

A slightly pointed chilli with a hot, savoury flavour. The smooth, bright-green skin of the young serrano turns scarlet then yellow as it matures. They are available fresh, canned, pickled and packed in oil (sometimes accompanied by vegetables), as well as dried and powdered.


French: Also known as eschalots. Small teardrop-shaped, golden brown bulbs that grow in clusters.

Fried: Usually served as condiments on the Thai table or sprinkled over just-cooked dishes. Available at Asian food stores. You can make your own by frying thinly sliced peeled red shallots until golden and crisp. Fried shallots keep for months, if stored tightly sealed.

Red Asian: Small shallots with red skins, they are drier and more strongly flavoured than European shallots. Available from Asian food stores.

Sherry vinegar

Made using young acidic sherry from the Jerez de la Frontera coastal region of Spain. Matured in oak sherry casks. Available from specialty food stores and delicatessens. Perfect for salad dressings and deglazing a pan.

Shiitake mushroom

With a dark brown cap, this mushroom has a meaty flesh that is full-bodied. The fresh and dried shiitakes are quite different and shouldn’t be substituted automatically. Its stems are tough and are removed but they add great flavour to stocks and sauces. To prepare dried shiitakes, wash them well, soak in hot water for at least 20 minutes until they’re softened, then removed the tough, inedible stalks before use.

Shrimp paste

Also known as kapi, trasi or belacan; a strong-scented, very firm preserved paste made from salted, dried shrimp. Chop or slice thinly, then wrap in foil and roast before using.

Snow sugar

A confectioner’s sugar with a vegetable fat added to prevent the sugar from absorbing moisture from the cake and dissolving.  It’s available from The Essential Ingredient and specialty food stores.


A German dumpling, not unlike small gnocchi, made with flour and egg rather than potato, poached or fried. Pronounced schpetz-LAH.


Either a boned, cold-smoked leg of ham, or a German coldcut resembling lardo.


The method of containing a small amount of liquid within a soft membrane of itself using chemical gelling agents, as popularised by pioneering chef Ferran Adria of Spain’s El Bulli restaurant.

Star anise

Dried star-shaped pod that has an astringent aniseed taste; used to flavour stocks and marinades.

Steak frites

French for steak and chips.

Sugar, muscovado

Very dark brown sugar which has a strong molasses flavour. The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than brown sugar.


Italian for sauce – in Australian restaurant use, usually a simple tomato sauce.


Ground spice from a slightly astringent red berry; used in Middle Eastern cooking. Available from spice shops.


To cook with no colour. – Sweating in cooking is the gentle heating of vegetables in a little oil or butter, with frequent stirring and turning to ensure that any emitted liquid will evaporate. Sweating usually results in tender, sometimes translucent, pieces.


The thymus and pancreas, usually of a lamb or calf. They’re usually soaked in several changes of salted water for some hours to remove any blood, then poached very gently, refreshed in cold water and then often weighted before being sauteed, grilled or fried.

Swiss brown mushroom

Full-flavoured mushroom, also known as Roman or cremini. If unavailable, substitute button or cap variety.


A conical North African cooking vessel which also gives its name to the spiced stews of the region.


Sesame seed paste available from select supermakets, delicatessens and Middle Eastern food stores; most often used in hummus, baba ghanoush and other Lebanese recipes. Available in hulled or unhulled varieties.

Tamarind pulp

The dried pulp of tamarind pods, sold in block form. Needs to be soaked in hot water, then strained; the resulting liquid, not the tamarind pulp, is used in recipes. Available from Asian food stores.

Tamarind puree

Also known as tamarind concentrate or paste. The commercial result of the distillation of tamarind juice into a condensed, compacted paste. Thick and purple-black, it’s ready to use, with no soaking or straining required; can be diluted with water according to taste. Adds zing to sauces, chutneys, curries and marinades.


A Provencale condiment of black olives, anchovies and capers pounded or processed to a paste with lemon juice and olive oil.


Small corn tortilla filled with cheese, ground or shredded meat, seafood, beans or cooked or raw vegetables, then rolled into a log shape. The narrow rolls can be served in snack-sized pieces or as an accompaniment to salads.


A Greek dip (also seen in Turkey) of salted pureed carp or cod roe mixed with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

Tarte Tatin

The French classic caramelised upside-down apple tart, made famous by the sisters Tatin. In contemporary restaurants, the apples are replaced by anything from quince or pineapple to turnips and foie gras.


French term for an earthenware mould used for cooking the meat, fish or vegetable pate-like mixtures (often layered) also called terrines. In a restaurant, a terrine order is served as a single slice of the whole terrine.

Thai basil

Also known as bai horapha, this is different from holy basil and sweet basil in appearance and taste. With smaller leaves and purplish stems, it has a slight aniseed taste and is a typical flavour in Thai cuisine.


A round mould, often with tapering sides, or a dish prepared in such a mould.


This classic Japanese seven-spice mixture commonly contains chilli (togarashi), orange peel, sansho, black and white sesame seeds, seaweed and ginger. Available from Asian food stores.


Italian for nougat.


A highly prized, highly aromatic (and very expensive) fungus which grows under the ground near hazelnut and oak trees. Traditionally foraged wild in France and Italy (where the black and stronger-smelling white truffles are preferred, respectively), truffles are now being cultivated successfully in Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. They’re available fresh in winter months from growers and specialty suppliers like Simon Johnson. They’re traditionally shaved very finely with a truffle shaver, mandoline or cheese grater to bring out the most aroma. The term truffle can also apply to a small chocolate confection of ganache covered in chocolate or cocoa named for their visual resemblance to the truffle fungus.

Turmeric, fresh

A rhizome related to galangal and ginger, typically seen dried and ground and sold as a spice. Used fresh, it must be grated or pounded to release its pungent flavour. Its yellow stain can be very difficult to remove; some chefs wear rubber gloves when handling it. Fresh turmeric is available from Asian (especially Thai and Lao) grocers


A thick Japanese wheat flour noodle usually served in soup.

Umeboshi plum

Japanese apricot coloured with red shiso leaves and pickled in salt with a sour and salty taste often served as a digestive.

Unbleached flour

Flour which had not been treated with a bleaching agent to whiten the colour.


Cooked without raising agents, such as yeast.

Upside down cake

Cake baked in a tin with a layer of fruit on the bottom so that after turning the cake out the fruit is visible on top.


A classic French sauce of stock thickened to a velvety consistency with a roux. The term also applies to soups enriched and thickened with egg yolks and cream.


The juice of unripe grapes, typically used as a less acidic substitute for vinegar in dressings and sauces, but also quite refreshing as a non-alcoholic mixer. It is now produced in many Australian wine regions and is available from David Jones Foodhalls and specialty stores. Also verjus.


A classic French soup of potatoes, leek and cream, served cold.


French for virgin; sauce vierge, an uncooked sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and herbs, is often served with fish.

Vietnamese mint

Pungent and peppery narrow-leafed member of the buckwheat family, not the mint family. Also known as Cambodian mint, phak phai or laksa leaf, it is a common ingredient in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.

Vietnamese sandwich

Known by the term banh mi in Vietnamese, these light, crusty baguettes are typically spread with pate and mayonnaise before being filled with Vietnamese-style coldcuts, freshly cooked pork or chicken (or a combination thereof), shreds of pickled carrot, ribbons of raw cucumber, sprigs of fresh coriander and chopped hot red chilli. They are dressed with nuoc cham, the chilli, lime, soy and fish sauce condiment, sometimes also with a splash of Maggi brand seasoning. Vietnamese sandwiches are sold at most Vietnamese-run hot bread shops around the country.


At its simplest, an oil and vinegar dressing. Lemon juice (and sometimes verjuice) replaces part or all of the vinegar component in many recipes, and mustard is a common addition.


Italian for ‘cooked wine’; a dark Italian liquid condiment made by cooking freshly crushed grapes until syrupy. It has a deep raisiny flavour, infused with orange. Available from Italian grocers and delicatessens.


Italian term for baby clams, now widely used in Australian markets. Pipis, though related, are a separate species. Readily available fresh in loose form from fish markets (and will usually need to be scrubbed and purged of sand in a few changes of water), vongole are also sold live in bags, purged, scurbbed and pot-ready.


Japanese name for a curly leafed brown saltwater algae with a subtle taste and soft texture used dried in salads or boiled soft as a vegetable.


A Japanese rhizome related to horseradish with a similarly sharp, hot flavour. The fresh form of the root, which is now grown in Tasmania, is very hard to find; wasabi is typically sold in paste form in tubes or as a bright-green powder made from dried and ground wasabi root (cheaper brands may be merely dyed horseradish). The powder must be mixed to a paste with an equal part of water before serving, and may also be mixed with mayonnaise or creme fraiche for non-traditional uses. Available from Asian food stores.

Washed curd

Milk curds that have been separated from the whey and washed in water lowering the acid content in the cheese.

Washed rind cheese

Surface ripened cheese which are ‘washed’, or doused with a mixture of brine, whey and in many cases wine, cider, brandy or other alcohol, to encourage friendly bacterial growth.

Water chestnut

Bulbous corm of a type of sedge plant used raw or cooked in Chinese and other Asian cuisines. Sold tinned, they are occasionally available fresh from Asian grocers.

Water spinach

An aquatic plant used as a vegetable in many Asian cuisines, often stir-fried with shrimp paste. Also known as kang kong.


Aquatic plant with small, round sharply-flavoured leaves used as a garnish and in salads.

Welsh rarebit

Also Welsh rabbit, a savoury consisting of cheese (usually cheddar) cooked to a paste with mustard, butter and beer (and sometimes Worcestershire sauce, which is often offered as a condiment), then spread on toast and grilled.


Liquid formed when coagulated milk separates into semi-solid curds and liquid whey.

White asparagus

More delicately flavoured asparagus kept pale by keeping soil mounded around the stalks to prevent light reaching them. Green asparagus is a fine substitute.


Young fish under 50mm long, usually served deep fried. The very small fish – under 30mm, and sometimes known as neonata – are usually served bound with egg and made into fritters.


A vegetable comprising a tight head of yellow-tipped white leaves of Belgian chicory (a name which it is sometimes sold under). Crisp and slightly bitter, witlof which can be eaten raw, or gently cooked, whether roasted, grilled or au gratin, which brings out its natural sweetness.

Xiao long bao

Small steamed buns.

XO sauce

A Chinese sauce made from dried scallops and chilli, available from Asian grocery stores.


A native Australian crayfish (Cherax destructor), farmed and caught wild in freshwater, available year-round from specialist fishmongers. See also marron and redclaw.


Japanese grilled meats and vegetables brushed with yakitori sauce (soy sauce, sake, mirin and rock sugar) during cooking.


The fungus which produces budding from a parent microorganism primarily used in cooking for converting sugars to alcohol or water and carbon dioxide as in beer, wine and bread production. When fresh yeast is unavailable, substitute half the quantity of dry yeast. (Some cooks suggest avoiding the dried product in recipes requiring a lot of yeast because it has a strongly yeasty flavour which may not be desirable.) Fresh and dried yeast should be stored in the fridge.

Yellow bean paste

Chinese paste made from fermented soya beans and used for flavouring.


Hybrid of the loganberry and dewberry.

Yum cha

Chinese sweet cakes and savouries served with tea usually in the late morning.


Japanese name for a yellow citrus fruit (Citrus junos) with a distinctive sharp taste. Too acid to be eaten raw, its zest is used to flavour dishes directly or to make condiments. Hard to find fresh in Australia, frozen yuzu, found at Japanese grocers, are a good substitute.


Middle Eastern spice mixture, comprising equal quantities of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac with a little salt. Sprinkled over meats and vegetables mixed with oil and used as a spread on bread.


Egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine whisked together over a gentle heat (usually in a bain-marie or double-boiler) to form a light frothy custard served as a dessert or sauce. The French term is sabayon. Pronounced ZAB-ay-OWN-ee


Russian for ‘little bites’, light hot and cold dishes served with drinks (usually vodka) either before a meal or in a bar, somewhat like a Russian version of tapas.


An Italian dish of boned, stuffed and simmered pig’s trotter.


Coloured outer layer of citrus fruit skin containing the essential oil.

Zucchini flowers

The large yellow flowers of the zucchini often stuffed and served as fritters or steamed in Italian and French cuisine, and are now produced year-round in Australia by some growers specifically for that purpose.

Zuppa Inglese

An Italian trifle.

WOW that’s a list hey! Please, if I’ve missed something let me know I’ll add it. 😉

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