The A-Z of cooking terms

Your kitchen bible, explaining everything you need to know to navigate your way through a recipe, a French restaurant menu and more.
Will Horner


Italian for young lamb. Traditionally an abbacchio would be milk-fed, weighing less than 10 kilograms.


A Caribbean dish of salt cod fritters, often served as an hors d’oeuvre. Also known as stamp-and-go.


The Malay name for a gum extracted from a red seaweed, used as a gelling or setting agent. Its advantages 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 and specialty stores.

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.


Italian for sour and sweet. See also the French, aigre-doux.


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


Garlic mayonnaise. A specialty 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 to a paste, much like aioli, only without the eggs.


A French dish of potatoes mashed with Cantal cheese curds. Alligot is a traditional dish of the Auvergne region.


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


Italian for bitter, amaro also describes a style of bitter, often herbal, Italian digestivo, such as Averna or Fernet Branca. The plural is amari.

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.


A small French sausage made from the lower intestine of the pig, usually served grilled. The larger version, the andouille, is typically smoked and served cold.


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.


A brandy from France’s Armagnac region.


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.


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.


A braise of meat, white wine, potatoes and onions from France’s Alsace region; the word means baker’s oven.

Bagna cauda

A sauce from the south of France containing anchovies, garlic and olive oil, traditionally served warm with raw vegetables for dipping.

Baking powder

Raising agent that is two parts cream of tartar to one part bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).


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 and 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 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.


A French term for lees stirring. When wines are aged on their lees, a bit of bâtonnage helps stir the dead yeast cells through the maturing wine, adding creaminess and complexity.


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.

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.


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


A classic French white braise of poached meat (typically veal) or fish enriched with a sauce of eggs and cream.


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.

Bollito misto

Italian for a mixture of boiled things, bollito misto sees a range of meats simmered together and served with a variety of condiments. Typically key ingredients include a boiling cut of beef, chicken, ham, veal tongue (or indeed a calf’s head), with salsa verde, grated horseradish and mustard fruits among the sauces offered. See also pot-au-feu.

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.

Bordeaux blends

Wines made from a mixture of grapes inspired by the traditional blends of France’s prestigious Bordeaux region. Almost inevitably, a red Bordeaux blend will be based on cabernet sauvignon with the addition of varying amounts of all or any of the following: merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. White Bordeaux blends contain semillon and sauvignon blanc.


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

Botrytis cinerea

Also known as noble rot. A fungus that attacks grapes under certain climatic conditions (damp, foggy mornings followed by warm, sunny afternoons). The stuff looks revolting and shrivels the affected grapes to brown husks of their former selves, often with a dusting of greyish powder. It sounds as disgusting as it looks, but the end effect of botrytis infection is to concentrate the sugars in the infected grapes, which are then used to make some of the most highly prized sweet wines in the world. Semillon and sauvignon blanc blends, furmint and hárslevelű (the grapes that make up Hungary’s Tokaji wines), rieslings, gewürztraminers and pinot gris are the grape varieties most strongly associated with botrytis-affected wines.


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.


A French Meditteranean fish soup often enriched with aioli.

Bowles veal glace

This reduction of veal stock is available from specialty food stores and some butchers.


The pungent aroma of this strain of yeast – variously described as smelling like mouse droppings, sticking plasters and horses – is widely regarded as a fault in squeaky-clean New World wineries. But while a heavy dose of brett (as we anoraks like to refer to the critter) gives a wine a very unappealing aroma, a small hint of it is not considered unattractive in parts of the Old World. Certain famous properties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for instance, are well known to be infected with brett, and some believe that the slightly animal note the rogue yeast adds to the wines is part of their charm.

Broccoli rabe

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

Carbonic maceration

A process used to make red wines from certain grapes (particularly gamay in Beaujolais, but also carignan and a range of other red varieties). Whole bunches of grapes are macerated in stainless steel tanks under a blanket of CO2 (which stops oxygen from getting to the grapes). The grapes are not crushed (or at least not intentionally, although the weight of grapes in a tank means that those in the lower layers usually burst and release their juices), and fermentation takes place inside the berries. The process can help soften tannins and produces brightly coloured, highly perfumed wines (which often have more than a touch of banana and bubblegum to them).


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.

Cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush

Wine tasting term used to describe the pungent aroma (or combination of aromas) typical of cool-climate sauvignon blanc.

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.


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 bearnaise sauce with tomato.


The French version of sauerkraut, from the Alsace region.

Cigar box aromas

A blend of smoke and cedar notes derived from oak ageing. Most usually detected in cabernet sauvignon-based wines.


A game stew, sometimes thickened with blood.


A custard tart, often scattered with cherries.


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

Coconut vinegar

Low in acidity, with a musty flavour and a unique aftertaste. It is used traditionally in Asian and Thai dishes.


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


A great thing in a wine. If you can detect loads of different flavours in your glass of wine, and those flavours develop and change over time, then you’ve got your hands on a complex wine.


French for roughly chopped.


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.

Cork taint

AKA TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole for the technically minded) is the most widely recognised wine fault. Although some people are more sensitive than others to the whiff of damp, mouldy cardboard that characterises this problem, it’s true to say that once you’ve smelled a badly corked wine, you never forget the mouldy odour. The problem is that many people don’t recognise a mildly corked wine, as this can merely deaden the fruit rather than being overtly whiffy.


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


The French word for gherkin. Smaller, sour gherkins (3-4cm) are sold under this name.


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


Crabs are sold live, cooked, and raw (or green). Blue swimmer crabs and spanner crabs are usually sold cooked, as they don’t live long after capture. Mud crabs are best bought live, though care should be taken, as they can inflict serious injury with their claws.

Crabs are best cooked in water containing 25gm of salt per litre. 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.

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.


A flavoursome tuber also known as a Chinese artichoke. Pronounced ‘crone’.


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.


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 or eau-de-vie), 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) 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.


French for water of life – fruit-based brandy.


Japanese prawn eaten raw in sushi.

Eccles cake

English puff pastry cases traditionally filled with raisins.


Green soy bean 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 delicate long stems and small white gold caps. Also enokitake.


A strongly flavoured cow’s milk cheese from the town of the same name in Burgundy.


A Meditteranean way of preparing fish, in which they’re lightly cooked and then marinated in oil and vinegar. Typically served cold.


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

Farro perlato

Also known as spelt barley. Available from select delicatessens and David Jones Food Halls.


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.


French for string, it can refer to a dish of beef suspended in broth on a string and poached (boeuf a la ficelle), or a kind of small, skinny baguette.


A small rectangular French almond cake.

Fines herbes

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


The amount of time the taste of a wine lingers on your palate after you’ve swallowed it. Unless it’s unbalanced or harsh, a good length (or finish) is generally taken to be a sign of a good wine. Also known as length.


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.

Fourme d’Ambert

A blue-veined French cow’s milk cheese from the Auvergne.


Almond custard pastry filling.


Bone ends cleaned of meat: cutlets, chicken drumsticks.


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

Fruits de mer

French for fruits of the sea; seafood.


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.


A southwestern French stew or rich soup of loose definition which often includes cabbage, beans, preserved duck and pork.

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.

Gnocchetti Sardi

Small gnocchi-like dried pasta shapes used in Sardinian cooking. Also known as malloreddus.


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.


Korean chilli bean paste, available from Asian supermarkets.

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.

Hiramasa kingfish

A commercial brand of farmed yellowtail kingfish produced in South Australia and noted for its high oil content. ‘Hiramasa’ is the Japanese name for yellowtail kingfish.


Japanese use of flounder or halibut in sushi.


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.

Ile flottante

See floating islands.


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


Italian for salad. The plural is insalate.

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.

Itami udon

Japanese soft noodles made from udon noodles bolied and then fried with vegetables and served with condiments.


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.


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.


Also known as bonito flakes. 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.

Kidney bean

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


Korean fermented cabbage flavoured with salt, garlic and chilli.


An aperitif made by splashing white wine with creme de cassis, the blackcurrant liqueur. Made with Champagne, it’s termed a Kir Royale.


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.

Latte di mandorla

A sweetened almond-milk concentrate from Italy, available from specialty stores such as Simon Johnson.

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.


The amount of time the taste of a wine lingers on your palate after you’ve swallowed it. Unless it’s unbalanced or harsh, a good length (or finish) is generally taken to be a sign of a good wine. Also known as finish.


A large fish of the cod family.


A pungent, reddish cow’s milk cheese from the French province of Normandy.


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.


In the style of Lyon, typically garnished with onions.


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


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


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

Malolactic fermentation

A secondary bacterial fermentation in which a grape’s sharp natural acid, malic acid, is replaced by the softer lactic acid. This can occur spontaneously, but many wineries kick off the process with an injection of lactic bacteria.


A French eau-de-vie made from grape skins and seeds, like grappa.


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.


A spicy north African sausage, typically made of lamb, and sometimes beef.


To cook a la meuniere, or in the style of the miller’s wife, means to bread fish in seasoned flour, fry it in butter and serve with with parsley and lemon.


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. 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.


Italian for mixed, as in affetatto misto, bollito misto or fritto misto – mixed coldcuts, mixed boiled things and mixed fried things, respectively.


Feathery, delicate salad green often found in mesclun.


A lightly ashed, slightly smoky cow’s milk cheese made in the French region of Jura.

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 eggwhite.


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.


Soft cakes made with adzuki bean paste.


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.

Noble rot

AKA Botrytis cinerea – is a fungus that attacks grapes under certain climatic conditions (damp, foggy mornings followed by warm, sunny afternoons). The stuff looks revolting and shrivels the affected grapes to brown husks of their former selves, often with a dusting of greyish powder. It sounds as disgusting as it looks, but the end effect of botrytis infection is to concentrate the sugars in the infected grapes, which are then used to make some of the most highly prized sweet wines in the world. Semillon and sauvignon blanc blends, furmint and hárslevelű (the grapes that make up Hungary’s Tokaji wines), rieslings, gewürztraminers and pinot gris are the grape varieties most strongly associated with botrytis-affected wines.

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.


The traditional wood used to produce the casks used for ageing fine wines.

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.


The French term for a cut of beef which hangs from the last rib of the beast, by the kidneys, resembling flank steak. Known also as hanger steak or butcher’s steak, though tougher than most grilling cuts, it’s prized by beef aficionados for its strong, almost offal-like flavour. As there is only one onglet per carcass, it can be hard to find, and is best ordered ahead from specialist butchers.

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.


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.

Padrón pepper

Also known by their Spanish name, pimientos de padrón, these small green chillies are a popular bar snack in Spain and some parts of southern Italy. Typically sauteed in olive oil until they blister or briefly deep-fried, then simply salted and served as is, they’ve got a reputation as the ‘Russian roulette’ chilli: most are mild and savoury, but around one in 10 has some real chilli heat. Now grown in Queensland, they’re available fresh from specialist greengrocers from November to May.

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.

Pan bagna

A sandwich from Nice which sees a large round roll filled with variations on the theme of black olives, roasted capsicum, tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, onions and olive oil. Literally ‘bathed bread’, it’s often made well ahead of serving, and should be quite juicy.


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

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.


A Basque dish of sauteed capsicum, tomatoes and onions, often served with eggs or ham.

Piquillo pepper

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


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’.


Spanish for hotplate; dishes cooked on it are labelled ‘a la plancha’.


French for pan-fried.

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.


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 specialty food stores and select greengrocers.

Pressed rice

There are two types of pressed rice, poha or puha, available. The smaller one resembles desiccated coconut and needs to be soaked for two minutes before use. The larger one is the size of flattened grains of rice and needs to be soaked for at least five minutes.

Primary and secondary aromas

Young wines are said to show primary aromas, while mature wines display secondary aromas. As a rule, primary aromas tend to be simple, fruity ones (with or without oak influence), while secondary aromas can range from dried fruit to leather, beef stock and petrol.


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.


This semi-hard stretched curd cheese is made from cow’s milk and comes from Lombardy, Italy. Made in various shapes and sizes, the most common are cylindrical or pear shapes. They are bound with rope and have a bright yellow, waxy rind. Younger cheeses are smaller, sweeter and mild flavoured, whereas larger cheeses are matured for at least two years and have a strong flavour.

Pullet eggs

The small eggs of a young hen. Available from supermarkets, sold as eggs for children.

Qalat daqqa

Arabian spice blend of ground peppercorns, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon used in meat and vegetable dishes.


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


A classic French spice blend of ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves and white pepper, often used in baking and sweets.

Queen of puddings

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

Queijo da Serra

Portuguese semi-hard high fat cheese.


A poached skinless, fine-textured French dumpling, usually of fish, poultry or veal.


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 French sauce of vinegar, white wine and shallots, much like a thick vinaigrette.


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.


Most rosés are made from red wine grapes that are macerated for a short time in order to extract a small amount of colour and very little tannins. Rosés used to be despised by wine snobs but are increasingly popular as people discover that not only do they make great summer wines, they’re also great for food matching, and can stand up to anything from Asian flavours to charcuterie, salads and barbecues.


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 classic French dish of roasted poultry accompanied by a sauce made from the pressed carcass.



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.


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 French onion sauce.


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.


See accra.

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.

Suzuki mulloway

A commercial brand of mulloway farmed in South Australia. Mulloway, a medium-firm white-fleshed fish, is also known as jewfish or butterfish.


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.


Mainly extracted from grape skins, stems and pips during maceration, although, to a lesser extent, they can also be derived from the wood barrels in which some wines are aged. For this reason, levels of tannins are much higher in red wines than in whites or rosés. The effect of the complex tannin molecules can be felt on the palate rather than tasted – they are responsible for the drying sensation experienced when tasting or drinking young red wines. Levels of tannins in Australian reds tend to be low relative to those found in some European wines, and the tannins tend to be riper too. This is the reason why drinkers of Australian wines are unused to the traditional Old World sensation of finding their tongues stuck to the roofs of their mouths after swallowing a mouthful of young, aggressively tannic red wine.


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.


An open-faced sandwich.


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.


A French word for a sense of place, which is an intrinsic part of the character of any classy wine. Some snobs will insist that terroir can only be found in the Old World, which is, of course, complete bulldust – although many of these countries do have an advantage in terms of getting the best out of their vineyards, mainly thanks to a long history of trial and error. The true nature of terroir lies in a combination of a vineyard’s soil, its micro- and meso-climate – Is a particular vine in the shade of a gum tree or exposed to full-on sunshine? Are the vines facing the rising or the setting sun? Is the vineyard sheltered from winds by surrounding hills? – and its topography. The idea is that small variations in these parameters will result in the development of particular characters in the wines made from the grapes grown in different areas. Some wine experts believe that terroir is bunk, and that variations between wines made from grapes grown in a particular area come down to the winemaker’s actions. Anyone who believes that should settle down to a tasting of wines made by one winemaker from grapes grown in different parts of the same, or contiguous, vineyards.

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.


Japanese term for the prized fatty belly meat of the bluefin tuna, generally served as sashimi or very simply and lightly grilled. Also Spanish for bull, and the meat of bulls.


Italian for nougat.


French for a slice.


If you’re making a really posh wine, you don’t want any unripe or overripe berries to be pressed along with the good ones – and as for leaves, twigs and bits of slug, well, they’ve really got to go. That’s why the grapes will be tipped out onto a conveyor belt as they arrive at the winery and sorted, often by hand. This, as you might imagine, is a time-consuming and expensive process, especially in a country like Australia, where even winery workers are paid a decent wage (obviously not as true in places like Argentina or Eastern Europe, where labour comes cheap). This is why a certain amount of money is now being invested in developing mechanical triage machines.


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.


An Italian liqueur made from brandy with citrus and vanilla accents. It’s available from speciality liquor stores. If unavailable, substitute with brandy or whisky.

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.

Ventresca tuna

Ventresca is Italian for belly (the French is ventreche), and ventresca tuna, sold in jars and tins, is the high-quality, flavoursome, rich meat cut from the belly of the fish.


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.

Vialone nano

A small Italian rice variety (nano means dwarf). It expands more than any other – up to three times its original size – but is not as firm in texture when cooked, creating a creamier style of risotto.


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.

Vin Santo

A traditional Tuscan dessert wine made from trebbiano and/or malvasia grapes. If unavailable, substitute with Sauternes, Samos or another sweet white dessert wine.


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.

Vitello tonnato

An Italian dish of poached veal, sliced and served cold with a mayonnaise flavoured with tinned tuna, anchovy and capers. The term does not, as is sometimes supposed, mean ‘veal with tuna’ so much as ‘veal resembling tuna’, a reference to the texture the meat takes on after sitting with the tuna mayonnaise, as per traditional recipes, chilled for several hours.

Volatile acidity

The result of poor winery hygiene. Wines with excess volatile acidity smell of vinegar or nail varnish remover.


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.

Wet dog/sweaty saddle

Characteristic aromas of wines infected by brettanomyces.


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.

Wine scores

Most wine trade professionals not only take notes on wines when they taste but also give the wines a score. These can range from marks out of 20 or marks out of 100 (à la Robert Parker) to a five-star rating system, or maybe both. But even among the pros there’s a certain amount of debate as to how accurate these scores can ever be.


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.

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