Amaranth: the tiny, grain-like seed of the amaranth plant. It has a mild, nutty flavour and can be cooked, ground into flour or “popped” like popcorn. Arborio rice: a fat, short-grain Italian rice that is high in starch, essential for a creamy risotto. Available from supermarkets and food stores.
Blachan or Balachan: a pungent paste made from dried and fermented shrimp, sardines and other small fish that is salted, mashed and formed into cakes. It is used to flavour many dishes in South East Asia. Available at Asian supermarkets.
Black sesame seeds: unhulled sesame seeds are available at Indian and Asian food stores.
Black rice vinegar: an aged Chinese vinegar, usually made from glutinous black rice as well as other grains like wheat, millet and sorghum.
Bocconcini: small balls of fresh mozzarella that come stored in whey. Drain before serving. Available in good supermarkets and specialty food stores.
Bouquet garni: a small bunch of fresh thyme, bay leaf and parsley stalks tied with string (for easy removal later), and used to flavour soups and stews. Or you can wrap dried herbs in a square of muslin. Dried versions are available at supermarkets.
Brioche: yeasted bread enriched with eggs and butter. It is most commonly available from specialist French–style bakeries.
Buckwheat flour: flour made from buckwheat, an ancient grain. Used commonly in soba noodles, Russian blini and French galettes.
Burghul (also known as bulgur or bulghur): a wholewheat grain that is cooked, dried and then cracked. Available from some supermarkets, specialty and health food stores.
Buttermilk: traditionally, the slightly sour by-product of butter making. Now made commercially, it is readily available in the dairy section of good supermarkets.
Calasparra rice: a short grain Spanish rice used traditionally for the famous Valencian dish of paella. Although similar to Italian Arborio rice, the Spanish do not stir the rice while it is cooking, instead allowing it to develop a delicious crust on the base. It is available in different grades, the best being Bomba.
Calvados: an apple brandy from the French region of Lower Normandy. Available from good liquor retailers.
Cazuela: a traditional Spanish cooking vessel made from terracotta. Available from specialty food and homeware stores.
Char Siu sauce: also known as Chinese barbecue sauce. Readily available at Asian grocery stores.
Chickpea flour (also called besan, gram, ceci, chana or garbanzo bean flour):
available from good supermarkets, food stores and health food shops.
Chinese five-spice: a traditional blend of five or more spices including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, Szechuan pepper and fennel. Other additions may be ginger or liquorice root.
Consommé: meat or fish stock clarified with egg whites and finely chopped vegetables to give a crystal-clear liquid.
Court bouillon: an aromatic stock used for poaching fish, shellfish, vegetables and sweetbreads. Wine, lemon juice, vinegar, herbs etc are used to add flavour.
Crème de cassis: a liqueur made from blackcurrants. Substitute with blackcurrant concentrate.
Crème fraîche: a matured, thickened cream that is slightly soured. It can be added to hot sauces or soups without the risk of curdling, but is also delicious served with puddings.
Dashi: a soup stock made from dried bonito tuna flakes, dried kelp and water, used often in Japanese cookery. Most commonly available in powdered form. Available in the international section of supermarkets and at Asian food stores.
Demerara sugar: unrefined golden, raw sugar. Available from supermarkets.
Dukkah: a Middle Eastern mix of coarsely ground sesame seeds, nuts, salt and spices such as coriander and cumin.
Dutch cocoa: this richer, darker cocoa has an alkali added, which neutralises the cocoa’s acidity. The process is known as ‘dutching’. Available from specialty stores.
Edamame beans: Japanese soy beans. These beans are available frozen either in the pod or out, from Asian stores and some supermarkets.
Farro: an ancient grain, a precursor to wheat as we know it today. Slightly chewy with a nutty flavour. Available from health food stores, some supermarkets and specialty food stores.
Freekeh: (pronounced 'FREE-KUH') made from young durum wheat (the wheat most widely used in Italian pasta), which is smoked or roasted then polished to remove the tough outer, before the kernel is cracked.
Filo pastry (also spelt phyllo): a type of paper thin pastry from the Eastern Mediterranean. It is used for sweet and savoury dishes and is readily available fresh from the supermarket. It is important to keep it covered while in use as it dries out quickly when exposed to the air.
Fish roe: the egg mass of a fish, available raw or smoked. Gai larn (Chinese broccoli): has dark green leaves, stout stems and small white flowers. It is available at Asian green grocers and most supermarkets.
Galangal: a rhizome resembling ginger, galangal is an essential ingredient in South East Asian dishes. It can be found fresh at some Asian markets and is available frozen, dried or bottled from Asian food stores.
Garam Masala: a hot spice mix common in North Indian cuisine. It typically includes turmeric, black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and cardamom. Available in the spice section of supermarkets or at Asian food stores.
Ghee: a type of clarified butter used in Indian and other South Asian cooking. Clarified butter is unsalted butter with the milk solids and water removed. This leaves pure butterfat, which has a high smoke point. Ghee is available from Indian food stores and specialty food stores.
Glutinous rice: a short grain rice that sticks together when cooked.
Haloumi: a white, salty cheese originating from Cyprus and traditionally made using sheep and goat’s milk. It has a unique high melting point, making it perfect for grilling or frying. It is best eaten straight away as if it is left to get cold it toughens and becomes rubbery.
Harissa: a fiery hot sauce from North Africa which is made from chilli, garlic, cumin, coriander and caraway. Available from food stores and some supermarkets.
Herbes de Provence: a traditional blend of aromatic herbs from southern France. There are many variations and some include orange zest and lavender. Use when roasting chicken, lamb, potatoes, tomatoes, or a tray of mixed vegetables. Sprinkle over fish or salmon before sautéing. Buy from good food stores or make your own with 3 tablespoons each of dried marjoram, thyme and rosemary, 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon and oregano and 1 teaspoon of ground fennel seeds. Combine and store in an airtight jar.
Hoisin: a Chinese sauce made from soy beans, plums and flavoured with salt, garlic and 5-spice. Available from supermarkets.
Jalapeño chillies: Mexican chilli with a rounded end; dark green or bright red (when ripe). It ranges from hot to very hot so remove the seeds and veins to reduce the heat when using. When dried they are called ‘chipotles’.
Jerusalem artichokes: this autumn/winter vegetable is neither an artichoke nor is it from Jerusalem, instead it is native to North America. When buying Jerusalem artichokes look for firm tubers with as few bumps and lumps as possible, which makes peeling them easier. Store somewhere cool and dark, as you would potatoes.
Juniper berries: an astringent blue-black berry from the juniper tree, they are sold dried and used as a flavouring for meat and game dishes. Also an integral ingredient in gin. Available from specialty food stores but may also be found in health food stores.
Jus: the natural meat juices that occur during the cooking process, usually roasting. These are served unthickened, with any excess fat skimmed off, to accompany the meat.
Kecap/ketjap Manis: (pronounced ‘Ketchup Mah-niss’) a sweetish, thick soy sauce made with palm sugar and seasoned with star anise and garlic. A popular ingredient for Indonesian cooking, it is used as a condiment or substitute for dark soy sauce. Available from supermarkets.
Labne: a thick, strained yoghurt. It can be formed into small balls and rolled in herbs, spices or nuts or drizzled with honey and served with fruit as a dessert.
Lap Cheong: a dried, smoked highly seasoned sausage made from pork.
Leaf gelatine: sets a much clearer gel than its powdered equivalent. It comes in varying grades. Silver grade will give a firmer set than gold, so it is best to check the grade upon purchase. Available from specialty stores. See Kitchen Notes on page 141 for more on how to use it.
Lotus leaves: the large leaf of a water lily used to wrap sweet and savoury mixtures.
Marsala: a fortified wine from Sicily. Dry Marsala can be drunk as an aperitif or added to savoury dishes. The sweet version is used in cooking, such as in the classic dessert, Zabaglione.
Mascarpone: a fresh cheese from Italy made from double cream. Mascarpone is readily available in supermarkets.
Masur Dhal (also known as masoor dal): a split red lentil, available at good supermarkets and Asian food stores.
Medjool dates: chewy, fleshy sweet dates. Available in the fresh produce section of supermarkets.
Mirin: a Japanese rice wine used to add mild sweetness to dishes. Generally available in the international section of supermarkets.
Miso: a thick paste made most commonly from fermenting soy beans, salt and a fungus called ‘koji-kin’. The different shades denote aging and saltiness, (the darker ones have been aged longer and are therefore saltier). Miso is available from Japanese food stores, health food stores and good supermarkets. Keep leftover miso paste in a sealed container in the freezer. It doesn’t freeze into a solid block, which makes it easy to take out the required amount.
Moghrabiah or Lebanese couscous: consists of small balls that have been toasted. It cooks slowly (taking about 25–30 minutes) and is best for soups or stews where it turns into pea-sized dumplings. Israeli couscous is similar but smaller in size. Available from good food stores.
Muscovado sugar: An unrefined or partially-refined brown sugar with a high molasses content. It is dark brown, moist and has a strong molasses flavour. It comes in both light and dark varieties.
Nanami togarashi: a Japanese chilli pepper seasoning comprising seven spices, usually two hot and five aromatic, such as black and white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger, seaweed, orange peel and chilli. Available from Asian food stores and some supermarkets.
Orecchiette: a type of pasta from Puglia, shaped like a small ear (in Italian “ear” is “orecchio”). Each one is about 2cm and looks like a small white dome with a thinner centre than edge and a rough surface.
Orzo pasta: originating from Greece, orzo is a small rice-shaped pasta commonly used in soups, salads, or as an alternative to rice. Available from specialty food stores and good supermarkets.
Palm sugar (also known as Gur, Jaggery, Gula Melaka): is derived from several different palm trees, including the palmrya and coconut palms. The sap of the palm is boiled down and the result can be either similar to a thick honey, a soft paste or a hard cake, which is then grated or shaved.
These cakes come in different shapes and sizes and the colour can vary from pale to dark. The flavour is quite caramelly and can be substituted with equal parts of brown sugar and maple syrup. Available from Asian food stores and some supermarkets.
Pancetta: Italian bacon made only from the belly, which is cured with salt, pepper, and other spices, but is not smoked.
Paneer: the Indian version of cottage cheese. It is made in large blocks and is very different from the soft curd cottage cheese available at the supermarket. Paneer is cut into cubes or slices for cooking and readily absorbs flavours from other ingredients used in the dish. It is available from Indian and Asian food stores, good supermarkets and specialty food stores.
Panko crumbs: these flakey Japanese dried bread crumbs create a deliciously crunchy crust. They are readily available from Asian food stores and good supermarkets.
Pappardelle: a wide ribbon pasta usually made with eggs and hard durum wheat flour. Available from specialty food stores and good supermarkets.
Pedro Ximenez: (also known as PX) is a rich, sweet dessert wine from Spain. Available from liquor stores and some specialty food stores.
Pomegranate molasses: a thick syrup produced by cooking down pomegranate juice. It is a slightly astringent, sweet-sour condiment used widely throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.
Poussin: a small, immature chicken, four to six weeks old, sometimes called a spring chicken, and weighing 400–500 grams. Available from good butchers.
Preserved lemons: lemons preserved in salt and lemon juice, sometimes with spices such as cinnamon, and bay leaf. Only the rind is used, the flesh is scraped away and discarded.
Puy lentils: these small slate-green lentils have a delicate blue marbling. They are considered by many to be the best lentil because of their unique peppery flavour and the fact they hold their shape during cooking. They’re the only lentil to be identified by area of cultivation, grown in the Le Puy region of France.
Quinoa: (pronounced ‘KEEN-WAH’), this ancient grain native to the Americas is dubbed a super grain as it’s considered a complete protein. When cooked it expands to four times its volume. With a delicate flavour it can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and eaten hot or cold. White quinoa is most common, but red and black are also available. Available from good supermarkets, health food and specialty food stores.
Quince paste: quince cooked for a long time with sugar until it forms a thick paste, which sets firm on cooling. Slice and serve with cheese or use to flavour sauces for rich meat dishes. Quince paste that is a deep, dark red will have the best flavour.
Ras al Hanout: a Moroccan spice mix, which loosely translates as ‘house blend’. Made up of numerous spices and aromatics such as cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, coriander, cumin, chilli. The chilli content varies between mixes, so quantities will depend on how spicy you want the finished dish to taste. Available from good supermarkets and food stores.
Rosewater: an intense, concentrated distillation of rose petals used as a flavouring in cakes, pastries and desserts.
Saké: a Japanese liquor brewed from fermented rice. Like whiskey, saké varies in quality, taste and style. Available from Japanese grocery and some liquor stores.
Sambal Oelek: a simple chilli paste made from chilli, vinegar and salt. It is readily available at supermarkets and Asian food stores.
Shaoxing cooking wine: (pronounced Shau-sing), this Chinese wine for cooking is derived from glutinous rice. The flavour enriches braised dishes and marinades. Available from Asian food stores.
Shiitake mushrooms: available fresh or dried. Dried shiitake, which have a more pronounced flavouring, need to be reconstituted in warm water for 20 minutes before using.
Sicilian oregano: in Sicily oregano is left to flower and then to dry naturally on the hillsides under the heat of the sun. It has an intensity of flavour rarely found in other types of dried oregano. Available in its whole form from specialty food stores.
Silken tofu (also soft tofu): undrained tofu, made from pressing the curds of fermented soy milk, and with the highest moisture content of all fresh tofus. Available from Asian food stores and good supermarkets.
Sweet smoked paprika: made from sweet pimientos smoked slowly over fire then ground to produce an intense paprika.
Sumac: the dried, crushed red berry of the sumac bush, this ‘spice’ has a sour, lemony flavour. Used widely in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Szechuan pepper (also known as Sichuan or Szechwan pepper): the dried berry of a prickly ash tree, Szechuan pepper is a mildly hot spice with a distinctive flavour and a slightly numbing effect in the mouth if used in large quantities. Available from Asian food stores.
Tamarind concentrate: made by soaking dried tamarind pods in water then passing through a sieve to obtain a pulp. You can make it yourself easily from block tamarind or buy the concentrate ready-made in a jar. The flavour is sour-sweet. Used in Asian and Middle Eastern dishes in the same way lemon juice is used in Western cooking. Pods and concentrate are readily available from Asian grocery stores and good supermarkets.
Tofu: a high protein low fat food made from soy beans, tofu is sold either in a soft or firm state, pickled, dried or fresh-pressed being the firmest. The skin that forms when the soy beans are heated are called tofu skins, which are lifted off, dried and sold separately. Often sold as packets which can be filled with a variety of salad ingredients.
Tomato passata (passata di pomodoro): tomatoes that have been puréed and sieved to remove the seeds. Readily available in supermarkets and specialty stores.
a pale green root from the brassicaceae family, with a fierce flavour similar to horseradish. Usually sold as a powder or as a ready-to-use paste.