00’ flour: a finely ground Italian high grade durum wheat flour, commonly used in pizza and pasta making. Available from specialty food stores.
Arborio rice: a fat, short-grain Italian rice, is high in starch which is essential for a creamy risotto. Available from supermarkets and specialty 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. It is readily available at Asian supermarkets.
Black sesame seeds: Unhulled sesame seeds available at Indian and Asian food stores.
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 together with string (for easy removal later), and used to flavour soups and stews. A dried version can also be made by wrapping dried herbs in a small square of muslin. Available at food stores and good supermarkets.
Brioche: yeasted bread enriched with eggs and butter. It is most commonly available from specialist French–style bakeries.
Burghul (also known as bulgur or bulghur): a wholewheat grain which is cooked, dried and then cracked. Available from some supermarkets, specialty and health food stores.
Buttermilk: originally the by-product of butter making. Nowadays it is made commercially. It is generally available in the dairy section of the supermarket.
Calasparra rice: a short grain rice grown on the Ebro Delta in Spain and traditionally used 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. They are available from specialty food and homeware stores.
Char Siu sauce: also known as Chinese barbecue sauce, this is readily available
at Asian grocery stores.
Chickpea flour (also called besan, gram, ceci, chana or garbanzo bean flour): is available from good supermarkets, specialty 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 licorice root.
Consommé: a meat or fish stock that has been clarified with egg whites and finely chopped vegetables to give a crystal-clear liquid.
Court bouillon: an aromatic stock used for poaching foods such as fish, shellfish, vegetables and sweetbreads. Wine, lemon juice, vinegar, herbs etc are used to add flavour.
Crème de cassis: a liqueur made from black currants, substitute with black currant 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: made from dried bonito tuna flakes, dried kelp and water, dashi is a soup stock used often in Japanese cookery. It is most commonly available in a powdered form.
Demerara sugar: unrefined golden, raw sugar. Available from supermarkets and food stores.
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: these Japanese soy 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. Although similar in appearance to Spelt, another early wheat, they are in fact different.
Fenugreek seeds: used widely whole or ground in Asian and southern European cuisines. Available from specialty grocery stores or Indian supermarkets.
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.
Fumet: a well-flavoured, concentrated reduction made by reducing the liquid used in cooking fish, shellfish and mushrooms and then used to flavour an accompanying sauce.
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 Thai and many other South East Asian dishes.
It can be found fresh at some Asian markets and is readily available frozen, dried or bottled from 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 when cooked sticks together. It does not contain gluten.
Haloumi: a white, salty cheese traditionally made using sheep and goat’s milk and originating from Cyprus. 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.
Herbes de Provence: a traditional blend of aromatic herbs found in southern France. There are many variations, 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 all the herbs and store in an airtight jar.
Hoisin: a prepared sauce from soy beans and plums and flavoured with salt, garlic and 5-spices.
Jalapeno chillies: this Mexican chilli has a rounded end and is 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.
Jambon du Bayonne: a cured ham similar to Italy’s prosciutto. Available at specialty food stores.
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. It is also an integral ingredient in gin. Available mainly 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 Manis’), is a sweetish, thick soy sauce made with palm sugar and seasoned with star anise and garlic. A popular ingredient for Indonesian cooks; it is used as a condiment or as a substitute for dark soy sauce.
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 but is rarely labelled with the grade, having been repackaged by the retailer from a bulk box. Silver grade will give a firmer set than gold, so it is best to check the grade upon purchase. Available from specialty stores.
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.
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.
Orecchiette: a type of pasta from Puglia, shaped like a small ear (in Italian “ear” is orecchio). Each orecchietta is about 2 cm in size and looks like a small white dome with a thinner center 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 supermarkets.
Pancetta: Italian bacon made only from the belly, that is cured with salt, pepper, and other spices, but is not smoked.
Paneer: this is 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.
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 about 400g to 500g. Available from good butchers.
Preserved lemons: lemons are preserved in salt and lemon juice, sometimes with spices such as cinnamon, and bay leaf. They are ready to use after 4 weeks. 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 4 times its volume. With a delicate flavour it can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and eaten hot or cold. Available from good supermarkets, health food and specialty food stores.
Quince paste: Quince and many other fruits can be cooked for a long time with sugar until they form a thick paste, which sets firm on cooling. It can then be sliced and served with cheese or used to flavour sauces for rich meat dishes. Look for quince paste that is a deep dark red, it will have
the best flavour.
Ras al Hanout: a Moroccan spice mix, which loosely translates as ‘house blend’. Local housewives swear their own combination is always the best. Made 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.
Rock sugar: large amber coloured sugar crystals used to sweeten Chinese dishes. Available from Asian supermarkets.
Rosewater: an intense, concentrated distillation of rose petals used as a flavouring in cakes, pastries and desserts. Available in specialty stores.
Roux: a mixture of flour and butter cooked gently together and used to thicken soups and sauces.
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 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. It is available in its whole form from gourmet food stores.
Silken tofu (also known as soft tofu): is undrained tofu, made from pressing the curds of fermented soy milk, and has the highest moisture content of all fresh tofus. Available from Asian food stores and good supermarkets.
Sweet smoked paprika: sweet pimientos are slowly smoked over fire then ground to produce and intense paprika. Also available in bittersweet and hot from good food stores.
Sumac: the dried, crushed red berry of the sumac bush, this ‘spice’ has a sour, lemony flavour. It is widely used 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 and is used in Asian and Middle Eastern dishes in the same way lemon juice is used in Western cooking. Both pods and concentrate are readily available from Asian grocery stores and good supermarkets.
Tarragon: it is best known as one of the most important herbs in French cooking.
It has a slightly anise flavour, used to enhance many classic dishes, including Bearnaise sauce. French tarragon has a much better flavour than Russian tarragon.
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.
Togarashi: this Japanese 7–spice mix is made up of black and white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger, seaweed, orange peel and chilli.
Tomato passata (passata di pomodoro): this is simply tomatoes that have been pureed and sieved to remove the seeds. It is imported from Italy and can be easily found in some supermarkets and most specialty stores.
Trenne pasta: a short, tubular pasta with a quill-shaped end and a ridged exterior to which the sauce can cling.
Verjuice: in the 14th and 15th centuries French cooks used this juice made from unripe grapes. It has the tartness of lemon and the acidity of vinegar but without the harshness of either. It marries particularly well with nut oils. Use it to de-glaze pans, make vinaigrettes, or poach fruit in a syrup made from equal parts verjuice and sugar. Use white wine vinegar as an alternative in vinaigrettes or white wine for sauces or sweet applications.
Wasabi: 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.