© Ravi Wazir, 2020

Culinary Information

Metric conversions: (the figures have been rounded off for convenience)

1 kg = 2.2 lbs
1 lb = 450 g
1 oz = 30 g

Liquid measures:

1 U.S. gallon = 3.785 litres
1 Imperial gallon = 4.545 litres
4 quarts = 1 gallon
2 pints = 1 quart

Oven Temperatures Centigrade Fahrenheit Gas Mark
Cool 140 275 1
Moderate 160 325 3
Hot 220 425 7

A Few Culinary Terms

Allspice / Jamaica Pepper: The dried, unripe berry of a small tree used in seed / powder form to season casseroles, cakes and puddings.

Arborio rice: Starchy, short-grained, Italian rice used in the preparation of risotto. Extremely expensive at around Rs.750+ per kilo (as of 2003).

Aubergine: The “long purple” of Indian origin also known as eggplant / brinjal.

Au gratin: Dish covered with sauce, cheese or breadcrumbs, then baked / grilled and served in the dish in which it was cooked.

Baking powder: Baking soda (Soda Bicarbonate) + Cream of Tartar.

Balsamic Vinegar: Dark and pungently sweet Italian vinegar made from white Trebbiano grapes. Used in salad dressing and marinades.

Bell pepper: Capsicum.

Bisque: A thick, rich, cream soup made from shellfish.

Bouquet garni: Muslin bag of herbs tied with a string, used to flavour a dish while cooking (and removed thereafter). Herbs may include parsley, thyme, basil, tarragon, bay leaf etc.

Calamari: Squid served as a Mediterranean speciality.

Canapés: Well-garnished open faced sandwiches with a savoury topping, using a base of toast, fried bread, pastry etc.

Cilantro: The leaf of the coriander plant also known as Chinese / Thai / Mexican parsley.

Couscous: Nutty flavoured rice substitute with origins in North Africa. The grain of the wheat plant that may be dried or milled for pasta making.

Cream of Tartar: A potassium salt of tartaric acid, extracted from grape juice. Used in baking powder to leaven batter (combines with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide).

Crepe: A thin, often translucent pancake stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings.

Croûtons: Small pieces of bread, usually cubed and then either toasted or fried till crisp. Used with soups, salads and appetizers.

Dim Sum: Broadly refers to a selection of small dishes served as snacks or a meal in China. Usually in reference to steamed or fried dumplings.

Escalopes: Thin slices of meat dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried.

Five Spice: A combination of powdered Chinese spices including star anise, cinnamon, clove, pepper and fennel.

Focaccia: An Italian Flatbread made with pizza / bread dough, baked plain or with toppings like onions, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant etc.

Mascarpone: A soft and creamy Italian cheese used in the making of Tiramisu.

MSG: Monosodium Glutamate is a sodium salt used to intensify the natural flavour of certain foods. It is an important ingredient in Chinese and Japanese cuisines. MSG elicits a unique taste, known as “umami”, that is different from the four basic tastes (bitter, salty, sour, sweet). It enhances the complex flavours of meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables, and is used in many canned, frozen and packaged foods. MSG has been controversial since reports of an allergic reaction in some individuals.

Okra: Lady’s finger.

Pastrami: Seasoned smoked beef.

Pawpaw: Papaya.

Polenta: Cornmeal used to make a thick porridge.

Shiitake: Wood flavoured, fleshy black Chinese forest mushrooms.

Sweetbreads: Savoury delicacies made from the insides (thymus, heart, stomach, pancreas, gullet) of young calves and lambs.

Sweetmeats: Small, shaped pieces of confectionery.

Tahini: Thick paste made from sesame seeds used in Middle Eastern cooking.

Truffle: Subterranean fungus valued as a delicacy in France, gathered by specially trained pigs / dogs, sliced and eaten raw.

Wasabi: Japanese horseradish paste served as a condiment with sushi.

Zucchini / Courgette: Cucumber-like, long green vegetable.

Methods of Cooking

Baking: Cooking food with hot air in an enclosed space (oven). The food itself may release some steam during the process. e.g. cakes, bread, vegetables etc.

Boiling: This involves the movement of liquid using heat to encourage vaporisation. The food to be cooked must be surrounded by the boiling liquid. The boiling point of water at sea level is 100 degrees centigrade.

Braising: First browning the meat / vegetable in a little fat, then immersing it to half / two-thirds its depth in liquid and finally simmering till tender in a tightly sealed pot.

Broiling: Cooking food using a direct heat source – synonymous with grilling.

Frying: Bringing the food in contact with hot oil / fat so as to seal and brown it. The food may sometimes be covered with flour, breadcrumbs or batter. Oil temperature should not exceed 180 degrees centigrade.

Grilling: The food is cooked by dry heat supported either by a metal grid or a tray using coal, gas or electricity.

Poaching: The food is cooked by simmering in water / liquid. The liquid should never be boiled and is later discarded. Used for egg, fish, fruit etc. To retain the shape and appearance of eggs to be poached you may use a poaching pan or mild vinegar.

Roasting: The food is exposed to direct dry heat. Differs from grilling / broiling as follows:

Sautéing: The food to be cooked is tossed in a shallow pan with a little fat for a brief period.

Steaming: Surrounding the food in the steam of fast boiling water. This is a slow process as the food is placed in a tray or other dish within the one in which the water is boiling