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Bakers cheese - is a term that covers all unripened soft cheeses. Low-medium fat soft cheeses with a tangy flavor are good for baking because it retains a moist texture. Other unripened cheeses include varieties such as Quark, fromage blanc and skimmed milk soft cheese which are good for reducing the fat content in recipes that require cream. Cottage cheese is a lumpier form of soft cheese with a mild fresh taste. Ricotta cheese is a Italian cheese that bakes well and adds a creamy nuttiness. Cream cheese adds a very creamy texture to dishes.
Baking powder - a raising agent used in making biscuits, breads and particularly cakes. It consists of bicarbonate of soda (alkaline), cream of tartar (tartaric acid) with a dried starch or flour. You can ake your own by combining 15ml (1 tbsp) bicarbonate of soda with 30ml (2 tbsp) cream of tartar. Always measure carefully as too much or too little can upset the balance of the recipe and spoil the flavour.
Baklava - A Greek sweet consisting of very thin pastry (phyllo) layered with nuts (pistachio, almonds, walnuts mixed with sugar and baked - then steeped in honey, lemon juice and rose water.
Balsamic vinegar - is made from grape juice, reduced and thickened before fermentation over several years in oak or chestnut barrels. The older and more expensive the vinegar, the greater the flavour and colour. It is dark brown in colour, like soy sauce, and has a spicy oaky sweet/sour flavour. Unlike other vinegars, balsamic should be regarded as a condiment or seasoning. Used in hot dishes towards the end of cooking to add flavour. It can be sprinkled over salads, soft fruits, cheeses, roasted vegetables and cold meats.
Bamboo shoots - The edible shoots of varieties of large grasses, common to eastern Asia, they are harvested just before they appear above ground. Bamboo shoots are sold fresh in Asian markets and require lenthy boiling. Canned, bamboo shoots are now widely available. Pale yellow in color and crisp in texture, with a mild sweetish flavor. Bamboo shoots are used in a variety of dishes including stews, soups, stir-fries and salads.
Banana - The fruit of the banana tree, originating in India and grown in tropical climates particularly in the West Indies, Africa and South America. There are two major types of banana, the fruit banana and the Plantain bananas. Plantain are green skinned with a frim pinkish flesh and are cooked as vegetables. Fruit bananas for export are cut when they have reached their full size but are still green. Some varieties are smaller, but all go from green to pale yellow and become flecked with brown as they ripen. The creamy flesh sweetens as ripening proceeds, and will discolour if cut and not used immediately after peeling. They will blacken if refrigerated. Very small 'apple bananas' and red-skinned bananas are much sweeter.
Barbados sugar - A sugar made from the first stage of crystallisation. Crude, brown and sticky, Barbados sugar is rather like crystallised treacle, and has a strong taste.
Barbary duck - a well-flavoured lean duck that is best cooked medium rare it is also called Muscovy duck.
Barbary fig - The fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Pinkish-yellow in color and usually covered in tiny, sharp hairs which can be very irritating to the skin. The flesh is sweet and with seedy, these can be sieved out or eaten with the fruit. They taste vaguely like cucumber and can be eaten raw sprinkled with lime juice. They are a good addition to a fruit salad.
Barcelona nut - Grows in Europe especially in Spain, and in Asia and America, and have been eaten since the Bronze Age. Cultivated hazelnuts derive from the cob which grows wild in Britain. The filbert grows in Southern Europe. The shell is round, shiny and deep brown, with a slightly flat side. The nut inside is creamy coloured and quite dry. It is strongly flavoured and has the lowest fat content. Available whole, chopped or ground. Frequently used with chocolate in praline, but is good added to nut loaves and burgers for a savoury flavour.
Barley - The earliest known cereal to be cultivated by man. Although it was used for bread-making before wheat it is low in gluten and thus makes poor bread. Pearl barley is used in cooking, it is barley that has been hulled and milled. Mainly added to soups, broths and stews, it is also boiled to produce a liquid for barley water. It is also made into flakes and flour. Barley has an individual taste that is slightly sweet and nutty. Requires soaking and boiling - about 45 minutes for pearl barley.
Basmati rice - is an scented tasting long-grain white rice with slim, pointed grains. Brown basmati is also available. Used particularly in pilafs and salads and in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking as an accompaniment or as part of a dish such as biriyani. Can be cooked braising or steaming by the absorption method using one measure of rice to two measures of stock or water. Bring to the boil, cover and cook in an oven or over low heat, undisturbed for 10-15 minutes until tender and all the liquid is absorbed.
- To keep foods moist during cooking with a sauce, pan juice
- To flatten meat or fish with a cutlet bat or other suitable
Béchamel - A milk based sauce thickened by a white roux, usually flavoured with a studded onion and nutmeg.
Beetroot - a root vegetable, usually red-purple in colour, but white and golden varieties are also available. Shaped like small globes with bushy green leaves, which are also edible and taste like spinach. Beetroot has an earthy, mildly nutty flavour. Cook fresh beetroot whole in boiling water, without damaging the skin to avoid the colour leeching out during cooking. Once cooked, peel away the skin. Serve hot with soured cream and black pepper, or cool and shred or grate into salads. It is delicious with fresh orange. Can be pickled in vinegar.
Belgian endive - Related to the dandelion family. Consists of forced heads of pointed leaves which are white with green or yellow tips, and have a characteristically bittersweet taste. Choose yellow tips as these are sweeter. They require simple trimming at the base before use. Their crisp texture makes them good in salads, and are delicious served with orange segments and juice as a refreshing starter. Can be baked as a gratin, wrapped in ham and baked in cheese sauce.
Bicarbonate of soda - is an alkaline raising agent used in recipes that contain an acid ingredient such as buttermilk or lemon juice - ideal for soda bread. It is one of the ingredients of baking powder. It can be mixed with cream of tartar to produce a darkening effect in recipes containing chocolate, or in ginger cakes. Bicarbonate of soda can also help neutralise strong fruit acids like those in rhubarb or blackcurrants, alleviating the sour flavour.
Bitters - alcohol flavored with bitter plants and plant products. Bitters are widely used in liqueurs and can be added to fruit salads and sauces. Angostura bitters is one of the best known as in famous in drinks such as Pink Gin.
Blachan - A firm dark brown paste made of matured shrimp that is widely used in Southeast Asian cookery. Very strong smelling it is used as a flavouring and can be bought insome delicateesen and oriental grocers. It needs to be warmed before it is soft enough to use.
Black bean - It is a small black bean that comes from a yellow pod. It has a meaty, mushroomy flavour, and is used in many South and Central American dishes. Frijoles negros is a well known Mexican dish of fried black beans, and they are well used in many soups and stews. These dried beans need soaking prior to cooking then about 50 minutes in simmering water, and produce a thick black sauce.
Black bean sauce It is commercially prepared and made from fermented soya beans, used to flavour many Asian dishes. Some varieties are thick and contain chopped beans; others are smooth and thin. The flavour is salty, spicy and strong, so use sparingly. Once opened, the bottle or jar should be sealed and stored in the fridge. If unavailable as a sauce, you could use plain salted black beans that are salted, spiced and fermented soya beans. These also have a strong, powerful flavour.
Black lumpfish caviar - Seasoned roe (eggs) taken from the north Atlantic black lumpfish before it spawns. Usually served as a starter, it is a cheaper alternative to the traditional caviar from the sturgeon.
Black salsify - The name means black serpent. A long, black root vegetable very similar to salsify. It is related to the daisy family and originates from Spain. The roots should be washed and scraped before cooking. It can be eaten raw in salads and makes an interesting addition added to other grated roots. It can also be boiled and served tossed in butter. The flavour is delicate, said to be like oysters, so it shouldn't be cooked with strong flavours. Best flavoured simply with chopped fresh herbs.
Black treacle - A thick, sticky, dark liquid that is a by-product of the sugar refining process. It is mostly used in cake and biscuit making.
Black-eyed bean - There are many varieties but the most familiar are small and kidney-shaped, creamy in colour and have a distinctive black spot. Good earthy, nutty flavour. Retains its texture well once cooked. Native to Africa, but also popular in South America, United States and India. Needs to be pre-soaked and then cooked for about 40 minutes. Perfect for stews, soups, and casseroles and once cold are good in salads.
Blackberry - It looks like a black raspberry and has a juicy texture, with many seeds, and a fragrant delicate flavour. Similar to dewberries that grow in less prickly bushes and have a blue bloom like that of plums. Cultivated varieties of blackberry are large, juicy and often seedless, and the flavour is watery and indistinct. Wild blackberries that grow in the hedgerows are rarer but worth hunting out. Always wash them well and avoid those that grow near to the ground. Very tasty when stewed with apple or pear, and goes well with soft, fresh goats' cheese.
Blackcurrant - A close relative of the redcurrant, it grows well in north Europe and Asia. Small shiny black berries which have an intense flavour, but too sour to eat raw. Perfect sweetened and stewed, and then used to fill pies and puddings, and are perfect for jam making. A rich source of vitamin C. In France, blackcurrants are used to make the alcoholic cordial creme de cassis, which can be spooned over ice cream and added to chilled cooked blackcurrants.
Blood pudding - Traditional sausage made from pig's blood mixed with spices, onion, cereal, onion and salt. They are rich and dark in flavour and colour, although commercial black puddings are dyed black. They are ready cooked, but are intended to be eaten sliced and fried, and are often included as part of a mixed grill or a full English breakfast. They only keep a few days in the fridge, but they can be frozen. Try serving with some pan cooked apple or pear to accompany and soften the flavour.
Blood sausage - a traditional sausage made from pigs' blood mixed with spices, cereal, onion and salt. Rich and dark in flavour and colour, although commercial black puddings are dyed black. They are ready cooked, but are intended to be eaten sliced and fried, and are often included as part of a mixed grill or a full English breakfast. They only keep a few days in the fridge, but can be frozen. Try serving with some pan-cooked apple or pear to accompany and soften the flavour.
Blueberry - small blue-black berries native fruit to Northern America. they have a sweet, mildly spicy flavour and can be eaten raw orare good in fruit salads or with cheeses. They are good to use whole in cakes and muffins because they retain their shape well. Also good stewed and flavoured with lemon, ginger or cinnamon. Blueberries freeze well, and retain their shape after defrosting.
Boil - To heat water or other liquids to 100șC (212 degreeș F). When water boils the surface is covered with bubbles see Boiling Page.
Bocconcini di mozzarella - Small balls of mozzarella cheese.
Bok choi - Aka pak choi, mustard greens and Chinese white cabbage, this has broad, juicy white stems, with wide, mildy mustard-flavoured green leaves. Similar to Swiss chard (they can substituted for each other) the stems and leaves are best cooked separately, and the leaves require only brief cooking. Both can be added to stir-fries, noodle dishes or served as a braised side dish. Try shredding very finely and deep-frying until crisp. Drain and serve sprinkled with salt and sugar.
Boletus - A wild mushroom that can be recognised by the spore-bearing tubes on the underneath of its cap. The best known species is the cep or porcini. Dried cep mushrooms and are probably the most commonly used form, although fresh are better if you can get them. They are widely available from Italian delicatessens and large supermarkets, usually in small bags, ready sliced. Once soaked they will give an earthy flavour and meaty texture to a dish; they require more seasoning than the fresh and sometimes adding a touch of sweetness brings out their flavour. Always use the soaking liquid to the stock as well for more flavour but strain through kitchen paper to remove grit. Add to soups and casseroles; also good stirred into a risotto or cooked pasta.
Borage flowers - Bright blue flowers of the borage plant, which can be crystallised for decoration.
Borage leaves - Cucumber-flavoured leaves of the borage plant, which can be cooked like spinach.
Bortsch- an Eastern soup of various styles from broth to consomme, flavored with beetroot and other vegetables and often finished with sour cream.It can have main ingredients as diverse as fish or duck!
Borecole - They are cabbages which do not heart. Scottish kale is perhaps the most famous as it has curly dark green leaves. It is rich in calcium and the B vitamins. The cabbagey flavour is very strong and not to everyone's taste. The young leaves are the best and should be well washed to remove any grit. Tough stems should be removed, and the place in boiling water and cooked until tender. Drain well and toss in butter. It is also good topped with crispy bacon and seasoned with nutmeg.
Borlotti bean - similar to a kidney bean, they are speckled brown or brown all over and make an attractive addition to a mixed bean salad. After soaking, they will take about 50 minutes to cook in simmering water. Can replace kidney beans in a dish or vice versa. They hold their shape well in cooking, and have a lovely floury texture and taste. Available dried and more conveniently in cans.
Boudin blanc - A white French charcuterie sausage. A delicately flavoured creamy mixture about 15cm (6 inches) long made from pork and chicken, milk or cream, eggs, cereal, onion and light spices. They are ready-poached, but are usually fried in butter or grilled. English white pudding is a poor substitute.
Boudin noir - A black French charcuterie sausage. It contains pig's blood and the French spice mix quartre epices, and has a much stronger flavour then the white variety (boudin blanc). It is more refined in flavour than English black pudding.
Bouillon the french word for Broth a liquid in which any bones, meat, poultry, fish or vegetables have been boiled. It is concentrated, flavoured with herbs and spices and salted to make a soup. It is served cloudy, not clarified. Used in recipes when a stronger flavour is required - simple stock is less flavoured, watery and never substantial enough to serve as a dish on its own. Bouillon powder and granules are available from supermarkets and make a suitable substitute when time is short.
Bouquet Garni - A faggot of herbs either tied in muslin or inside leak leaves containing thyme, parsley and bayleaves. Black peppercorns are sometimes included. B.G.'s are used to flavour soups, sauces and stews.
Braise - A slow, moist heat cooking method for cutting large cuts of meat, pou;try, game or vegetables using a small amount of liquid and a tight-fitting lid. Used for less tender cuts see Braising Topic.
Bramble - Looks like a black raspberry and has a juicy texture, with many seeds, and a fragrant delicate flavour. Similar to dewberries which grow in less prickly bushes and have a blue bloom like that of plums. Cultivated varieties of blackberry are large, juicy and often seedless, and the flavour is watery and indistinct. Wild blackberries that grow in the hedgerows are rarer but worth hunting out. Always wash them well and avoid those which grow near to the ground. Very tasty when stewed with apple or pear, and they go well with soft, fresh goat's cheese.
Bramble jelly - A jam-like spread made from blackberries which has a dark colour but is completely clear and smooth. Sweet to the taste and used on breads and toast, or in yogurt.
Bran - Outer layer of cereal grains, left in wholemeal flour. Also used for making high-fibre breakfast cereals.
Brandy snaps - Sticky biscuit rolls traditionally made from syrup, ginger, flour and butter. Cooked in small rounds for a few minutes in a moderate oven, they are rolled round the handle of a wooden spoon while warm. They can be formed into basket shapes to make brandy snap baskets.
Brazil nut - It is the seed of a giant tree that grows wild in the tropical South American jungle. The nuts grow packed together like the segments of an orange inside a large, spherical woody fruit. The shell of a Brazil nut is hard and greyish brown, the nut inside is creamy in colour and creamy and delicate in taste. It is rich in fat, thiamine and magnesium. These nuts are not widely used in cooking, but are a traditional addition to the fruit bowl at Christmas. They are very tasty eaten raw in muesli, or chopped as part of a nut loaf, or rich fruitcake.
Breadcrumbs - Crustless white or brown bread reduced to granules with a cheese grater, in a blender or food processor, or worked through a sieve. Fresh breadcrumbs are used in stuffings and to thicken sauces; dry breadcrumbs are used for coating food, or sprinkled onto dishes to add colour and crunch.
Brioche - A rich bread made with a high proportion of eggs and butter, traditionally baked in a distinctive fluted (wavy) mould. It is often eaten warm and sometimes filled.
Broad bean - It has been cultivated in Europe and Asia since the Stone Age. Very young green pods can be eaten whole, simply top and tail. Young bright green shelled beans can be eaten raw in salads and have a sweet flavour. Slightly older broad beans are greyer in colour and tougher in texture, they are best shelled and boiled and served with butter and chopped parsley. Older beans are dried and used in soups and stews.
Broccoli - It is a type of cauliflower which may be in the form of a compact head or individual sprouts. Sometimes described as the poor man's asparagus. It has a mild cabbage-like flavour, and varieties can be dark green or purple. To prepare, remove the toughest part of the stems and pare the stems down so they will cook in the same time as the more tender heads. The stems are edible and can be sliced thinly and cooked along with the heads if liked. Good in stir-fries or with cheese sauce.
Brown mushroom - also called chestnut, they are a variety of cultivated mushroom and can vary in size. They resemble the r open-cup mushrooms in shape, although the cap is browner and they are firmer in texture. Nutty and slightly earthy in flavor; when raw it is sour. They hold their shape well in prolonged cooking and sre good in stews or braises.
Brown rice - is rice with just the inedible outer husk removed. There are many varieties of brown rice which has a higher fibre content than white, polished varieties. Brown basmati, short grain and long grain are available as well as brown rice flakes and brown rice flour. Brown rice has a nutty flavour and chewier texture and takes longer to cook than its white rice.
Brussels sprouts - a miniature relation of green cabbage said to originate from Brussels in the thirteenth century,. The amaller, firm sprouts, which are sweetest. Prepare by trimmming outer leaves and if desired cut a cross in the base before boiling in a little salted water for 3-5 minutes, depending on their size. A traditional Christmas and winter vegetable served with chestnuts and tossed in nutmeg and butter. Can be shredded and deep fried or added to stir-fries, or make a soup and blended with cream and blue cheese.
Broth - The unclarified liquid in which meat or vegetables have been cooked, it is used for making soups and sauces. Also style of soup which has meat and/or vegetables cooked in a clear stock. Minestroni is a broth style soup. see Stock.
Buckwheat - A cereal plant originating from the orient its triangular shaped seeds resemble beechnuts of a plant related to rhubarb. It is also known as Saracen corn. It can be bought as grains roasted or unroasted, or as a milled flour. Roasted buckwheat can be boiled for 10 minutes and served in place of rice, traditionally with Bortsch or Stroganov. The flour is used in pancakes or galettes, and gives a fragrant nuttiness to the mixture.