We will not be taling about chefs on TV or in trendy restaurants showing off their dexterity: tossing food in pans, chopping vegetables and whisking vigorously with a speed and sleight of hand that would put a conjurer to shame: could well make you feel you're not up to the task. We will be talking about home-cooking, which doesn't have to be like that to get fantastic results. It can be simple, as well as healthy, cheap and delicious. And the smug feeling of cooking your supper from scratch and enjoying every mouthful is phenomenal.
No jargon, no fuss, just down-to-earth cooking at your fingertips.
First things first: a hygienic cook is a healthy cook: so please bear the following in mind when you are cooking.
Always wash your hands before preparing food.
Always wash and dry fresh produce before use.
Don't lick your fingers.
Don't keep tasting and stirring with the same spoon. Use a clean spoon every time you taste the food.
Never use the same cloth to wipe down a chopping board you have been using for cutting up meat, for instance, then to wipe down your work surfaces: you will simply spread germs from one surface to another.
Always wash your cloths well in hot, soapy water and, ideally, use an anti-bacterial kitchen cleaner on all surfaces too.
Always transfer leftovers to a clean container and cover with a lid, clingfilm (plastic wrap) or foil. Leave until completely cold, then store in the fridge. Never put any warm food in the fridge.
Don't put raw and cooked meat on the same shelf in the fridge. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf, so it can't drip over other foods.
Keep all perishable foods wrapped separately. Don't overfill the fridge or it will remain too warm.
When reheating food, always make sure it is piping hot throughout, never just lukewarm see Reheating cooked foods and Cooking from frozen).
Never reheat previously cooked food more than once.
Never re-freeze foods that have defrosted unless you cook them first.
You can't really even start to cook without a few basic essentials: a frying pan (skillet), spoons, sharp knives, chopping board, scissors, measuring jug, mixing bowl and saucepans. Once you have these, look at the list below and work up from that. You'll find that the more you enjoy cooking, the more equipment you are likely to need. And the more equipment you have, the more you'll enjoy cooking!
Baking (cookie) sheet
Baking tins (pans): square or rectangular, various sizes
Beater, electric: hand-held
Biscuit (cookie) cutters: fluted and plain in different sizes
Blender or food processor
Cake tins (pans): deep, loose-bottomed, different sizes, round and/or square
Carving knife and fork
Casserole dishes (Dutch ovens): have at least one flameproof one for use on top of the stove
Chopping boards: have several different sizes, or shapes or colours, so that they are easily identifiable, and use one for raw meat; one for strong smelling foods like onions; one for fruit and vegetables; and one for bread
Colander: preferably metal, for draining cooked vegetables etc.
Fluted flan dish (pie pan)
Frying pan (skillet): 1 medium or large and 1 omelette pan (non-stick is a good idea)
Grater: a round or square one with a top handle is better than a flat one
Loaf tins (pans): 450 g/1 lb and 900 g/2 lb
Ovenproof dishes: various sizes, oval or round and rectangular or square, including at least one with a lip for pies
Piping (pastry) bag with a large plain and a star tube (tip)
Ramekin dishes (custard cups)
Ring tin (pan), about 1.2 litres/2 pts/6 cups
Rolling pin: not vital as a clean bottle will do instead
Roasting tins (baking pans): 1 large and 1 small
Sandwich tins (pans): 18 cm/7 in, plus other sizes if liked
Saucepans: at least 1 small, 1 medium and 1 large with lids
Sharp knives: at least 1 small (for vegetables) and 1 large (for cutting up meat) and a bread knife with a serrated edge
Sieve (strainer): metal or nylon with a fine mesh for making purées and straining foods
Skewers: metal for holding raw joints and poultry together; metal or wooden for kebabs
Soufflé dish: 15 cm/6 in or 18 cm/7 in diameter
Spatula: for scraping out mixing bowls
Swiss roll tin (jelly roll pan)
Tartlet tins (patty pans)
Whisk: a wire one is best for making sauces, a balloon one for egg whites and cream.
Wire cooling rack
None of these is essential but any or all of them make life a lot easier for a keen cook.
Basting spoon with a lip on the side
Canelling knife: for paring off strips of rind from citrus fruit, cucumber, etc.
Citrus juicer: you like old-fashioned, wooden, hand-held ones
Egg pricker: to pierce the end of an egg before boiling, which prevents the shell from cracking
Electric can opener
Fish kettle: a large metal container with a trivet and lid for cooking large, whole fish
Knife sharpener: you like the hand-held sort with two sets of blades you draw the knife across, but you may prefer an electric one or a sharpening steel
Mandolin, for thinly slicing vegetables (not necessary if you have a blade on your grater or food processor)
Mincer (grinder): not necessary if you have a food processor
Olive oil can with narrow pouring spout
Pastry (paste) wheel
Pestle and mortar
Pie funnel: alternatively, you can use an upturned egg cup
Salad crisper and shaker
Spaghetti tongs: the chrome ones with teeth are best
Springform cake tin (pan)
Steamer: the chrome, collapsible sort that fits any saucepan
Toasted sandwich maker: one that cuts and seals the sandwiches in halves
Universal cooking thermometer, for sugar, oil, etc.
It is a good idea to keep your storecupboard well stocked with basic ingredients. Use the list below as a guide.
Packets and bottles
Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Cocoa (unsweetened chocolate) powder
Dried herbs: mixed, basil, chives, oregano, thyme, mint and sage
Dried milk (non-fat dry milk)
Dried, minced onion and dried red and green (bell) peppers: not vital but great for brightening up rice or pasta and they keep for ages
Drinking (sweetened) chocolate powder
Flour: plain (all-purpose), self-raising (self-rising) and wholemeal
Garlic purée (paste): useful if you can't be bothered to crush cloves. Use about 1 cm/½ in per garlic clove or to taste
Horseradish relish, sauce or cream
Lemon juice: not vital but a bottle will keep in the fridge for ages
Marmite or other yeast extract
Mustard: made English, Dijon and wholegrain
Oil: sunflower and olive, plus a speciality one, such as sesame or walnut
Pasta: dried macaroni and/or other shapes, spaghetti and lasagne sheets, plus stuffed tortellini
Pepper: black peppercorns in a mill and ground white Preserves: redcurrant jelly (clear conserve) and cranberry sauce
Rice: long-grain, preferably basmati
Sugar: caster (superfine), granulated, icing (confectioners'), light and dark brown Spices: ground cayenne and/or chilli powder, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander (cilantro), mixed (apple-pie) spice and grated nutmeg
Stock cubes: vegetable, chicken and beef
Table sauces: ketchup (catsup), brown, Worcestershire, Tabasco, chilli and soy
Tomato purée (paste): tubes keep best
Vinegar: red or white wine, or cider, plus balsamic and malt
Corned beef and/or ham
Fish: mackerel, pilchards or sardines, tuna (check the label for 'dolphin friendly')
Fruits: any favourites (pineapple is particularly useful in cooking)
Pulses: red kidney beans, butter (lima) beans, cannellini beans, lentils, etc.
Soups: condensed mushroom, chicken, tomato (ideal for sauces)
Tomatoes: chopped tomatoes are good for quick sauces
Vegetables: sweetcorn (corn), peas, carrots, green beans, mushrooms
Bread: loaves, rolls, pitta bread, naan, etc. (store in the freezer and take out when required)
Butter and/or margarine: you buy just a reduced-fat olive oil spread, suitable for cooking as well as spreading, plus a hard block margarine for making pastry (paste)
Cheese: Cheddar and grated Parmesan, plus others as you need
Eggs: medium for cooking, large for boiling
Fresh fruit: apples, bananas, lemons
Fresh vegetables: potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, salad stuffs
Frozen prawns (shrimp)
Frozen vegetables: peas, beans, etc.
Milk: keep a carton in the freezer so you won't run out (remember that it takes ages to thaw and will need a good shake once defrosted)
Plain yoghurt: for sauces and dressings; also for breakfast with cereal or for dessert with honey or fruit
Cheats for clever cooks
There are many storecupboard ingredients that are an instant boon for busy cooks.
Any of the following can be used to make a quick sauce:
Canned, condensed soups
Passata (sieved tomatoes)
Creamed sweetcorn (corn)
Canned vegetables, drained and puréed, then thinned with a little of the liquid or a little milk
Garlic and herb soft cheese, melted and thinned with milk
Soft cheese with black peppercorns, melted and thinned with milk
Mars bar (or other speciality chocolate bar), melted and thinned with milk
Canned fruit, puréed and sieved (strained) if necessary to remove pips
Instant drinking (sweetened) chocolate powder, blended to a smooth paste with milk or water, then cooked, stirring until hot and thinned to the desired consistency with more milk or water
To add texture and/or flavour, dip foods such as chops or fish fillets in beaten egg or milk and then one of the following:
Crushed cornflakes or bran flakes
Chopped nuts and crushed Weetabix
Crushed Shredded Wheat
Rolled oats, flavoured with herbs or spices (if liked)
To finish off savoury dishes before baking or grilling (broiling):
Leftover cooked potatoes, sliced and scattered with small pieces of butter or margarine or mashed with a little milk and butter or margarine
Grated cheese and/or crushed cornflakes or bran flakes
Crushed Weetabix moistened with a little melted butter or margarine
Sliced buttered bread, cut into triangles or cubes
Rolled oats, moistened with a little melted butter or margarine and flavoured with herbs or spices
For sweet dishes:
Crushed Weetabix, moistened with a little melted butter or margarine and sweetened with sugar or honey
Rolled oats, moistened with a little melted butter or margarine, sweetened with sugar or honey and flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed (apple pie) spice
Cubes or triangles of buttered bread, sprinkled with light brown sugar
Halved scones (biscuits), buttered and sprinkled with sugar
Use any of these to add extra body to soups, sauces or casseroles
Instant oat cereal
Instant mashed potato powder
Planning a meal
Every day, it is important to get a healthy balanced diet, by eating foods from the different food groups in the correct proportions.
To help you plan your meals, follow these rules:
The largest part of every meal and snack should come from starchy foods, such as cereals, potatoes, yams, bread, pasta and rice. These give you energy, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Add to the starchy part a small portion of foods rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, pulses, cheese, milk or other dairy produce.
Accompany these with lots of fruit and vegetables to give you extra fibre and vitamins and minerals not contained in the other foods.
Add only a very limited amount of sugar and fat, whether it's in the form of butter, margarine, cream or oil. Also keep to a minimum any foods containing large quantities of sugar and fats, such as cakes, pastries, biscuits (cookies), fried (saut éed) foods, jams (conserves) and relishes, sweets, chocolates and alcohol. These foods will give you warmth and energy, it's true, but if eaten in excess they will make you fat, as they pile on extra calories you don't need.
When you're deciding what to cook, think about what the finished meal will look and taste like. Aim for variety.
Colours and textures are important as well as a healthy balance of ingredients. For instance, you wouldn't want to serve steamed white fish with mashed potatoes and butter (lima) beans. The meal would look unappetisingly pale and taste bland. But if you served the fish with potatoes cooked in their skins, a tomato sauce and French (green) beans, the overall colours and flavours would be much more appealing. In the same way, if you are serving, say, roast pork with apple sauce for a main course, avoid an apple-based dessert.
Remember, too, that expensive foods are not necessarily better for you. For example, mackerel, which is very inexpensive, is just as good for you as a swordfish steak and nibbling asparagus won't make you fitter than eating cabbage! The cheaper cuts of meat are as nutritious as the best steak. The only difference is that the cheaper ones may have more fat, which should be removed before cooking, and the meat will need longer, slower cooking.
But beware of some so-called economy ranges of convenience foods. Cheap minced (ground) meat, for instance, will have a large proportion of fat and the meat content will be of dubious quality. They may also include some added soya protein (this will be clearly stated). Cheap sausages will also have lots of fat and rusk (a bulk filler) and a low proportion of lean meat. Cheap fish fingers and other similar products made with minced fish or meat rather than pure fillet can contain any part of the creature, and so may be of dubious quality.
Most cookery books assume that you can prepare everything straight off without ever having done it before: not this one. This section offers you a step-by-step picture guide to the basic skills.
To chop an onion
Cut the point off the top of the onion. Pull off all the outer skin leaving the root intact (this will help stop you crying). Cut the onion in half lengthways through the root.
Hold one half at a time between your thumb and fingers, flat side down on the chopping board, and cut at intervals from the root end to the tip.
Now cut across the first set of cuts. Discard the root end.
To slice an onion
Don't peel it. Hold the onion firmly between your thumb and middle finger, with the root end in your hand.
Cut into fairly thin slices, starting at the tip end. When you get to the root, discard it.
Peel off the brown outer layer and the next layer, if it seems tough, from each slice.
Separate the slices into rings.
To prepare and slice (bell) peppers into rings
Cut off the stalk end of the pepper.
Pull out the core, seeds and any white pith.
Tap the pepper, cut side down, on the chopping board to remove any loose seeds.
Cut the pepper into rings.
To prepare and slice or dice (bell) peppers
Cut the pepper in half lengthways.
Pull out the stalk, core, seeds and any white pith from both halves.
Tap the pepper, cut sides down, on the chopping board to remove any loose seeds.
Holding the pepper cut sides up, cut it into slices.
To dice, keep holding the slices together and cut across them. You can vary the width of the slices and the dice as you wish.
To skin tomatoes and other fruit
Put the fruit in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
Leave to stand for 30 seconds, then drain.
Rinse in cold water then peel off the skin with your fingers.
To dice vegetables
Peel thinly with a potato peeler or sharp knife, if necessary.
Cut lengthways, once for carrots and parsnips, three or four times for round vegetables such as potatoes.
Hold between your thumb and middle finger and cut into strips.
Turn the vegetable, still holding it firmly, and cut across the first cuts. For larger dice, make the cuts wider apart. For smaller dice, make them closer together.
To chop fresh parsley and other herbs
Good chefs chop their herbs with a sharp knife on a chopping board, but this is much easier.
Leave parsley on its stalks (the stalks have a lot of flavour), but for other herbs, pull the leaves off the stalks unless they are very small and tender.
Put the herbs in a cup.
Snip with scissors, as finely as you wish.
For chives, hold the bunch in your hand as you snip, letting the pieces drop into the cup or directly on to the food to be garnished.
To prepare spring onions (scallions) and leeks
Spring onions and leeks are used in many recipes instead of onions.
Trim off the ends of the green tops and cut off the root ends.
Peel off the tough, damaged, outer leaves and discard.
For leeks, slit down through the green end to the white part. Wash well under cold running water, to remove grit.
Chop diagonally into slices or leave whole as required.
To separate an egg
The authentic chef's way involves juggling with the egg shells but this method is far less tricky! Have a saucer, an egg cup and a small bowl handy.
Crack the shell of the egg by tapping in the middle sharply with a knife.
Gently pull the two halves of the shell apart over the saucer so the contents fall on the saucer.
Invert an egg cup over the yolk. Hold firmly. Pick up the saucer and drain off the white into the small bowl.
Reheating cooked foods from the fridge or freezer
Follow these tips for reheating conventionally or use a microwave oven, following your manufacturer's instructions.
Cooked food should be reheated only once.
Always make sure it is piping hot right through, never just warm.
To check that a dish is hot through, insert a knife down through the centre, wait 5 seconds and remove. The blade should feel burning hot. If not, heat a little longer.
To make sure foods don't dry out while reheating, either cover or wrap them in foil (not if microwaving!), cover in sauce or gravy or steam over a pan of hot water.
Cooking from frozen
Some foods can be cooked from frozen: and some can't. The following tips will help you to get the best results every time.
Fruit, vegetables and fish cook very well from frozen.
Ready-prepared meals and convenience foods like pizzas, sausages and burgers are often labelled: 'Best cooked from frozen'. If so, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Home-frozen dishes are best thawed first, ideally in the fridge overnight, or otherwise, covered, at room temperature. If thawing at room temperature, cook as soon as possible after thawing.
Never cook joints of meat or any kind of poultry from frozen. Thaw as for home-frozen dishes.
It is possible to cook chops or steaks from frozen, although it is preferable to defrost them first. After quickly browning, cook at a more gentle heat than you would use for thawed meat, and for longer. Make sure they are cooked right through before serving.
Minced (ground) meat can be cooked from frozen. If in a lump, scrape the browned meat away from the block as it cooks and break up the lump as soon as possible. Make sure every grain is no longer pink before adding the remaining ingredients.
To speed up the thawing of poultry or meat, immerse the wrapped product in cold water and change the water frequently. Never put it in hot water.
Don't refreeze thawed food unless you cook it through first.
Al dente: An Italian term, meaning 'to the tooth', widely used to describe the texture of pasta, rice or vegetables cooked until just tender but still with some 'bite'.
Antipasto: The Italian equivalent of hors d'oeuvres. A starter course, often consisting of delicatessen meats, seafood, salads or vegetables marinated in olive oil.
Au gratin: Dishes that are precooked (usually), topped with sauce, then breadcrumbs and grated cheese, and browned under the grill (broiler).
Bake: To cook uncovered in the oven.
Bake blind: To cook a pastry case (pie shell) before filling. The dish is lined with pastry (paste), then filled with crumpled foil or a sheet of greaseproof (waxed) paper and topped with a good layer of dried or ceramic baking beans to keep the pastry in place during cooking.
Bard: To cover lean meat or poultry with strips of fat pork or bacon to stop it drying out during cooking.
Baste: To spoon the cooking fat, juices or marinade over food as it cooks to keep it moist.
Beat: To mix ingredients together in a circular motion with a wooden spoon, wire whisk or electric beaters to incorporate air to make the mixture light and fluffy. The same technique is also used to make smooth batters and sauces.
To beat an egg for glazing or binding, break it into a cup and stir briskly with a fork until the yolk and white are well blended.
Bind: To add eggs, milk, cream or a sauce to dry ingredients to hold them together.
Blanch: To plunge foods in boiling water briefly. May be used to loosen the skin of nuts, fruit or vegetables so it can be removed easily, or to remove any bitter or strong flavour from foods, especially from vegetables or salty meats, or to kill enzymes and preserve the colour of vegetables prior to freezing.
Blend: To stir wet and dry ingredients together thoroughly until smooth.
Boil: To cook in liquid at a temperature of at least 100ºC/212ºF.
Bouquet garni: Traditionally a bunch of fresh herbs tied together and added to a stew or casserole during cooking, then removed before serving. Dried bouquet garni sachets are a convenient alternative.
Braise: To brown the foods in hot fat, then cook slowly (often on a bed of vegetables, called a mirepoix), in a minimum of liquid in a tightly covered container.
Brine: A strong solution of salt and water used for pickling and preserving.
Broiling: American term for grilling.
Brown: To sear the outside of meat quickly in a little hot fat or a non-stick pan to seal in the juices.
Bruise: To crush lightly, to bring out the flavour.
Carve: To cut joints of meat or poultry into slices with a knife.
Casserole dish (Dutch oven): An ovenproof or flameproof cooking pot with a lid, used to slow-cook fish meat and/or vegetables in liquid.
Chill: To cool food in the fridge to make it very cold before serving. Note: Hot or warm food should always be allowed to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge.
Chop: To cut ingredients into small pieces with a sharp knife.
Clarify: To clean fat, butter in particular, of any residue. The fat is melted, then the clear liquid poured off for use and the residue is discarded.
Coat: To cover food completely with seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs, batter or a sauce.
Coulis: A French term that literally means a sauce: nowadays usually a purée, often of fruit.
Crimp: To decorate the pastry (paste) edge of a pie by pinching all round between your finger and thumb.
Cream: To beat together, using a wooden spoon or an electric beater, until light and fluffy. Usually refers to butter or margarine and sugar.
Croûtes: Pieces of bread, fried (sautéed) in butter or oil until crisp, drained on kitchen paper (paper towels) and used as a garnish or as a base for other foods.
Croûtons: Small cubes of bread, fried (sautéed) in butter or oil until crisp, drained on kitchen paper (paper towels) and used to garnish soups and salads.
Curdle: To separate into solids and liquids as a result of overheating or the addition of acids. This happens to milk, cream and egg dishes when boiled or when excess lemon juice or vinegar is added. Creamed butter or margarine and sugar also curdle when too much egg is added all at once.
Cure: To preserve meat or fish by drying, salting or smoking.
Decorate: To add ingredients to the top or sides of sweet dishes before serving to make them look more attractive. See also Garnish.
Deep-fry: To cook food by immersing it in hot oil. For most foods, 190ºC/375ºF is the correct temperature.
To test the oil is hot enough, drop in a cube of day-old bread; it should brown in 30 seconds.
Dice: To cut food into small cubes.
Dilute: To add water or other liquid to make the flavour less strong.
Dissolve: To mix a soluble substance such as salt, sugar or gelatine with liquid until there are no grains left. This is particularly important with gelatine. If you can still see tiny jelly-like granules in the liquid, the finished dish will have unpleasant, gelatinous lumps in it.
Dot: To put small pieces of an ingredient, usually butter or margarine, all over the surface of a dish before cooking.
Dough: Flour, milk or water and/or egg mixed together, usually with fat, to form a pliable mixture which can be kneaded, shaped or rolled.
Drain: To remove the liquid from food either by placing in a colander or sieve (strainer) or by lifting the food out with a draining spoon and leaving it to finish draining on kitchen paper (paper towels), if necessary.
Dredge: To sprinkle food liberally with flour or sugar.
Drizzle: To trickle liquids such as oil, syrup, melted butter or sauce over the surface of food.
Dry-fry: To cook foods in their own fat in a non-stick frying pan (skillet) without the addition of extra oil or other fat.
Dry ingredients: Grainy or powdery ingredients such as flour, sugar, spices, etc. Not moist foods, such as fat, eggs, syrups, jams (conserves) or sauces, even though they are not actually liquid.
Dust: To sprinkle lightly with flour, sugar, spices or other seasoning.
Emulsion: A mixture, such as mayonnaise, where the oil is held in suspension to form a smooth, glossy mass.
Ferment: The action of live yeast with moisture and sugar in a recipe.
Fillet: The leanest, most tender cuts of all meats: the undercut of the sirloin of beef; a cut taken from the fleshy part of the buttocks of pork; the 'eye' of meat in the thick end of the neck or loin of lamb; also, the boned flesh of fish and the boned breasts of poultry.
Flake: To separate cooked fish into individual flakes using a fork.
Flambé: To toss food in a shallow pan in flaming brandy or other spirit until the flames die down.
Flute: To decorate a pie by marking at regular intervals the edge of the pastry (paste) all round with a series of small cuts made with the back of a knife (usually about 1 cm/½ in apart for savoury pies, 5 mm/1¼ in apart for sweet ones).
Fold in: To incorporate one ingredient or mixture gently into another, using a metal spoon in a cutting and turning 'figure of eight' movement, so as not to spoil the texture.
Frosting: To coat the rim of a glass or individual fruits in beaten egg white, then caster (superfine) sugar. Also an American term for icing.
Fry (sauté): To cook food quickly over direct heat in a little oil, butter or other fat.
Garnish: To decorate a savoury dish before serving.
Glaze: A shiny finish given to some foods before baking by brushing with beaten egg, cream, yoghurt or milk. Foods may also be glazed after cooking by brushing with sugar syrup, aspic or sweet jelly (jello) or melted preserves such as redcurrant jelly (clear conserve). Also refers to a sticky, shiny finish given to meat, poultry, vegetables or fruit by cooking them in a reduced, clear sauce.
Goujons: Small thin strips of meat or fish, usually coated in egg and crumbs or batter and fried (saut éed) until crisp.
Grate: To shred into small pieces. The fine mesh of a grater is used for nutmeg and onion; the medium mesh for citrus rind, ginger, cheese, chocolate and breadcrumbs; the coarse side for cheese, chocolate, vegetables and fat such as animal suet.
Hand-hot: When liquid feels hot to the touch but not unbearably so.
Hors d'oeuvres: A French term for the first course of a meal; may be hot or cold.
Hull: To remove the green central calyx from strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, etc.
Icing (frosting): A sugary coating for cakes or biscuits (cookies).
Infuse: To steep herbs, spices or other flavourings in water or other liquid to extract the flavour. The ingredients are discarded before the liquid is used.
Joint: A large piece of meat that is cooked and cut into slices for serving. Also, to cut poultry or game into pieces at the joints.
Jus: French term for flavoured cooking juices, served as a sauce.
Kebab: Meat, poultry, fish, vegetables or fruit grilled (broiled) on a skewer.
Knead: To push and stretch a dough with the heel of your hand. For pastry (paste), the kneading should be brief and gentle, just to remove the cracks. For yeast dough, it should be much firmer and take several minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Knock back (punch down): To punch a risen yeast dough with your knuckles to knock out the air and return it to its original size. This makes it more elastic, ready to knead and shape before allowing it to rise again.
Knock up: To slash the top and bottom edges of a pie crust gently together with the back of a knife, to seal them.
Lardons: Tiny pieces of fat pork or bacon, cooked until crisp and served in a salad. Also strips of fat, threaded through the surface of meat with a special needle to keep it moist during roasting.
Macedoine: A mixture of sliced or diced fruits or vegetables.
Macerate: To steep food in spirits, liqueurs, wine, fruit juice and/or sugar syrup and then serve in the liquid.
Marinade: A mixture of liquids and flavourings, used to soak raw foods to add flavour and to tenderise them before cooking. Often spooned over food during cooking; any remainder may be made into a sauce to serve with the cooked dish. See also Baste.
Marinate: To soak foods in a marinade.
Mash: To use a fork or potato masher to squash and beat cooked or soft foods to a pulp.
Medallion: Small, round cut of tender meat, fish or pâté.
Mirepoix: A bed of sweated vegetables on which food is braised.
Mix: To stir ingredients together until combined.
Noisette: A best end of neck of lamb cutlet, boned and tied in a round.
Parboil: To part-cook in boiling water. The food is then finished by cooking another way, for example parboiled potatoes may then be roasted.
Pare: To remove a thin layer of outer skin.
Peel: To remove the skin of fruit and vegetables.
Pipe: To force soft mixtures such as icing (frosting), whipped cream, mashed potato, choux pastry (paste), biscuit (cookie) dough, melted chocolate or redcurrant jelly (clear conserve) through a plain or shaped tube (tip) fitted to a piping (pastry) bag.
Pith: The white layer between the rind and flesh of citrus fruit.
Poach: To cook gently in hot, but not boiling, liquid (just enough to cover the food), until softly cooked.
Prove: To put yeast dough in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.
Pulses: Dried peas, beans and lentils.
Purée: To pass fruit or vegetables through a fine sieve (strainer) or process in a blender or food processor to make a smooth pulp.
Reduce: To boil cooking juices or a sauce rapidly so that it evaporates, thickens and concentrates the flavour.
Rind: The tough skin of bacon or pork. Also, the oily, coloured skin of citrus fruit.
Rise: To expand and puff up. The effect of heat on certain dishes with a lot of air incorporated, such as souffl és, puff and choux pastry (paste), Yorkshire pudding, breads and scones (biscuits).
Roast: To cook in the oven in fat or oil.
Roll out: To flatten and spread out dough with the help of a rolling pin.
Rub in: To incorporate fat into flour by working it gently between your thumb and fingertips and letting it drop back into the bowl until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
Sauté: see Fry
Scald: To bring milk or cream to just below boiling point (when tiny bubbles rise to the surface) before use in a recipe.
Scrape: To scratch with a knife to remove the skin from young vegetables, the scales of fish, etc., without damaging the flesh.
Sear: To brown meat or poultry quickly over a high heat to seal in the juices before finishing cooking at a lower temperature.
Seasoned flour: Flour to which a little salt and pepper have been added. Used to dust meat, poultry, fish or vegetables before frying (saut éing).
Seasoning: Usually salt and pepper (preferably freshly ground) but it can include other flavourings such as chilli powder, Tabasco sauce, etc.
Score: To make shallow cuts with a sharp knife at regular intervals over the surface of meats such as steaks, to tenderise them before grilling (broiling) or frying (saut éing); also over the rind of pork to allow it to 'crackle' when roasted.
Shallow-fry: To cook food in about 5 mm/1/4 in hot oil in a frying pan (skillet).
Sift: To pass flour, icing (confectioners') sugar or other powders through a sieve (strainer), using a wooden spoon, or through a flour sifter, to remove the lumps.
Sieve (strain): To push soft ingredients such as raspberries, through a wire- or nylon-meshed sieve (strainer), using a wooden spoon, to remove lumps or seeds.
Simmer: To cook gently in liquid kept just below boiling point, so that only occasional bubbles rise to the surface.
Skim: To spoon off the fat or scum from the surface of a soup, stew, casserole or gravy. Floating fat can also be skimmed by laying a sheet of kitchen paper (paper towel) lightly on the surface until the fat is absorbed. This may need to be repeated with several sheets.
Skin: To remove the outer layer of a food before use. For whole fish, it is often easiest to skin the fish after it has been cooked. Poultry and game may be skinned when raw, using a knife to help if necessary. See also Blanch and Peel.
Soft dropping consistency: A texture best illustrated by lifting a spoonful of the mixture out of the bowl: it should drop softly off the spoon when tilted.
Steam: To cook in water vapour rising from boiling liquid. The food may be suspended in a special steamer or a covered colander over a pan of simmering water. Alternatively, it may be placed in a well-covered basin inside a pan containing enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the basin; the pan is then covered while the food is steamed. It may be necessary to top up the boiling water during cooking. It is important that the food does not actually come into contact with the boiling water when steaming.
Stew: To cook food slowly in liquid, or its own juice, on top of the stove.
Stir-fry: To cook small, even-sized pieces of food quickly in a little oil or other fat in a wok or frying pan (skillet), lifting and stirring over a high heat.
Strain: To remove solids from liquid through a sieve (strainer), retaining the liquid for further use.
Sweat: To soften vegetables by cooking gently in fat in a covered pan.
Toss: To turn foods over to coat them in a marinade, sauce, dressing or melted butter by gently lifting them slightly, using a spoon and fork or salad servers, and letting them drop back in the bowl or pan. Also to turn a pancake by tossing it into the air so it turns over and is caught again in the pan to cook the other side.
Truss: To tie up a joint or bird with string to keep it in a neat shape for cooking.
Whip: To stir rapidly or beat using a fork, wire whisk or electric beater, in order to incorporate air quickly into ingredients like cream.
Whisk: To use a wire whisk or electric beater, usually to add air to egg white or egg and sugar mixtures. Also to remove the lumps from a sauce, gravy, etc., during cooking.
Zest: The oily, coloured rind of citrus fruit.