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Explanations of cookery terms and techniques used in WotEat recipes


Al Dente
Al dente (literally “to the tooth”) means that you should slightly under-cook the food to leave it with a slightly chewy consistency.

A bain-marie is a hot water bath usually employed for delicate desserts such as custard. A typical bain-marie is created by placing a dish or ramekin of food in a larger, shallow dish of hot water, before placing it in the oven to cook gently. This allows your dessert to cook without curdling, cracking or browning.

When you are roasting poultry or a joint of meat, you should baste it, to prevent it from drying out, by spooning or ladelling juices from the roasting pan or stock over it. This will also keep the meat tender and soft and enhance its flavour.

Blanching involves cooking something (usually vegetables) briefly in boiling water before placing in cold water to arrest the cooking process.  Ingredients, thereby, keep their fresh flavours and textures. (broccoli is a case in point: blanching presents it as bright and vibrant, whereas boiling leaves it somewhat saggy and soggy.

Blind bake
Blind bake means to bake your pie pastry before it’s filled.  This creates a lighter, crisper crust and helps prevent the pastry from puffing during baking. To blind bake, puncture the sides and bottom of the pastry with a fork, line with grease-proof paper and fill the bottom with pie weights (or uncooked rice/dried beans etc).

Bouquet garni
A bouquet garni is a small  bundle of herbs ( typically thyme, parsley stalks and bay leaves). It is used to add flavour, during cooking, to soups, stocks, stews, casseroles and sauces; it is removed before serving. Bouquet garni can be purchased, ready made, from many shops.

All you need to make a bouquet garni are fresh herbs and string.

To braise meat, you should first brown the  meat over a high heat (see below), before covering and cooking it slowly in the oven, in a small amount of liquid, until tender. Braising is best for cooking tougher cuts of meat.

Cook food (usually a cut of meat) over high heat in an oven, on the stove top or under the grill quickly to help seal in the juices and to prevent the meat from becoming dry.

Caramelising is a method of slowly cooking ingredients until golden brown and is an effective way to bring out the natural sweetness of foods such as onions, meat and banana. Caramelising also refers to heating sugar and water until it becomes a caramel brown syrup.

Court bouillon
A broth made of water, wine, herbs and spices for poaching fish, seafood, vegetables, eggs and meats, is called a court bouillon (can also used as for a base for fish soups).

Crème anglaise
From the French, “English cream”, Crème anglaise is a light pouring custard made by whipping sugar and egg yolks together while slowly adding in hot milk and cream (often flavoured with vanilla). Crème anglaise can be poured as a sauce over cakes or fruit, or can be used as a base for desserts such as ice cream or crème brûlée.

Deglaze refers to adding a liquid (such as stock, wine or water) to a pan which contains browned pieces of meat or vegetables. By adding the liquid, and stirring and scraping the browned ingredients in the pan, the liquid becomes infused and can be used later as a flavourful sauce for the dish.

When you dice food, you cut or chop it into small cubes or squares.

Double boiler
A Double boiler is similar to a bain-marie, as it gently cooks food or warms ingredients. It consists of two pans on top of one another — the bottom holds simmering water while the top holds the food. A double boiler is perfect for melting, whisking or stirring delicate ingredients together, for example chocolate, custard and hollandaise sauce.

Dry roasted/Dry Fried/Toasted

Put seeds, spices or nuts in a dry frying pan. Heat gently to release oils. Leave to cool.

Emulsifying is a process that bind substances together which do not do so naturally, such as oil and vinegar. The technique involves slowly adding oil to vinegar, water, mustard and/or egg yolks, and whisking vigorously at the same time. Examples of emulsified foods include bearnaise, hollandaise, mayonnaise and a range of salad dressings.

This is a process whereby you ignite alcohol poured over food while it is cooking to burn off excessive alcohol. Great caution must be used when doing this and you are strongly advised against trying it unless you are have been properly trained and are well practised.

Often used in baking, to fold something means to mix delicate ingredients together without beating or stirring.  The process involves gently lifting the ingredients from underneath and folding over repeatedly.


The process of pressing a decorative pattern on the top edge of a pie-crust before it is baked (usually with a fork).

A garnish is the decoration of a dish before serving to enhance the taste of the dish and presentation. Common garnishes include fresh herbs, citrus zest, edible flowers, seeds and fresh vegetables.

Julienne refers to the method of cutting ingredients such as carrots into long, thin strips that look like matchsticks. The strips are supposed to be uniform and precise, and definitely takes practice to perfect.

Leaven is a term used in baking that refers to the process of adding baking powder, baking soda or yeast to the dough of bread and other baked goods to cause the mixture to rise.

Marinating means to place meat, poultry, fish or other food into a seasoned liquid mixture (the marinade) such as soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, oil, spices and herbs. This process helps to add flavour and tenderise the meat or main ingredient.

Similar to blanching, parboil means to partially boil an ingredient. Parboil, however, is used to give the ingredient a head start and to speed up the cooking time for different cooking methods. For example, parboiling some ingredients in a stew so all items will be done at the same time.

Piping involves filling a piping bag with soft material, such as icing sugar, and ‘drawing’ on the food to enhance its visual appeal.

Particularly effective when cooking eggs and fish, poaching  involves immersing the food in a gently simmering (not boiling) liquid.

A purée is a food that has been ground, blended or mashed until it is  completely smooth. This can be achieved by hand or by using a blender.

Reducing a sauce will enhance and concentrate its flavour by allowing the mixture to boil down and thicken.

Sautéing is a quick process typically done at the beginning of cooking and using with onions, garlic, ginger and other vegetables. To sauté food, you simply cook ingredients in a pan with oil or butter until lightly browned.

To score something means to cut a number of very thin, shallow slices across the surface of meat or fish to help it tenderise and allow for better absorption of marinade.


To brown (meat) quickly using a very high heat.

Steeping involves extracting flavour and colour from a substance by soaking it in a liquid kept just below boiling point.

Stir fry
Often used in Asian cuisine, the process involves the quick sautéing of vegetables or meat in a hot wok or frying pan, while stirring frequently.

This refers to a vegetable that is heated and cooked all the way through, but still has some crispness to it.

Toasted/Dry roasted/Dry Fried

Put seeds, spices or nuts in a dry frying pan. Heat gently to release oils. Leave to cool.

Zest adds a refreshing, sharpness to dishes. It is achieved by removing the outer layer (zest) of citrus fruits. Do not to cut or use the white pith underneath the peel as this might leave a bitter taste. Make sure you always wash citrus fruit well to remove any wax coating.