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Cooking terms

Struggling with some cooking jargon? From ingredients and equipment to cooking methods, you’ll find straightforward explanations here, sorted alphabetically to make them easier to find.

Beat

’Beat’ is really another word for mix. When beating eggs, use a fork or a whisk and rapidly stir them together until smooth.

Blend

When blending things like flour and water or milk together, this isn’t about using a blender. It’s just about mixing them together and squashing out any lumps to form a smooth mixture - use a fork or a spoon to do this.

Boiled egg

Bring a pan of water to boil on a medium heat. To speed things up, you could boil the water in the kettle first, then pour it into the pan.

You’ll need enough water to make sure the egg is completely covered. You’ll know when it’s boiling because it will be really bubbling, with big bubbles that pop on the surface.

When the water is ready, place the whole egg on a tablespoon and gently lower into the water. Turn the heat down slightly and allow to boil for 4 minutes if you want a soft (runny yolk) boiled egg, or between 6 and 10 minutes for a hard boiled egg (where the yolk is completely set).

When the time is up, place the eggs in cold water to set the white and to make them easier to handle if you’re peeling off the shell.

Brown / browning

If a recipes tells you to "brown the meat" this means to cook it until the outer edges of it turn brown. It doesn’t have to be cooked completely through, just so there is no longer any meat that looks pink.

Fish slice

A fish slice has a long handle and a broad, flat end, usually with slits or holes in. It’s used to gently slide under and lift or flip over delicate food like fish, when it’s cooking. If you don’t have one, a flat spatula will do.

Floret

When recipes ask you to use broccoli or cauliflower florets, this means just the head, or bushy looking part. So trim them right up to the head part, discarding the stalks.

Grilled

Grilling is a quick, healthy way of cooking a range of foods, including meat and vegetables. It doesn’t use any kind of fat, so it’s much better for you than frying. You may have a separate grill section on your oven, or it may be inside the oven itself. Or, you can use a portable plug-in grilling machine.

Mash

You can use a masher or a fork to mash things like potato. For mashed potato, add a splash of milk to cooked, boiled potatoes and using a fork, or masher, press down on the potato, squashing it in with the milk to make it smooth and fluffy in texture.

Patties

To make a patty, take a small handful of the mixture you’re using and roll it into a ball, then place in the palm of your hand, or on a lightly floured chopping board, and gently pat down to make a round, burger type shape.

Poached

Poaching is a fat-free way of cooking eggs, some meats and fish, using a pan of boiling water.

To poach an egg, bring a pan of water that is at least half full, to the boil over a medium heat. Crack the egg into a tea cup or small dish - this will make it easier to drop it in to the water without burning yourself on the steam or damaging the egg.

When the water is boiling, gently slide the egg out of the cup or bowl into the pan. Don’t drop it from a big height or the egg will separate. Turn the heat down a little and allow to simmer for a minute.

If you like the yolk slightly harder, use a spoon or spatula to  gently splash water over the yolk for about 30 seconds to cook it more.

Turn off the heat and use a flat spatula, fish-slice or spoon to lift the egg out of the water and serve.

Popcorn

Home-made popcorn smells and tastes delicious and it’s really easy and fun to make. Look in your local supermarket for ’popping kernels’, or ’popping corn’.

All you need is the popping corn, some oil (vegetable or sunflower, ideally) and a pan with a lid.

Put the pan over a medium heat and pour in a tablespoon of oil. Heat the oil until it is hot, but not smoking. You can test it by dropping in a couple of the kernels- if they pop quickly, it’s hot enough.

When the oil is hot, add a generous handful of the kernels (a little goes along way) and put the lid on the pan. You’ll need to keep an eye on it, and listen out. Every 20 seconds or so, pick up the pan by the handle and using oven gloves to hold the other handle (if there is one) and keep the lid in place, give it a good shake to distribute to oil and heat the kernels evenly.

After a short time you’ll hear a few pops. Then lots of pops. Keep it on the heat, still shaking it up every 20 seconds. When the popping slows down and there’s several seconds between each ’pop’ turn off the heat, give it a final shake and serve.

Puree / liquidize

'Puree' to blend a food using a hand blender or food processor to a thick, smooth liquid. Tomato puree, however, can be bought in supermarkets and convenience stores and is a strong (concentrated) paste made of tomatoes.

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs are quick and easy to make, and a real hit with the kids. To make them, crack your eggs into a bowl, add a dash of milk (optional) and beat together. Pour the egg mixture into a pan over a medium heat and add a small knob of low fat spread and stir.

Continue stirring while on the heat until the eggs start to take on a lumpy consistency. You’ll need to keep scraping the spatula around the edges to catch all the egg.

When the egg is no longer runny, but still soft and only lightly formed (about 4 minutes), take it off the heat and leave to stand for a minute or so as it will continue cooking. Serve.

Simmer

Simmering is what water does when it’s reached boiling point and then had the heat turned down a little. Simmering water has lots of very tiny bubbles that slowly rise up the sides of the pan to the surface, rather than boiling which is more energetic and the bubbles will be bigger.

Steam / steamer

Steaming is a no-fat way of cooking. A steamer is a small metal device with sides that fold in, like a flower, and has holes. Alternatively, you can use a metal sieve.

Place food in the steamer (or sieve) over a pan of gently boiling water and cover. The steam that comes up from the boiling water will cook the food.

Trim / trimmed

You can buy some vegetables ready trimmed, such as leeks and green beans. If you’re trimming them yourself, use a sharp knife to take a little off each end. For leeks you may want to remove the outer leaves and rinse them before using.

Whizz up

You’ll need a blender to get a smooth texture (no bits) for smoothies and sauces. If you have a food processor, you can use this. Alternatively, you can use a hand blender (which are widely available for around £10). These are quick and easy to use and minimal on the washing up. Perfect for smooth smoothies and non lumpy sauces, and fantastic for home-made baby food purees.

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