Fancy food terms you should know

Elizabeth Meade defines some of the most complex foodie terms

Elizabeth Meade
18th March 2021
Image Credit: Flickr

Many people, including university students, have gotten into cooking during lockdown. However, lots of cookbooks--especially older or more complex ones--have terms that are difficult to understand. Here's what those fancy food terms you may find in cookbooks actually mean.

Confit--According to Merriam-Webster, confit is 'meat (such as goose, duck, or pork) that has been cooked and preserved in its own fat,' although Wiktionary defines it more generally as 'Any of various kinds of food that have been immersed in a substance for both flavor and preservation.' It's often used in the context of duck confit.

Agar--Made of red alga, agar is often used as a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatine, and is commonly used for bacterial cultures in scientific labs. You may see it sold as 'agar agar powder.'

Maillard Reaction--This is the chemical reaction that is responsible for food turning brown when cooked, leading to changes in flavor. If you're up for the chemistry, you can read a more detailed explanation here.

Ragout--Ragout is a French term for a main-dish stew, according to Wikipedia.

Flambe--Meaning "flamed," in French, flambe involves making fire in a pan by adding alcohol. Try it at your own risk.

Panna cotta--Panna cotta is a relatively simple Italian desert made of cream and gelatine, often with a vanilla flavor and a fruity topping.

Kompot--Kompot is a drink commonly made in Western Asia and Eastern, Southern and Central Europe. It's non-alcoholic and can be served either warm or cold. Prepared by boiling fruit in water, various spices and flavorings can be added as well.

Bouillabaisse--Despite the long name, bouillabaisse is simply a French fish stew, which can also include clams, mussels, prawns and lobster among an array of spices and flavorings. While the preparation is complex and requires fresh seafood (£££), Epicurious has a recipe you can make at home.

Macaron--Not to be confused with macrons or Macron, macarons are an almond-based French dessert similar to a sandwich cookie. Learn how to make them with this recipe from BBC Good Food.

Image Credit: Pinterest

Cold oil spherification--Ever wanted to try coffee caviar? Do you want an exciting new way to flavor a recipe? Then cold oil spherification is for you! This method allows you to make liquid spheres to add that atom-like touch to your recipes using some special ingredients and physical chemistry. See it in action here.

Marzipan--Marzipan is a sweetened almond paste, often with a fruity flavor, that is used to create small sweets and add decoration to cakes and other confections. You can find a recipe to make it here.

Glutinous rice--Despite the name of this rice species, it does not contain gluten--"glutinous" actually just means it is sticky! It features in this delicious-looking recipe from Cookpad, a popular Japanese website.

Molecular gastronomy--Concerning the application of physics and chemistry to change the flavors, shapes and textures of food, molecular gastronomy results in some unusual combinations of food elements.

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AUTHOR: Elizabeth Meade
(she/her) Head of Current Affairs (News, Campus Comment, Comment, Science). Chemistry major. Avid reader. Chaos theorist. Amateur batrachologist and historian. Rock fan. Likes cybersecurity and cooking. Wrote the first article for Puzzles. Probably the first Courier writer to have work featured in one of Justin Whang's videos.

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