It’s Friday and here at Good Food Ireland we do our best to send you off into your weekend with a little snippet or two of info that might prove useful in some future life! Today is no exception. This time, in our regular Friday Food Fact slot, we are educating you in the ways of culinary speak. Each and every one of us at one time or another has read a cookery book or restaurant menu  and been baffled by the language. So today we compile a few top terms that you may come across in your quest for great dining experiences. Have a little lookie at these common cookery terms and their meanings – and you need never be baffled again!

A la Carte (on the card) – is a French term which indicates a menu where the dishes are priced individually

Al dente – an Italian term which literally means ‘to the tooth’ – used for cooking pasta when you want it tender but still with a ‘bite’.

Au Gratin – generally means a dish which is either baked or grilled with a golden topping of cheese or breadcrumbs – as in Potato Gratin where the spuds are sliced and cooked in a garlicky cream sauce with cheese on top and grilled to browned and bubbling

Deglaze (Deglace is the French word) means when you pour stock/wine or other liquid into a pan where meat has been cooked and bring it to simmering to incorporate all the cooking juices left in the pan. This then forms part of the sauce.

Saute – literally means ‘jump’ or ‘bounce’.  The term is  taken from a ballet move which means to jump up off both feet and land in the same position. In food it is applied to a technique of quickly frying ingredients in butter/oil – tossing them over as you go,  which is how proficient chefs turn their veggies when cooking. The  movement of the chopped veggies hopping around in the pan is probably why the dance term is used in French cooking.

Sous Vide – very common on menus today – means ‘under vacuum’ and refers to cooking ingredients in a  tightly sealed plastic bag placed in a water bath at a certain temperature,  which cooks the contents slowly to retain moisture and flavour. Sous vide is all the rage these days – for everything from eggs to steak!

Jus – an extremely  intensely flavoured sauce usually made with reduced stock made from beef or veal bones

Amuse Bouche – litterally means ‘to amuse the mouth’ and refers to the little bite sized nibbles you often get to tempt the palate before your starter arrives.

Reduce/ Reduction – to reduce a liquid  means to boil it rapidly until it reduces in quantity and intensifies in flavour.The end product is called a  ‘reduction’.  

Emulsion – a sauce which is made from ingredients which are carefully mixed together to form a smooth rich texture. A typical example would be mayonnaise which is primarily an emulsion of olive oil carefully whisked into egg yolks. Other emulsions would include Holladaise sauce (melted butter whisked into a vinegar ‘reduction’ – see above!) and Bearnaise – as for Hollaindaise but with the addition of fresh tarragon and chervil – great with steak!

Florentine – means a dish which contains spinach- as in Eggs Florentine –  which is  poached eggs on a bed of wilted spinach topped with a cheese sauce – yum


So there’s a few to get you going! Let us know if you have a few of your own to add to these!