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Welcome to the Schwartz glossary, an A to Z guide to cookery terms. Whether it's herbs and spices, names of dishes or cooking techniques, you'll find them here, along with suggested recipes and links to more information.

  • Baking Powder
    • A flavourless commercial mixture used as a raising agent in baking. It is usually a combination of bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and a thickening agent, primarily cornflour or arrowroot. It combines the alkaline and acidic elements required for raising agents. Stored in a cool, dry place, it will keep well for several months, but can lose its strength overtime.
  • Baklava
    • A rich, sweet, filo pastry layered dessert typically found in Greek and Turkish cuisine.
  • Balsamic Syrup
    • Balsamic vinegar that has been reduced down to form a thick syrup, available in squeezy bottles in supermarkets, or easily made at home. Simply pour the contents of an inexpensive bottle of balsamic vinegar into a pan, heat gently until the vinegar has reduced by about half, leave to cool and the syrup will thicken. Pour into a glass vinegar pot and keep in the refrigerator. Delicious for salads, brushcetta, marinades and even strawberries.
  • Balsamic Vinegar
    • This popular vinegar is made from must, the unfermented juice of grapes, which has been fermented in large wooden barrels for a minimum of 4-5 years and sometimes up to 40 years or more. It results in rich, dark vinegar with a concentrated flavour. Its production is strictly controlled by law. Traditional balsamic (aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena) is aged for a minimum of 12 years before being bottled. Ordinary balsamic vinegar is not governed by the law and will usually be a blend of grape must with wine vinegar or grape juice and only aged for a minimum of 1-2 years. Price will always be a good indication of the authenticity of the balsamic vinegar. Plenty of varieties, ranging from ordinary to true balsamic vinegar, are readily available in supermarkets in glass bottles. They will keep well in a cool, dark place. Ordinary balsamic vinegar is perfect for cooking with, using for salad dressings and sauces. If you can’t find it, try red wine vinegar. (See also Red Wine Vinegar)
  • Bamboo Shoots
    • Young shoots from the bamboo plant are stripped of their brown outer skins and the insides are then eaten. Occasionally available fresh in Asian supermarkets, but more commonly available from supermarkets sliced and canned in water. They have a mild but distinctive taste and a pleasant crunchy bite. Ideal for stir fries.
  • Basmati Rice
    • From the Punjab region of India, where the soil and climate are said to account for the distinctive flavour and texture of basmati rice. A grain that is long and slender, and even more so once cooked, basmati rice is excellent in savoury rice dishes and served with curries. It is essential to make a traditional biryani. Readily available in supermarkets. Ideally, basmati rice should be rinsed under cold running water until the water runs clear, to remove all the starch, before cooking.
  • Baste
    • To spoon over stock, fat, meat juices or marinade during cooking process to retain moistness and to promote browning.
  • Béchamel Sauce
    • A classic, French savoury white sauce made from flour, butter and milk. The milk is often flavoured with onion, Bay Leaves and Peppercorns to add a subtle flavour to the sauce. Alternatively, béchamel sauce can be flavoured with a little Nutmeg at the end of cooking. Used on it’s own for pouring over poultry and gammon, or for pasta dishes, including Lasagne, it is also the base for many other sauces such as cheese sauce, mornay sauce, parsley sauce.
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
    • Also known as baking soda, this is a powdered raising agent used in baking. It is an alkaline chemical and can only be used on it’s own if an acid ingredient is present. If an acid ingredient is not present, then cream of tartar is recommended to provide the necessary acid, or use baking powder which is a combination of both. Bicarbonate of soda used on its own without an acidic ingredient can leave an unpleasant taste. Stored in a cool, dry place, it will keep well for several months.
  • Black Treacle
    • Made by refining molasses, black treacle is a thick, sticky syrup with a strong, almost bitter taste. It is called for in recipes such as gingerbread, fruit cakes and Christmas puddings to give a dark, rich colour and distinctive flavour. Readily available in supermarkets.
  • Blinis
    • A small, thin Russian pancake made from flour, raising agent, eggs and milk. Great for savoury and sweet toppings, they make ideal canapés or starters. Can be bought ready-made or made from scratch, where you can add Basil, Garlic or Cumin Seeds to the batter for savoury blinis or Cinnamon or Vanilla for sweet ones.
  • Bouillon
    • Strained broth or uncleared stock made from cooking vegetables and/or meat or fish in water.
  • Bourguignon
    • A traditional French recipe for slow-cooked beef in red wine with Bouquet Garni, Garlic, onion, carrots and mushrooms.
  • Braise
    • To slow-cook with a lid, on the hob or in the oven, meat, fish or vegetables in a small quantity of liquid, usually water, stock wine, beer or cider.
  • Bramley Apples
    • Actually known as Bramley’s Seedling, these apples are ideal for cooking for sauces, pies and crumbles. They are large, almost flattish, bright green apples, sometimes with a fleck of red, with a coarse, white, juicy flesh that turns into a frothy pulp when cooked. Readily available in supermarkets.
  • Brioche
    • A delicious, sweet French bread made with a high content of eggs and butter, making it rich and tender. Egg washing before baking gives it a distinctive golden, flaky crust.
  • Brulée
    • A classic French dessert consisting of a custard base with a hard caramel crust, created by caramelising sugar under the grill or with a blow-torch. The custard base is delicious flavoured with Vanilla and is sometimes served with a fruit base. Try adding a little Cinnamon to the sugar before caramelising for a delicious warming flavour.
  • Bulghur Wheat
    • Also known as bulgur. Whole grains of wheat that have been steamed, dried and crushed to remove some of the bran before being cracked into small golden-brown granules. Bulghur wheat should be rehydrated before eating. Typically used in Tabbouleh, a classic Lebanese salad. Delicious flavoured with Mint, lemon, Garlic and Parsley. Readily available in supermarkets. If you can’t find it, try couscous. (See also Couscous)

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