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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.

  • Saute
    • To cook small pieces of food quickly by shaking and tossing in very little hot oil until brown, using a wide, shallow pan called a sauté pan.
  • Scallops
    • Part of the mollusc family, with a fan-shaped ribbed shell. The succulent flesh, with its orange ‘coral’ is sweet-tasting. Most scallops are sold already opened, either on the half-shell, or completely detached. Scallops can be grilled, steamed, sautéed or baked, but they will only take a few minutes, so be careful not to over-cook them. Readily available fresh and frozen.
  • Sear
    • A popular technique in the kitchen, meaning to brown or caramelise the surface of meat, poultry or fish quickly in a pan with very hot fat, before roasting or stewing. This technique is said to lock in the moisture and seal the juices of the food, although this is often now disputed. What it will do though, is add a rich, caramelised flavour to the food, give an attractive browned appearance and add a contrast of texture between the crust and the interior of the food.
  • Serrano Ham
    • Serrano means ‘from the mountains’ and this ham comes from the region of Huelva in the Sierra Morena mountains of Spain, west of Seville near the Portuguese border. The small pigs are fed on acorns, which give the ham its delicious sweet flavour. It is cured and air-dried, giving it a chewy texture and is excellent served with bread. A black hoof marking guarantees its authenticity. Readily available in supermarkets.
  • Sesame Oil
    • Available in two different varieties, made from either pressed untoasted sesame seeds giving a lighter coloured and flavoured version, or pressed toasted seeds, giving a richer, darker oil. The lighter oil, is popular in India and the Middle East, it has a milder flavour and is useful for cooking. Dark sesame oil, has a wonderfully nutty aroma and is great for flavouring marinades, dressings and stir fries. Use sparingly as the flavour is strong, and be careful if cooking with the dark oil as it can burn quite quickly. Readily available in supermarkets and Asian stores.
  • Seville Orange
    • A bitter orange that cannot be eaten raw, but is commonly used for jam and marmalade making, due to its high pectin content. Vast quantities are grown in Seville, but the Spaniards don’t use them to make marmalade, the majority of the crop is exported to Britain. The aromatic oils from the peel are used to flavour liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau. Orange flower water is distilled from the blossoms of Seville orange trees. Not just for marmalade making, the tart juice is also delicious in salad dressings and sauces to cut through the richness of certain meat and game dishes. Readily available in supermarkets in January and February.
  • Sherry
    • A fortified wine made from white grapes grown in Spain. Produced in a variety of styles, ranging from dry, light versions to darker sweet versions. Sweet sherry is typically used for desserts, including sherry trifle and dry sherry is more commonly used in Asian cuisine for marinades, dressings and stir fries. Readily available in supermarkets.
  • Shiitake Mushroom
    • A Japanese fungi, resembling large, brown button mushrooms, but with a meatier, rather acidic flavour and a distinctive slippery texture. Use in stir fries, braised dishes or add to soups. Readily available in supermarkets.
  • Simmer
    • To cook food in liquid that is just below its boiling point so that the liquid’s surface ‘trembles’, with small bubbles breaking the surface.
  • Smoked Salmon
    • Typically salmon fillet that has been cured, and then hot or cold wood-smoked. Readily available already sliced into paper-thin slices, good quality smoked salmon should be enjoyed as it is, with a sprinkling of Dill and served with buttered brown bread. Less expensive smoked salmon is great for adding to scrambled eggs, quiches, fishcakes or stirred into pasta with creamy sauces.
  • Sorbet
    • A French term for water ice made from sugar syrup and flavourings, such as fruit juices or fruit purées. A sorbet traditionally does not contain milk or other dairy products, but egg whites are sometimes used to add air to a sorbet and give it a really light and smooth texture. Sorbet that contains egg white should be consumed within 24 hours of making and should never be rechurned. orbet is typically served as a dessert, but sometimes served between courses to refresh the palate, when it is called an interdit. Sharp sorbets, such as lemon, grapefruit or champagne, are typically served in this way. Adding alcohol to a sorbet will affect it’s ability to freeze, so no more than 30ml of alcohol should be added per 600ml of liquid.
  • Souffle
    • The word soufflé is French and means ‘puffed up’. The term refers to a light raised dish made from separated eggs, usually baked for savoury versions, but can be cooked or uncooked for sweet versions. Savoury soufflés make great starters, whilst sweet ones are delightful desserts, ideal for dinner parties. Always remember to serve hot soufflés immediately, as they will begin to collapse as soon as they are removed from the oven.
  • Sour Cherries
    • Sour cherries, native to much of Europe and southwest Asia are closely related to the wild sweet cherry, but have a more acidic taste. There are two varieties of the sour cherry, the dark-red morello cherry and the lighter-red amarelle cherry. Fresh sour cherries are typically too sour to eat fresh and are often used in cooking. Readily available already dried, they add a sweet, yet acidic flavour to sauces.
  • Soured Cream
    • A slightly thickened single cream that has been treated with lactic acid, to give it a unique tang. Used in the same way as cream, it makes delicious cheesecakes or is ideal for savoury dishes as an accompaniment, or stirred through at the end to enrich the sauce or soup. Take care when cooking with soured cream as it can curdle if cooked at a high temperature, so it is usually stirred through the dish at the end of cooking, as in Hungarian goulash. Soured cream is not suitable for whipping. If you can’t find it, you can add 1 tsp lemon juice to 150ml single or double cream, it’s not quite the same but is acceptable for cooking with.
  • Soy Sauce Dark or Light
    • Soy sauce is an essential seasoning for Asian cooking. It is made from fermented soy beans. Dark soy sauce has been left to mature for longer than light soy sauce and often has caramel added to it. It will therefore be slightly sweeter, darker in appearance and have a stronger aroma. Light soy sauce comes from the initial extraction and has a more delicate flavour, lighter appearance and is more salty than dark soy sauce. Both are readily available in supermarkets in glass bottles.
  • Suet
    • Saturated fat taken from around the kidneys or animals, usually cattle. Used for making steamed puddings, dumplings and pastry.
  • Sultanas
    • Essentially a variety of raisin, sultanas are made from dried, seedless white grapes. Deliciously moist and sweet, with a tender texture. Ideal as a snack, or used in home-baking or to add sweetness to savoury dishes, such as curries and Moroccan tagines. Readily available in supermarkets. (See also Raisins)
  • Sun-dried Tomatoes
    • The process of sun-drying tomatoes intensifies the flavour giving them a delicious sweetness and pungency. Commercially available dry in packets or packed in olive oil in glass jars, these tomatoes have probably been air-dried rather than in the sun, but the flavour is still intense. Dry tomatoes will need rehydrating in hot water, remember to reserve the water and use it in your cooking. Delicious eaten raw in salads and antipasti platters, or great for adding flavour to pasta sauces. Sun-dried tomatoes combine well with Basil, Garlic, mozzarella and pasta.
  • Sweat
    • To soften and to concentrate a foods flavour without browning by cooking gently, usually in oil or butter, or in food’s own juices.
  • Sweet Potato
    • The sweet potato is mistakenly thought to be related to the potato, but it is not. With a different appearance, the sweet potato is elongated in shape, with orange flesh and a dark orangey-brown skin. The flesh is firm when raw, but goes very soft on cooking. The flavour is much sweeter than that of the ordinary potato. Sweet potatoes can be eaten raw, grated into salads, but are far better when cooked. They are great for mashing, roasting and baking whole in their jackets. Delicious flavoured with any of the following – Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cumin, Ginger, Coriander, Garlic, Chilli, Cheese or bacon.
  • Swiss Roll Tin
    • A rectangular, shallow baking tin, ideal for cooking flat, rectangular sponge cake, to be used to make swiss rolls.

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