Words Beginning with the Letter A



A setting agent prepared from seaweed and used in jellies and cold soufflés, when animal extracts like gelatine are prohibited (eg. in a vegetarian diet). Also used pharmaceutically.



A batter savoury, the best known being cheese and anchovy. Cheese aigrettes are choux pastry with cheese added, dropped into deep fat in small quantities to cook until golden brown and well puffed. Fillets of anchovy are dipped in fritter batter and deep fried to become anchovy aigrettes.



A mayonnaise from the Provence region of France, in which a few cloves of crushed garlic are blended with the egg yolks before the olive oil is worked in and the mixture sharpened with lemon juice or vinegar. Served with boiled fish, boiled vegetables, shellfish, cold meats.


Allspice or Jamaican pepper (Pimenta officinalis)

The seed of the Jamaican pepper, called allspice because its flavour resembles a mixture of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. (It is NOT a mixed spice.) May be ground in a mill like peppercorns; used for flavouring meat dishes, particularly grills.



Matchstick-shaped pieces of fried potato, pommesallumettes. Also the name given to a French pâtisserie of fingers of puff pastry spread with royal icing.



Kernel of the nut of the almond tree of which there are two varieties, sweet and bitter. Sweet almonds are more commonly used. Occasionally a small proportion of bitter almonds (about 2 per cent) is included in a mixture for flavouring; a larger proportion is poisonous. Best known types are Jordan and Valencia, both from Spain: the former is longer, finer and more expensive and mainly used for dessert while the latter, broad and flat, is used for marzipan and in cakes.


Aluminium foil

Aluminium rolled into a sheet in standard or heavy thicknesses, both excellent for sealing food from the air, or from direct heat, in refrigeration or cooking.


Amyli [see Tamarind]



Small Mediterranean fish with a distinctive flavour, usually imported into Britain as fillets preserved in brine or oil. Used in salads and savouries, while essence from the fish is used in flavouring savoury butters, sauces and devils. Excess salt is removed from anchovies by soaking in milk.


Angel cake

A delicate textured white cake baked in a special circular mould with a funnelled base, from a mixture of egg whites, sugar and fine flour. Originally American.


Angelica (Archangelica officinalis)

A herb which grows as a tall, handsome plant with a pleasant flavour. The stalks are candied, chopped and mixed with dried fruit, or cut into fancy shapes for decorating cakes and sweets.


Angels on horseback

Oysters rolled in thin rashers of bacon and grilled or baked until crisp, then served on buttered toast. A well-known savoury.


Angler fish 

Caught off the French coast for bouillabaisse; not well-known in England.



Pungent oil extracted from the herb anise (Pimpinella anisum), used for flavouring sweets and apéritifs.



There are two main types of this fruit: dessert (for eating) and cooking, the latter being sharply acid, making them pulpy and soft when cooked. Sweet des­sert apples become tough and leathery when cooked, though some acid-flavoured pippins cook well. The commonest cooking apples are the Bramley's Seedling and Lane's Prince Albert, the former being re­garded as the best. It is medium to large, greenish-yellow in colour and cooks with a sharp, pleasant flavour and a fluffy pulp. In season from November to April. Prince Albert is the next best, in season at the same time. It has a juicy, white flesh and a bright green shiny skin.


Dessert apples:

Cox's Orange Pippin Probably the best of the dessert apples, certainly the best known; has pips which rattle when the ripe apple is shaken. Crisp, creamy yellow and aromatic flesh, with skin greenish-yellow on one side and a red flush on the other; medium to small. In sea­son November to late January. Worcester Pearmain Medium sized, conical-shaped with a deep eye. The skin is greenish-­yellow in colour on one side and bright crimson on the other; the flesh is crisp and white. In season from beginning of Sep­tember to end of October.


Beauty of Bath Small apple with yellow skin, heavily streaked with red; round and slightly flat in shape; pink­-tinged white flesh. Ripens in August but does not keep. Blenheim Orange Large, round fruit with crisp, yellow nut­ flavoured flesh that is excellent for cooking as well as eating. Skin is dull yellow, with deep red streaks and red flush. In season November and Decem­ber; mostly found in private gardens because trees only bear well when fully matured. Laxton's Superb and Laxton's Epicure Both are a pippin cross, the latter maturing somewhat later than the former. Epicure looks and tastes like a Cox's, Superb is slightly conical and has a yellowish skin with red streaks. In season September to November.



Small, golden-coloured fruit with a velvety skin. Grown in large quantities in Spain and South Africa. Excellent for drying, bottling, compotes, tarts and flans; can be eaten as dessert fruit but the flavour is brought out better by cooking.


Armagnac [see Brandy]



A very fine starch used as a thickening agent and, with milk, as an invalid or baby food. For thickening clear sauces and fruit syrups, slake arrowroot with a little cold water before adding to the hot liquid. Arrowroot jells on boiling and becomes thinner after boiling for one minute. Comes from rhizomes of maranta, grown mainly in the Caribbean.



A vegetable of which there are two main but quite distinct types, the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) and jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).


The former is green, a bud from a perennial plant of the thistle family, generally boiled for eating. It is served cold with a dressing of oil and vinegar, or hot with butter. In season in Britain in summer, but imported all the year round.


The jerusalem artichoke is a fleshy white tuber of the sunflower family. Its name comes from girasole, Italian for sunflower. It has a delicate flavour and is peeled and roasted or boiled and served in different sauces as a winter vegetable.



A late spring and early summer vegetable grown in special beds; best served as a separate course with melted butter or hollandaise sauce. The English variety has slender green spikes, is sold in bundles after being cropped close to the ground. In France and Belgium it is whiter, thicker, very tender and with only a faint green on the tips.



A clarified jelly for savoury purposes, made from meat, chicken or fish stock depending on the dish with which it is to be used. Must be well flavoured and seasoned and may be slightly-sharpened with wine or a few drops of wine vinegar. Food set in or brushed with aspic keeps its attractive appearance and finish for some hours.


Attelette or Hâtelet 

A skewer, usually of silver or plate, found in varying sizes and with varying degrees of ornamentation, formerly used in decoration of cold table dishes such as large whole fish, galantines, glazed hams or poultry.



Hot hors d'oeuvre or savoury made by filling a small skewer with squares of ham, mushroom, liver, chicken or shellfish, coating this with a thick béchamel sauce, dipping in egg and breadcrumbs and frying in deep fat. Should be served very hot.


Aubergine or Eggplant 

A purple vegetable of striking appearance, originally Indian but now grown mainly in Israel, Spain and France. Can be cooked and served in many ways.



A sauce or soup with a béchamel base to which some well-reduced, fresh tomato pulp has been added. Served with eggs, white meat or vegetables.



Chicken stock made into soup with a thickening of rice and beaten eggs, with lemon juice for flavouring. Greek in origin.


Avocado pear 

A vegetable with dark green, thick skin, a large seed, pale green flesh and bland flavour. Resembles a pear in size and shape but is normally eaten in hors d'oeuvre and salads. Grows freely in warm climates.