Words Beginning with the Letter B





An individual small cake baked in a dariole mould from the same light yeast mixture as used for a savarin, with the addition of a few currants. Soaked in syrup after baking and, as baba au rhum, sprinkled with rum before serving.



A traditional sweet dish from Greece and the Middle East. Very thin layers of pastry are brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with chopped nuts, cut into diamonds or squares and baked. Boiling syrup or honey is poured over them and the baclava are left to cool before serving.



The side or flitch of a pig after it has been cured and after the fore (gammon) and hind (ham) quarters have been removed. May be smoked or unsmoked (green), the latter being particularly good in cooked dishes because it has less saltpetre; sold as collar (from the neck), streaky (from the flank), back (from the loin), or long back.


Bain marie (au)

To cook at a temperature just below boiling point in a bain marie (a saucepan standing in a larger pan of simmering water). Used in the preparation of sauces, creams and food liable to spoil if cooked over direct heat. May be carried out on top of the stove or in the oven. A double saucepan gives a similar effect. Sauces and other delicate dishes may be kept hot in a bain marie under simmering heat.



To cook by means of dry heat in the oven, as in the case of bread or cakes. See also Roasting.


Bakewell tart

An open, shortcrust pastry tart lined with red jam or jelly and filled with an almond cake mix­ture before being baked.


Baking powder

A raising agent consisting of one part cream of tartar to two parts bicarbonate of soda, mixed with rice flour or potato starch.


Baklava [see Baclava]



A small bird, or leg of a bird, boned and stuffed; served sliced or whole according to size. When served cold it is usually coated with a chaudfroid, decor­ated and glazed in aspic, or if hot with a Madeira sauce and a garnish.



A perennial herb with a lemon­scented foliage, a handful of which makes a refreshing tea­like drink when infused in boiling water (see Tisane). Also known as lemon balm.


Bamboo shoots

Used in curries and Chinese cooking; have a delicate flavour and yellowish-white colour. Imported into Britain only in canned form.



A small elongated fruit with yellow skin and soft juicy flesh which, if ripe, is full of flavour. Can be baked in its skin, or peeled and fried in batter for serving with meat or as a dessert but usually eaten raw.


Banbury cake

A small oval cake of flaky pastry filled with rich mincemeat. Named after the Oxfordshire town where it originated. See also Eccles Cake.



Traditional Scottish cake of wheat, barley or oat bread flour raised with yeast or soda. One of the best known, the Selkirk bannock, has sultanas, currants and candied peel in a yeast dough.



A meal roasted or grilled in the open, usually over charcoal and generally steak, chops, etc. Comes from the French barbe à queue, in which a whole ox was roasted on the spit. The modern version is a small gridiron set sold for use in the garden.



Salt water fish averaging 3-6 Ib weight, round in shape, silvery in appearance; caught off the southern coasts of England. Fished mainly for sport, but its firm, white flesh does have a good flavour.



To spoon hot fat/liquid over food as it roasts to keep it succulent and moist.


Bâtarde [see Blanche]


Bath bun

Rich dough with some sultanas and candied peel made into a large bun which traditionally has coarse sugar crystals sprink­led on top. Named after the town of Bath, where it origina­ted.


Bath chap

Cured and smoked cheek of pig, boiled and finished as ham but usually sold already cooked.



An egg, flour and milk mixture for frying or baking. Proportions vary; pancakes, for instance, require a thin batter, whereas a Yorkshire pudding batter must be thick.


Batterie de cuisine

Expression used in France for essential kitchen equipment such as pots, pans, etc.



Milk, cream and egg yolks made into a rich custard, flavoured with chocolate, coffee, vanilla etc. and set with gelatine.



Used fresh or dried, the leaves of the bay tree (Laurus nobilis) have a flavour that goes well in soups, meat dishes and sauces. Used with parsley and thyme in the traditonal bouquet garni.



Many kinds of bean are grown, some for use as a green vege­table, some more suited to drying. 

Runner beans: The green pods of the runner bean plant, trained up poles or sticks to a height of about 8 feet are sometimes called 'stick' beans to distinguish them from field runners, which are of lesser quality and not always as clean. The pods may be as long as 10 inches without losing their juicy tenderness when sliced and boiled. Smaller varieties about half the height with pods about half the size are now being grown; all are in season in Britain in July and August. 

French bean: Slim, smooth green pods about 5 in long which grow on a dwarf plant and are in season between mid­ June and the end of July. Cooked while young and tender, either whole or snapped in two.

Flageolet or Lima bean: One type of French bean has a pod filled with small, pale green beans of the haricot type. Shelled and cooked either fresh or after being dried, they are regarded as a delicacy. 

Haricot bean: A small bean which is dried after shelling; usually white, but the Dutch Brown and red Rognon de Coq are common on the Continent. Mostly used canned and in soups and stews.

Butter bean: Large, floury, white bean, excellent as a vegetable, Sold dried or canned.

Broad beans: The beans are grey-green and grow inside the long green pod of the plant; in season in Britain in June and July. The beans are shelled from the pods before cooking and should be young and small, like most summer vegetables. If very large they are improved by removing the grey outerskin when cooked. Tossed with chopped savory and butter, or in a poulette sauce, they are the ideal vegetable to go with boiled bacon.



A sauce for steaks, tournedos or fillet of beef. It is a rich, brown butter sauce, finished with chopped tarragon and chervil, prepared like a hollandaise, but thicker and with a sharper taste.



One of the white sauces mères or basic sauces from which other sauces may be made. Named after Louis de Bèchamel, Marquis of Nointel and Lord Steward of the household of Louis XIV. Milk is infused with onion and spices before being added to a roux of flour and butter.



The best eating beef comes from a bullock or young ox, which nowadays are reared specially for flavour and with an eye to the small, compact joints of meat that are in demand.



An alcoholic beverage fermented from malted barley with hops for flavouring.



Milk from a cow the first time it is milked after calving; it is rich enough to make a baked custard set without eggs.



A rich, dark red winter vegetable. The round (globe) or tapered roots are cooked for their flesh, but sea kale beet (see Chard) and spinach beet (see Spinach) are grown for their stems and foliage. Care must be taken to see that the skins of beetroot are not broken before cooking or the red colour may bleed away. A test for cooking is that the skin rubs off easily when the beetroot is cooked.



Originally a fritter, the name is also given to small pieces of choux pastry which puff up and turn a golden-brown when dropped into deep fat and cooked on a rising temperature. May be served sweet or savoury, rolled in caster sugar or Parmesan.



A liqueur made by Benedictine monks at their monastery at Fécamp, France, from an old and still secret recipe.



The Bercy quarter of Paris is known for its wine cellars, so recipes using wine are often called (à la) Bercy. The traditional Bercy sauce is made of white wine, herbs, shallots and light stock in which the food concerned (veal, fish, sweet­breads, etc) has been poached. A liaison of beurre manié is added before serving.


Beurre blanc

White butter sauce. White wine and chopped shallot are reduced well over gentle heat and unsalted butter added gradually to produce a sauce of creamy colour and consistency for poached or boiled white fish.


Beurre manié

A liaision of three parts butter and two parts flour, kneaded together to a paste. When food has been poached or simmered, beurre manié is added gradually to the liquid, which must have cooled well below boiling point. The butter melts, drawing the flour into the liquid, which then is boiled again.


Beurre noir

Black butter sauce. Butter is cooked to a deep nut brown colour then mixed with reduced vinegar, parsley and chopped capers. For use with poached brains, sweetbreads, fish, etc.


Beurre noisette

Butter cooked to a deep nut brown colour, with lemon juice, chopped parsley and seasoning added. The sauce is poured over the dish (eg. fish shallow fried in butter) while still foaming.


Bicarbonate of soda [see Soda]



Sauce made with bitter orange (bigarade is the French name for a Seville orange) to go with duck or game. It is made on a demi-glace base with the juice and shredded rind of the orange, together with red wine and red currant jelly.


Bigarreau [see Cherry]



Small, black fruit of a low plant which grows wild on moorland (Vaccinium myrtillus), also known as blaeberry, whortle­berry, hurt, etc. Ripens from late June to early August, can be served as compote, made into wine, etc., and has a pleasant but not outstanding flavour.



The French name given to small biscuits served with ice ceams, etc.



The French name for a rusk or "pulled" bread; slices of milk bread baked to a golden-brown and sold in packets.



A piece of plain, sweet or savoury unleavened bread. Most are rolled thin, many are pricked or cut into fancy shapes before baking. Among the great range of sweet biscuits some have a flavoured cream sandwich fil­ling, some are topped with sugar or chocolate.



A rich shellfish soup. The court bouillon in which the fish (usually lobster or prawn) was cooked is strained, thickened with a roux, cream and a butter made from the pounded cooked fish flesh. The shells, crushed to a powder, are also sometimes added. See also Velouté.


Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

A fruit growing wild on hedge­rows or cultivated in the garden, usually picked in September for cooking or jam-making, or for jellies. Often made into purée for fool or sauce after cooking because of the quantity of little hard seeds otherwise present. Extra pectin is required for jams and jellies, usually apple.


Blackcock or Black game

A large, handsome game bird, with flesh that is very similar to grouse, and cooked in the same way. The cock is distinguished by white bars above the wing­tips in shining blue-black plu­mage and weighs about 3-4 lb; the hen, with reddish-brown plumage, is much smaller. Not a common bird, but increasing in numbers in Scotland. In season only from August 20 to Decem­ber 10.


Black currant

A soft fruit, rich in vitamin C, picked from late June to end of July. Like the Blackberry it is puréed for sauces, soufflés or fool, but unlike the blackberry it is rich in pectin for jam­-making.


Black pudding

A large black sausage made from a mixture of finely minced pork fat, onions, herbs and pig's blood, possibly with oat­meal or bread for filling. The skin is of prepared gut and the puddings are boiled, usually with their ends tied together in a circle, for keeping. They are boiled again or fried and sliced before eating. There are various regional recipes for black pud­ding. See also White Pudding.


Blaeberry [see Bilberry]



To whiten meats and remove strong tastes from vegetables by bringing to the boil from cold water and draining before fur­ther cooking. Green vegetables are put into boiling water and cooked for up to one minute.



A white sauce served with fish, chicken or vegetables; made by pouring boiling water on to a roux, after which it should not be boiled but should have more butter added like hollandaise. Caper, green and mustard sauces are also made from sauce blanche and when egg yolks are added it becomes sauce bâtarde, or mock hollandaise.



A moulded dessert made from cornflour and usually flavoured. Comes from French blanc­manger, meaning something white and edible. Was once a form of almond cream.



A white stew of lamb, veal, chicken or rabbit with a rich sauce made from the stock in which it was cooked. Milk, cream and sometimes egg yolks are added to the sauce.


Blette [see Chard]


Bleu (au)

To cook trout au bleu, plunge the freshly killed fish into a pan containing court bouillon and poach until the skin has a bluish tinge. Usually served with boiled potatoes and melted butter.



Pleasant smelling, edible fungus of the genus Tricholoma. Their delicately flavoured, firm flesh is cooked like a mushroom. There are two varieties in Eng­land, the wood blewit (Tricho­loma nudum) whose violet colour may be found in oak woods in autumn, and the fawn capped, violet gilled Tricholoma personaltum.



Traditional Russian pancake made to go with caviar; baked from a yeast dough made with plain or buckwheat flour, thick­ly spread with melted butter or soured cream and served hot.



The famous Great Yarmouth bloater is a herring that has been lightly smoked after being salted in brine and dried by hanging by the gills on wooden rods. Usually grilled whole.



To cook in water at 212°F. As the water comes to the boil, it bubbles and will bubble for a minute or two before reaching the required temperature. See also Simmer.


Bombe [see Mould]


Bonne femme

The name given to dishes incorporating the classic garnish of onions, bacon and mush­rooms, generally cooked in a casserole. Sole bonne femme is covered with a sauce containing white wine and mushrooms and browned under the grill.


Borage (Borago officinalis)

A cucumber flavoured, aromatic herb used to flavour a fruit or wine cup.



The name of the French port of Bordeaux and the surrounding region is generally applied to both white and red wines produced in the area, which are put into distinctive, high­-shouldered bottles. In England, red Bordeaux wine is known as claret.



Food cooked à la bordelaise (Bordeaux style) has been cooked with red wine; a sauce bordelaise contains beef mar­row as well as red wine.


Border [see Mould]



A soup made from beef stock, which should be strong and flavoured with beetroot, either thick with other vegetables, or clear like a consommé. Comes from Russia and Poland.



A bouchée (mouthful) is a puff pastry case like a vol-au-vent, but smaller, 1-2¼ in diameter, filled with a savoury mixture of shellfish, chicken, mushrooms etc., bound with a white or velouté sauce.



A fish broth speciality of mediterranean France, especially Marseilles. Recipes vary according to the district but always include a number of different kinds of fish, herbs and spices, including saffron, which are cooked slowly together until they are like a stew.



Meat or vegetable stock. 


Boulangère (à la)

A dish containing potatoes and onions cooked in stock in the oven, either with the main dish or separately. The name comes from the days when housewives took their pies, joints, etc. to the local baker (boulanger) to be cooked in his oven.


Bouquet garni

Bunch of herbs traditionally made up of two or three stalks of parsley, a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf. If used in liquid that is to be strained they may be tied with string, but otherwise are tied in a piece of muslin for easy removal.



A la bourguignonne indicates that the dish has been cooked with red wine, onions and mushrooms in the style of the Burgundy region.



Calf's and sheep's brains are among the edible offal. 



To cook slowly by moist heat. The meat or vegetables are browned quickly in fat or oil and placed with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered container for long, slow cooking. Suited to cheaper cuts of meat which require slow cooking to make them tender; meat may be cooked on a bed of sweated, sliced vegetables. See also Mirepoix. Vegetables should be shaken frequently when being braised.



The inner husk of grain, separated in grinding. Bran is removed from white flour but remains as a valuable form of roughage in wholemeal flour.



A classic fish cream from the South of France. Made with salt cod, well soaked before cooking. The flesh is pounded and well moistened with olive oil and strongly flavoured with garlic. When creamy the brandade may be served hot with croûtes of fried bread or cold as a first course.



A spirit distilled from wine, although there are a few brandies made from grain alcohol. Cognac, made from the white wines of the Charente district of France, is regarded as the best, but that from the vines of nearby Armagnac is also highly regarded. Brandy when distilled is colourless, the colour being taken from the wood of the cask in which it matures, or the colour may be added artifi­cially. See also Eau-de-vie.


Brandy snap or Ginger snap

Flour, butter, syrup, sugar and ginger baked into a wafer-like, crisp biscuit and rolled into a cylinder or cornet shape when baked, and filled with brandy flavoured whipped cream.



Pig's head, stewed, the meat picked from the bones, chopped and pressed. The meat is served cold, sliced thinly and with a sharp dressing. If no special press is available the brawn can be put into small basins and pressed into shape with a weight.


Brazil nut

The nut or seed of the tall Bertholletia excelsa tree, native to the north of Brazil. There may be as many as 32 nuts in one piece of fruit. The wedge-shape of the nut comes from the fact that there are four divisions in the one round trust; each nut is very hard-shelled and the kernel, rich in oil, is eaten as a dessert nut.



Bread may be (a) leavened or (b) unleavened, eg. oatcakes, water biscuits. Of the former, the two main types are those made with yeast as a raising (leavening) agent for the mix­ture of flour and water or milk, and those which are leavened with baking powder, or bicar­bonate of soda and cream of tartar. The latter is known as soda bread, or baking powder bread, contains sour or butter milk to give extra lightness, and is often baked on a girdle in big rounds cut into four (called farls), or as scones.


In the case of bread leavened with yeast, the proportion of yeast to flour determines the texture of the finished bread. If the proportion is low, for instance 1 oz of yeast to 4 lb or more of flour, or if the dough is drier and firmer, the texture will be close. An open, spongy loaf like the Continental breads comes from a high proportion of yeast or a wetter dough. Water mixed with the dough gives a crisp crust; if milk is used instead, the fat in it makes the crust soft. French bread is baked under steam, which keeps the crust soft while the inside cooks to a light, open texture; steam is then withdrawn and the crust baked crisp. See also Bran, Flour, Gluten and Yeast.


Bread sauce

An English sauce which, if well made, is light, creamy and perfectly suited to go with baked or boiled ham, or roast poultry. Milk is first infused with onion and cloves, then breadcrumbs and seasoning are added and the whole is reheated until boiling. Finally butter is beaten in a small piece at a time.



Small to medium-sized round fish. Fresh water bream are found in large ponds and slow-running rivers; their flavour is not very good. Sea bream have large scales and pink-tinged skin, with coarse flesh and again the flavour is poor. Bream are best stuffed and baked, or poached and served with a piquant sauce.


Bretonne (à la)

Roast or braised mutton, accompanied by haricot beans cooked separately, possibly as a purée.



A thick velouté sauce to which shredded carrots, celery, onions and leeks cooked in butter have been added; served with fish and eggs.



A large, round, flat cheese with a white crust, which takes its name from the district near Paris where it originated. Should be bought and eaten at the peak of ripeness; it is better to buy it cut from the whole cheese, when its condition can be verified, than in small wrapped or boxed portions.



Medium to large flat fish, with pale brown skin and firm, creamy coloured flesh. Weighs 2-6 Ib and is at its best between September and May; can be cooked like sole or turbot and should be served with a good sauce and garnishes.



Salt and water in a strong solution for preserving meats, fish and vegetables.



Very light dough made with yeast, baked as a loaf or as small or medium-sized buns in fluted tins. These traditionally are shaped like cottage loaves and have nut-brown tops. May also be cooked like doughnuts in deep fat.



Young, small herring, usually sold tinned or cured in England. See also Sprat.



Vegetable not unlike cauli­flower. Purple-sprouting broc­coli has a handsome head the size of a small cauliflower, and a flavour which is excellent although not as delicate as cauliflower. With hollandaise sauce it makes a good starter or entremets. Available Septem­ber and early October. Italian broccoli (calabrese) is in season in July and early August. The side shoots may be trimmed, tied in bundles and cooked like asparagus.


Broche (en)

Cooked on the spit.



Metal or wood skewer for grilling pieces of meat. See Kebab. 


Broiler [see Chicken] 


Broiling [see Grilling]


Brown sauce

A sauce made by cooking a mirepoix in butter, then making a roux with flour and finishing the sauce as for a demi-glace, with the addition of stock; if the stock is not the best, butter may be added to get a better colour.



A garnish for soups, etc., made by cooking a finely diced mire­poix of vegetables in a small quantity of butter.


Brussels sprouts

A winter vegetable resembling a miniature cabbage, a member of the Brassica family to which cabbages belong. They are best picked after the first frosts of the winter and should be cooked and eaten while still tight and small.


Bubble and squeak

For using up cooked beef and cabbage leftovers: the beef is sliced and fried and arranged round the cabbage, which is also chopped and fried. 



A herring that has been smoked whole; eaten as an hors d'oeuvre without further cook­ing, with accompaniment of dill cucumber and onion salad.



A cereal obtained from the Fagopyrum esculentum plant. It is ground into a flour to make pancakes or crumpets in the United States and blinis in Russia, but not much used in England.



A meal in which guests approach and help themselves or are served from various dishes laid out on a long table or sideboard. The dishes are usually cold, chosen for colour and variety as well as taste, and not only include fish, meat, poultry and salads, but also cold desserts. Sometimes hot dishes are included.



A small plum rarely seen nowadays except in the country; greenish-yellow in colour, very sour and about the size of a sloe; makes good jam or fruit cheese.



A light yeast dough formed into small shapes, proved and baked. May be made with or without the addition of dried fruit. The tops are glazed before they are taken from the oven.



The name of the region, and the red and white wines it produces, centred on Beaune. The majority of the wines come from the Côte d'Or region, although Upper and Lower Burgundy also make a considerable contribution.



The fat produced when ripened cream is churned under certain conditions of temperature, the globules of fat from the milk and cream being broken down and massed into butter. It is the finest fat for cooking and is best used unsalted for this purpose; for other uses it may be salted to taste. Clarified butter is that which has been heated and strained to rid it of any extraneous substances except the fat. This makes the ideal frying medium. See also Clarify. Buttermilk is what remains after the butter has solidified during churning. It is ideal for soda bread and scones and has a pleasantly sharp taste due to acidity set up in the process.


Butter cream

A filling or coating for pâtisseries or gâteaux. The three main types have these bases: (a) yolk and syrup, (b) custard and (c) a meringue cuite base (see Meringue). They are made into a rich, soft mixture with the addition of unsalted butter that has been well creamed and a flavouring like coffee or chocolate or a fruit purée.


Butter icing [see Icing]


Buttermilk [see Butter]