Words Beginning with the Letter O



Made from oatmeal, water and a small quantity of fat for bind­ing, oatcakes are common in Wales, the north of England and Scotland and are one of the original forms of unleavened bread. In Wales and Scotland the paste is rolled out thinly and cooked in a cool oven or on a girdle, but in the West Riding of Yorkshire it is thrown on to a heated iron plate and hung up to dry when firm.



A meal milled from oats in coarse, medium and fine grades. The first two are used for black and white puddings, haggis and porridge and the third for scones, oatcakes, etc. Oatmeal ground from Midlothian oats is said to have the best flavour.


Octopus, Cuttlefish, Squid, Inkfish

All members of the same ten­tacled fish family and all need long, slow cooking to make them tender; mostly caught in the Mediterranean or Atlantic. Squid, sold fresh in English fish­mongers, may be stewed with wine or onions and cooked until tender like octopus or cut into rings, dipped in batter and deep-fried.



The edible internal parts of an animal killed for food, including heart, kidneys, lights, liver, melt, oxtail, sweetbreads and tongue.



A liquid extracted from vege­table substances such as olives, almonds, groundnuts, corn or animal sources like cod's liver or whale flesh. It is clear at normal temperatures and is extensively used for salads, sauces and frying. Some oils are deodorised, like that from groundnuts. The best and usu­ally most expensive is olive oil, which has a very fine flavour.

When heating oil for frying it should not be allowed to haze.


Okra (Hibiscus esculentus)

Sometimes called Ladie’s Fingers, a native of Africa and known to have been cooked in Egypt over 2,000 years ago. The plant, with its edible fivesided pods, thrives only in southern climates but fresh okra is available occasionally in Britain. If you buy it fresh, choose clean-looking okra with pods that snap easily, not more than about 3 inches long. Used for making soup or stew known as gumbo and good in curry or mixed with sharp tomato sauce.



Fruit of the tree of the same name which grows in countries on the Mediterranean from Spain, said to produce the best olives, round to Greece. Before it ripens the olive is green; at this stage it is pickled in brine and may be eaten as a savoury or with an aperitif, either plain or stoned and stuffed with anchovy or pimiento. These also add piquancy to sauces. When ripe the olive is black, aromatic and sweet. Green or black olives are a useful addition to salads. Oil is extracted from the ripe black olive.


Omelet (Omelette)

A very popular egg dish of which the two main types are the plain or French omelet and the fluffy or soufflé type. Plain omelets are made with whole eggs beaten together and are usually savoury; fluffy ones have the eggs separated and the whites whipped before the yolks are added, and are more suitable for sweet fillings. The secrets of a good omelet are really fresh eggs and butter, a true omelet pan of thick iron or aluminium, not too large and with curved sides and fast cooking over quick heat. Fillings are usually added just before the omelet is turned out and served, but in Spanish omelets, cooked and diced vegetables are mixed with the beaten whole eggs before cooking.



A bulbous, fleshy root vegetable, gathered from early autumn and at its best from then until late spring, but will keep well for all-year use. One of the most popular flavourings in cookery. The main types in England are:

English onions: Used for all purposes, dark-brown to pale gold skins, medium to large size, strong flavour.

Spanish: Larger than the English, but much milder in taste, for boiling and braising.

Button or pickling: Small and brown-skinned, for pickling or garnishes.

Silver skin: Tiny, with pure white flesh, for pickling, particularly cocktail onions.

Green: These include spring onions (called scallions in Scotland, Ireland and the United States, but the term may also include shallots) and Welsh onions or stone leeks, which are like spring onions in clusters. In Scotland spring onions are also called syboes.



One of the commonest of the citrus fruits, valuable for the vitamin C in its juice, the pectin in its skin and pith and its completely distinctive flavour. Sweet oranges are imported to Britain from many parts of the world, particularly Israel, Spain and South Africa and mainly during winter and spring, but are available all year round. Bitter oranges, called Seville or bigarade, are imported mainly for flavouring and marmalade. Also members of the same family are mandarin, tangerines, satsumas and clementines, imported briefly during winter.


Orange-flower water

Mainly used as a flavouring for sponge cakes. An infusion of orange blossom is distilled for this purpose, and usually sold by chemists.


Oregano (Origanum vulgaris)

Common or wild variety of marjoram.



A whole fillet or strip of a white fish like whiting or haddock that is covered with fritter batter, deep fried and served with tomato sauce.


Osso bucho

Traditional Italian dish in which slices of veal knuckle are cut across the bone and braised in a rich tomato or brown sauce.


Ox tail

The tail of the animal, technically offal, makes a soup or stew of very rich quality.


Ox tongue

A tongue comes in the offal category and weighs 3-6 lb. Usually sold salted, to be boiled or braised and served hot or cold. For serving cold the tongue is boiled, skinned and pressed.



A bivalve mollusc in season in Britain from September to April; has a high nutritive value. Most often eaten raw with some seasoning like lemon juice or cayenne pepper, but may also be lightly cooked in sauces or soufflés or grilled with bacon or a little Parmesan cheese. In England the best known are Whitstable Natives, which are also cultivated on the Cornish and Essex coasts. Among the better-known French varieties are the Belons and the green Marennes.