A beginner’s guide to speaking like a chef
Brush up your cooking terms, so you can talk the talk and keep up once MKRNZ starts!
- Al dente – how all pasta should be served. More on the side of underdone, rather than over. (It helps if you make flamboyant hand gestures when you say it).
- Caramelise – stop drooling, we’re not just talking about dessert. Caramelising is heating sugar until it liquefies. Fruit and vegetables can be caramelised because of their natural sugars, giving them a bit of a glaze and a sweet flavour.
- Confit – pronounced “kon fee” (get it right). This is essentially cooking food in a bath of its own fat. A popular way to serve duck. Potentially heart-attack-inducing, but undeniably delicious.
- Cure – a method of preservation, usually with salt or vinegar. E.g smoking meat or pickling cucumbers.
- Emulsify – when you slowly combine two liquid ingredients together. E.g mayonnaise is an emulsion. Make sure your whisk is up to scratch.
- Flambé – when you pour alcohol into your cooking, then light it on fire. More of a theatrical technique than a practical one. Impress your guests, just make sure you don’t singe their eyebrows.
- Jus – a type of sauce that’s made from stock, and thickened over time. Basically a delicious meat juice.
- Nose to tail – when you literally eat every part of an animal, e.g cheeks, offal and pigs’ trotters. Nothing goes to waste.
- Parboil – boiling something to give it a head start before you roast it. E.g potatoes, you don’t want those babies to be hard in the middle.
- Reduce – to thicken or concentrate a liquid, by boiling it quickly. Reductions make for intense flavours.
- Roux – when your sauce is too runny, so you add flour or butter to thicken it up.
- Quenelle – A plating technique, using two spoons to whip the food into a neat oval shape. Works best with mushy ingredients i.e. puree or mousse.
- Sauté - to cook food really quickly over a high heat. A popular method for onions and the like.
- Score – (not just the points awarded by the judges). To score is to cut narrow gashes in the fat on meat. This stops it shrivelling up in the pan.
- Sear – similar to sautéing (see above). Searing is cooking food on a high heat, to give it a tasty crust on the outside. Be careful, there’s a fine line between sautéed and just plain burnt.
- Sous vide – a fancy-pants method of cooking, where the food is sealed in a plastic bag then lowered into a warm, temperature-regulated bath. It allegedly retains the moisture of the food, and allows it to cook evenly all over.
Now that you’ve had a crash course on cooking, grab your apron and get into the kitchen!
MKRNZ starts Monday 28 September, at 8pm on TVNZ 2.