A Glossary of Cooking Terms for Students

Recipes can be daunting if you don’t know what all the terms mean so here’s an explanation of some of them to help you on your way. This glossary is updated weekly as my Easy Vegetarian Cooking Series develops. It is aimed at people who are very new to cooking for themselves and goes alongside my simple vegetarian recipes for students. 

What is a clove of garlic?

A clove of garlic is one segment of the whole bulb. The word clove comes from the word cleave which means to sever something along a natural line – so that makes sense, doesn’t it?!

What does ‘frying’ mean?

Frying is cooking food in oil. Shallow frying uses very little oil and is usually done in a shallow frying pan. Deep fat frying uses lots of oil in a saucepan large and deep enough to be able to submerge the food under the oil – like they do at chip shops.

Why are measurements given in cups?

In my experience it is rare to have a set of measuring scales in student accommodation. A set of measuring cups is a really useful thing to have, they are usually marked with liquid quantities and you can check on line how many grams of dry food weight there are in a cup, half a cup etc meaning that you don’t give yourself too little (calamity!) or too much (not so bad but can be wasteful)

What is Risotto RIce?

Risotto rice is short grained and white. It is particularly starchy which is what gives risotto its lovely creaminess. It is available in several varieties, the most common being arborio and carnaroli both of which work well. If pushed I’d choose carnaroli, it’s a bit kinder and doesn’t mind left alone for a bit but there’s not much in it!

What Makes a Cheese ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’?

Some cheese makers use calf rennet to coagulate the milk – that means to separate the curds and whey – but many do not. Parmesan is never suitable for vegetarians so look for a good mature cheddar with a V symbol on it or for a Vegetarian ‘Italian Hard Cheese’. The Vegetarian Society explains this in more detail if you want a bit more information.

What does ‘simmering’ mean?

Simmering is a method of cooking food in water. Once the pan has boiled, the temperature is reduced so that the water is still bubbling gently and the food is being cooked but not blasted!

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a really useful ingredient for vegetarians and vegans to keep in their storecupboard. It has a nutty, cheesy taste which adds a real depth of flavour to lots of dishes. You can buy it in wholefood stores and online – buying the one which is fortified with B12 is a good move as B12 can be difficult to come by on a vegan diet (marmite on toast sorts that one out too!).

What Does ‘To Taste’ Mean in a Recipe

Quite simply it means add some then taste it to see if there is enough to suit you. You’ll usually find this with ingredients like black pepper, salt and chilli where everyone has their own preferences as far as amounts go. It also, however, applies to many flavourings in recipes and, as you cook more, you’ll find you can increase or decrease quantities to suit you.

What Does ‘tbsp’ Mean?

‘tbsp’ means tablespoon so, if a recipe requires 2tbsp you know it means 2 tablespoonfuls of that ingredient. It is worth investing in a cheap set of spoon and cup measures.

What is ‘Vegetable Stock’?

Vegetable stock is the savoury liquid made when you boil vegetables in water then strain them and use the liquid in cooking. You can make your own but it is much simple to buy vegetable stock cubes, powder or liquid and add water to it according to the packaging instructions.

What is Vegan Pesto?

Most pestos have cheese in them and it is rarely suitable for vegetarians or vegans so do check the label. Sacla make a vegan/vegetarian pesto which is widely available in supermarkets.

What is steaming?

Steaming is cooking veg in steam rather than directly in boiling water. More nutrients are retained this way and you’re not pouring vitamins and minerals down the sink with the cooking water. You will need either a steamer pan or an insert to pop in a pan you already have. If you haven’t got either, never fear, there is a way to steam without a steamer! If you have a metal sieve or colander which will fit over one of your pans without touching the bottom, you can use that! Pop your veg in the sieve, put a little water in the bottom of your pan (make sure the veg isn’t sitting in it), cover the sieve with a lid or aluminium foil and – hey presto – home made steamer, simmer away…you are a culinary genius and all your friends are REALLY impressed!

Why are Beluga lentils called Beluga? Do they contain whale?

No, absolutely not, don’t be silly. They look very much like the Beluga Caviar they are named after but no sea creatures are involved, thank goodness!

Why Use Non Stick Pans?

I don’t use them very often if I’m honest but they do come out for eggs and when I’m frying potatoes – it makes everything just that little bit easier and makes washing up a breeze!

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