Dumb Waiter - A guide to food terminology

Our Eating & Drinking Guide editor explains some of the terms you read on menus but can never quite remember what they mean

brochette skewer think kebab, but not that kind of kebab.

bruschetta Italian toast, served with olive oil and tomatoes (rather than marmalade).

capon castrated cockerel.

caponata a Sicilian speciality of aubergines with tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers. But no bits of castrated cockerel.

escabéche fish in a spicy marinade, served cold.

escalope thin slice of meat. No relation to the round white shellfish.

granita a half-frozen Italian sorbet. Former Islington restaurant of the same name was the location of the famous Blair-Brown pact. Which, in time, became fully frozen.

gratin, au the golden crust of a dish placed under a grill. Applies to any dish cooked with a crust. Au gawd is used to describe a dished placed under a grill for too long.

parfait ‘perfect’. Not, however, always the case. The French culinary tradition is of a smooth, creamy iced dessert set in a square mould to allow it to be sliced. It’s often used for anything made in a parfait mould, while the Americans use it to describe a layered dessert like a sundae.

rouille rust a rust-coloured sauce made with red chillies and sometimes saffron, commonly served with bouillabaisse.

roulade a process to describe anything which has been stuffed or spread then rolled. You’re often then served a slice. Think Swiss Roll.
rémoulade mayonnaise sauce.

tian strictly a square, rectangular or oval ovenproof dish used to make stews or gratin dishes. Commonly, a mix of chopped ingredients made in a tian dish and then turned out into a wee tower or pile on the plate.

tuile a tile. If it tastes like one, the pastry chef isn’t very good. Basically a thin petit four made by bending the biscuit mix around a rolling pin when hot and left to harden.

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