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

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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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