Cook's Encyclopaedia

Cook's Encyclopaedia

by Tom Stobart

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A descriptive compendium of just about everything we eat and how we cook it—selected as “one of the greatest cookbooks of all time” (Waitrose Food Illustrated).
Arranged alphabetically from Abalone to Zampone, Cook’s Encyclopedia covers the majority of foods and processes used in cooking. Hundreds of ingredients are described, with English and foreign synonyms and scientific names; recipes are given in many cases to illustrate the use of the foodstuff in question. Cooking processes—including bottling, brewing, brining, curing, smoking, and vacuuming—are explained in great and illuminating detail. The aim is to both entertain and to instruct—in particular, to give a sense of the essence and individuality of each ingredient. Tom Stobart traveled widely, both as an explorer and a filmmaker, and his book was informed by an eye for telling details.
Many fans say they would be lost without this book, which segues effortlessly between exhaustive reference work and handy recipe book, and back again. It explains the world of the kitchen, whether you’re a beginner or an old hand, revealing the facts behind foods, equipment, and techniques. Stobart describes how baking powder works, for instance, the temperature at which bacteria grow, and how to make your own tomato ketchup, so every time you dip into this book, you’ll be better equipped to return to the stove.
“A MUST, comprehensive, well-organized and well-written . . . a serious and important work of reference.” —Alan Davidson, author of The Oxford Companion to Food

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781910690833
Publisher: Grub Street
Publication date: 11/22/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 89,417
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Tom Stobart OBE, was a traveller and explorer as well as a cookery expert. He originally trained as a zoologist and later became a documentary film maker, most notably recording the ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hilary. He died in 1980.

Read an Excerpt



ABALONE and ORMER. These flattened molluscs of the genus Haliotis, the seaears, are best known for their ornamental shells, which have a row of holes and a fine mother-of-pearl lining. They have almost lost their spiral shape and creep around in a limpet-like way eating the algae on rocks below the low tide mark. The edible part is the muscular foot which serves the creature for both anchorage and locomotion. After the animal has been taken out of its shell, the dark-coloured visceral hump (the guts) must be removed. The remaining foot should be beaten soundly to break up the muscle fibres. Otherwise it will be exceedingly tough.

Ormers are small European abalones which are found as far north as Guernsey, although they have become very scarce; they are very rare in Jersey (which is too far from the Gulf Stream) and are almost absent from Britain. The name is a Channel Islands corruption of the French ormeau or oreille de mer. Ormers may be gathered from the rocks at spring low tides. They are out of season in the summer, when they are at their toughest. Some authorities distinguish the slightly smaller Mediterranean ormer (Haliotis lamellosa) from the Atlantic ormer (H. tuberculata).

Abalone is the Californian Spanish name for the species of Haliotis found in warm seas; they are commonly much larger and finer in flavour than ormers. The true abalone is the Red abalone (H. rufescens), which is fished in southern California and traditionally prepared for market by Japanese girls whose forebears would have eaten them in their own country. Other species, such as the Black abalone (H. cracherodii), are popular in Mexico. Indeed, abalone are eaten wherever they occur in sufficient numbers. In Australia, they are known as mutton fish. In Japan, they are famous as awabi or turbo, and the fishing was done traditionally by almost naked girls, called ama, who went down to a depth of 12 m (40 ft), wearing no more than a G-string and carrying a large stone to help them sink.

In countries where abalone is found, the foot, cleaned and pounded, is sold by weight, fresh and sliced. lt can be eaten raw or cooked. Fresh or frozen slices may be covered with breadcrumbs and fried like cutlets, but they must be cooked on each side for no more than a minute or they will become tough. Recipes can be found in American, Japanese and Chinese cookery books. In China, abalone is often dried; it is then called pao yü and must be soaked for four days in fresh water before use. In Europe, canned abalone is available. The cream-coloured foot should be sliced; it may be served in a salad or as part of an horsd'oeuvre.

[Ormer – French: oreille de mer, ormeau German: Seeohr, Ohrm uschel Italian: orecchia marina, orecchia di San Pietro Spanish: oreja de mar]

ABELMUSK. Seemallow.

ABUTILON. Seemallow.

ACETIC ACID (C[H.sub.3]COOH).This, the acid of *vinegar and of spoiled wine, is an important organic acid formed when alcohol is oxidized by acetic-acid producing bacteria. These are aerobic – they require oxygen from the air – and so cannot spoil a properly corked bottle of wine, but can turn it sour after it has been opened. Natural wine vinegar will contain 5-10% acetic acid. Acetic acid is an important flavouring, and traces of it are responsible for a pleasant tang in yoghurt and cheese.

As acetic acid is volatile, the strength of vinegar can be increased by distillation or conversely weakened by long boiling. Industrially, acetic acid can be made from coal and limestone. (They are heated together to make calcium carbide. This, slaked, makes acetylene gas, which in turn is converted to acetic acid.) Pure acetic acid looks a little like a mixture of ice and water, which is why it is known as glacial acetic acid. Being a highly-corrosive substance, it is not one to keep in the kitchen, but suitably diluted (to 5%), and often coloured with burnt sugar, it is used in cheap pickles and as a vinegar substitute, which turns up in fish and chip shops labelled Non Brewed Condiment. It also is added to natural vinegar (like fortifying wine with alcohol) to make it keep better, since dilute vinegar is open to attack by bacteria which change acetic acid into carbon dioxide and water. Acetic acid is a stronger preservative than other kitchen acids (citric, lactic and tartaric), and even at the same *pH is more toxic to spoilage organisms, though less so than benzoic acid (see preservation). Even a 1% solution strongly inhibits most bacteria, though not moulds. These qualities make vinegar effective in pickling.

[Acetic Acid – French: acide acétique German: Essigsäure Italian: acido acetic Spanish: ácido acético] ACIDS. From the Latin acidus (sour) – all sour foods contain acids. Sourness is an important taste and is supplied by acids in many natural ingredients, such as acetic acid in vinegar, citric acid in lemon juice, tartaric acid in wine and unripe fruit, malic acid in sour apples, lactic acid in sour milk, and oxalic acid in sorrel and rhubarb.

Although naturally-occurring sour ingredients are the ones most commonly used in cooking, there is sometimes a need for pure acids such as citric and tartaric, which may be bought as crystalline powders. Even hydrochloric and sulphuric acids, which are highly corrosive and dangerous, have some relevance to food.

Acids are highly active chemicals: even rather weak ones will attack iron, zinc (on galvanized articles) and, more slowly, lead and copper in the circumstances in which they may occur in the kitchen. The resulting salts of zinc, copper and, above all, lead are poisonous. On the other hand, for practical purposes, organic acids do not attack enamel, stainless steel, tin (on cans or tinned pans of brass or copper), aluminium, silver or gold. Wooden tubs, china, stoneware, enamel and plastics are also resistant, but acids should not be kept in marble mortars, which they will dissolve, in earthenware vessels with low-fired glazes that are high in lead content, or in high-lead crystal glass bottles – the last two are potentially dangerous. Acids dissolve carbonates (marble, limestone, chalk, washing soda) and bicarbonates (baking soda), giving off a fizz of carbon-dioxide gas. This property is used in sherbets, fruit salts and baking powders. Acids are always neutralized by *alkalis, and the two cannot exist together. It is no good mixing fuming hydrochloric acid and caustic soda together to make a double-acting cleaner – one will neutralize the other with some violence. In theory, fruits can be made less sour by adding soda or lime. Home winemakers sometimes temper rhubarb by adding chalk, which is quite logical, but the salts formed can taste nasty and may be purgative. Sugar, on the other hand, does not neutralize acids but produces a pleasant sweet-sour sensation in the mouth.

Adjustment of acidity, and therefore of sourness, is a fundamental operation in cooking, which is why a last-minute squeeze of lemon juice can be so important in finishing a dish. Fruits with insufficient acidity are insipid. A wine with less than 0.2% acid will be uninteresting and moreover will not keep, while one with more than 1.5% will be too sour.

Acids above a certain strength are preservatives (though some are more toxic to bacteria than others), which is why Viking relics are pickled in peat bogs and vegetables are preserved in vinegar.

Acid and alkaline solutions can be distinguished with litmus papers, which are turned red by acid and blue by alkalis. Many of the natural colours of food behave in a similar manner. Acid vinegar will turn beetroot or red cabbage a bright red, while cabbage boiled in acid water turns an unappetizing yellow.

Weight for weight, some acids are much stronger than others. For instance a 1% solution of hydrochloric acid is much stronger than a 1% solution of citric acid, in that it is sourer and able to neutralize a greater amount of soda, attack metals faster and so on. In fact, it is more acid. The essential acidity of solutions, irrespective of which acids are present, can be compared by means of the

pH scale.

[Acids – French: acides German: Säuren Italian: a cidi Spanish: ácidos]

ACIDULATED WATER is water that has been

made slightly acid with a teaspoon or so of vinegar or lemon juice to each half litre or pint of water. It is used for briefly holding cut fruit or vegetables which would otherwise darken quite quickly when their cut surfaces come into contact with the air. It is effective for fruit such as apples and pears and for vegetables such as globe and Jerusalem artichokes and salsify. It can also be used as a cooking medium – cauliflower cooked in acidulated water will be beautifully white even if the curd was rather yellow when raw.

ACITRÓN. A candied substance made in Mexico from the large cushion-like Biznaga cactus (Echinocactus grandis). It is shaped into bars and is used for meat stuffings. Any sweet candied fruit may be used as a substitute if it is not too strongly flavoured.

ACKEE or akee. A tropical fruit (Blighia sapida) belonging to the same family as the lychee but very different to look at. It was introduced from West Africa to Jamaica, where it has become particularly popular. The fruit, some 8 mm (3 in) in diameter, is bright red. When ripe, it bursts open to reveal three large shiny black seeds and the creamy aril which is well described by the name 'vegetable brain'. This is all that is eaten, because the pink parts of the fruit are very poisonous, as are both the unripe and over ripe fruits. The flavour of ackee as a fruit is delicate, but its most famous use is cooked in the West Indian 'salt fish and ackee'. As canned ackees are available outside the West Indies, anyone could attempt the following recipe:

Salt Fish and Ackee

Soak 450 g (1 lb) salt cod and cook it in water. Fifteen minutes before the fish is cooked, add the creamy part of 24 ackees. Drain, skin and bone the fish, flake it and mix with the ackee. Dice 100 g (4 oz) salt pork and fry it until crisp and brown.

Remove the pork, and in the fat fry 2 finely-chopped medium onions and a chopped sweet pepper until very lightly browned. Then add 1 or 2 chopped chillies, 4 chopped spring onions, 3 peeled and coarsely-chopped tomatoes, and a sprig of thyme. Fry this gently for about 5 minutes, and finally put in the salt cod and ackee, together with the fried salt pork, to warm through. Serve seasoned with pepper and garnished with crisply fried slices of bacon, a few tomato wedges and parsley or watercress for decoration. If canned ackees are used, a 450 g (1 lb) tin will suffice. They do not require cooking, but should be drained and added with the fish and pork near the end of cooking.

Those interested in further recipes should consult Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz's Caribbean Cookery (Penguin) on which this salt fish and ackee recipe is based.

ACORN. One of the original foods of man, acorns are still used extensively in some parts of Europe and also by North American Indians. Acorns from all species of oak are edible but those (e.g. of the English oak, Quercus robur) that taste very astringent should first be ground and washed or boiled in water until the water-soluble tannins, which could cause stomach upsets, are dissolved out. However, a number of oak species bear acorns which are sweet and edible without treatment. Among the best is the evergreen Holm oak or Ilex (Quercus ilex), which grows on the stony hillsides of Mediterranean countries and has plump brown acorns. The cultivated sweet varieties (var. ballota) are sold in the markets of Spain, Algeria and Morocco in January, and fetch the same price as chestnuts which in many ways they resemble. They become sweeter with keeping, but may acquire a winey flavour.

Other sweet acorns commonly eaten in Europe are those of the Valonia oak (Q. macrolepis) from Italy, Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, and of the Manna oak (Q. persica) and the Kermes oak (Q. coccifera), also from Mediterranean hillsides. In North America, the best are from the White oak (Q. alba) and the Live oak (Q. virginiana). Acorns are also eaten in China (Q. cornea) and in Japan (Q. cuspidata).

Acorns are usually eaten roasted like chestnuts, but I have also found them useful as a substitute for water chestnuts, as they do not disintegrate quickly on boiling. It is possible to make use of any acorns by shelling and boiling them until they are sweet and dark brown, or by pounding and washing them for a day in running water, after which the residue can be dried and be used in cakes, like other nuts. Roasted acorns are sometimes used as a coffee substitute, and acorn flour can be made into bread.

[Acorn – French: gland German: Eichel Italian:ghi anda Spanish: bellota]

ADULTERATION is the trader's dirty trick of padding foods, especially expensive ones, with cheaper materials of similar appearance to cheat the customer. Because adulteration of this sort is difficult to detect and needs the trained investigator with microscope and laboratory, we all depend on the vigilance of food inspectors. As individuals we can protect ourselves only by avoiding incredible bargains (nobody is going to sell saffron cheaply if it is real saffron) and by buying items like spices whole – it is only too easy to fake ground pepper with ground date-stones. In other cases, the adulteration is done quite openly: thus ground almonds are commonly padded with biscuit meal and almond flavouring. The confectioner knows he is buying a substitute – he is continually visited by salesmen selling substitutes for eggs, cherries, chocolate, cream and other ingredients, and there is often no concealment. As for the tradesmen involved – most have long ago stopped being concerned that such things as genuine ground almonds ever existed. That, one may say, is not quite the same as selling salami made of plastic, as was done when I lived in Italy. (After an official inquiry, the local river was suddenly flooded with large sausages bobbing their way to pollute the Mediterranean.)

Although dictionaries do not do so, I have made a distinction in this book between adulteration and the much more worrying question of additives which are put into manufactured foodstuffs – often, though not always, with good intentions. Additives are there to improve texture, colour and appearance, to prolong shelf-life or to bring out flavour. They might be acceptable, if they were not so often substances which in quantity might prove a health hazard.

[Adulteration – French: freletage German: Nahrungsmittelverfäls chung Italian: adulterazione Spanish: adulter ación]

ADZUKI BEAN. A small reddish brown bean (Phaseolus angularis), easily cooked and with a very pleasant, sweet flavour. Adzuki beans are much grown in China and Japan, and have now become generally available outside the Orient. In Japanese cooking, the boiled beans, mashed and sweetened, are an important base for various cakes (e.g. yonkan) and sweets, and in red rice. The beans are also sold powdered (azukisarashien) – a short cut. I have found adzuki beans tender and palatable when used in place of other small beans in non-Oriental recipes.

AGAR-AGAR, kanten, Japanese gelatine or vegetable gelatine. Available as a powder, in sticks or in shreds, agar-agar is obtained from a number of seaweeds by boiling them in water, then filtering and drying the resultant jelly. It is a complex carbohydrate, unlike gelatine which is a protein. Agar-agar melts at about 90ºC (194ºF) and sets at about 45ºC (112ºF); gelatine melts at about 27ºC (80ºF) and sets at 20ºC (68ºF).

Agar-agar can be obtained from pharmacists, because it is the usual medium for cultures of bacteria. It does not melt at blood heat and so can be incubated. This characteristic suits the bacteriologist, but makes agar-agar unpopular in the kitchen, as it does not melt in the mouth like other jellies. Also, the texture is peculiarly short and brittle.

Agar-agar will dissolve only in boiling water. Like gelatine, it varies in jellying power from sample to sample, but 1 teaspoon to ¾ lt (1 1/3 pt) of water would be a sensible point to start from. As agar-agar jelly sets at 40-44ºC (104111ºF) – which is lukewarm – it is not too long a job to learn by experiment. Do not, however, boil agaragar for long with an acid, or it will change its character and fail to set at all. On the other hand, one can make fresh pineapple or papaya juice into jellies with agar-agar, but not with gelatine, as they contain substances which attack the protein in gelatine.


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