Category Archives: Glossary

We have lived around the world and use some interesting ingredients. To try and help you find alternatives and to locate the ingredients we use, we keep a glossary.

How to cut up a Mango

How to cut up a Mango

It started when we were in India. The mango season arrived, and my colleagues brought me in bags full of juicy sweet mangoes. “Indian mangos are the best” they declared. “The season in starting, you have to try these Alfonsi mangoes from Mumbai”. As the season progressed more mangoes were brought in. Different varieties, all from India, the self declared home of mangoes.

On television a IPL cricketer player from Australia caused a little stir when he declared that mangoes from Queensland in Australia were actually the best. My Indian colleagues though just laughed, not possible. Indian mangoes are the best.

And then we moved to Singapore. My Pakistani colleague declared that Pakistani mangoes were the best, better than the Indian ones. My Thai colleague declared that Thai mangoes were the best. My Taiwanese colleague declared that actually the ones from Myanmar were worth trying too.

We just kept trying all kinds of different ones and enjoying them all. After all this trying (we haven’t managed to find a Pakistani one yet), but our favourites so far are the Indian Alfonsi and the Thai Honey Mangoes. The Australian and Myanmar ones are pretty good too though.

The problem was though that I kept ending up with uneven sized pieces, cut offs, and it all looked a bit of a mess.

On our last trip to Thailand, a lady who prepares Mango Sticky Rice (which is something I still can’t walk past when it is well prepared) and cuts up a lot of mangoes taught me how to cut them up her way. It was a lot easier than what I had been doing, and also meant that all of the pieces were the same size, rather than the mess I had been making cutting off bits and then cutting it up. It was also fun to learn from a true expert.

Here is what she taught me.

How to cut up a Mango

Hold the mango flat in your hand. The pit will be sitting flat through the middle of the mango. Insert the knife at the top (or bottom) of the mango, and cut all away around the middle. Cut deep enough so that you can feel the blade of the knife hitting against the pit of the mango all the way around. The mango will not fall in half because the pit will hold the mango together.

How to cut up a Mango

Use the incision line that goes all around as your guide, and cut all of the skin off of one half of the mango.  Leave the skin on the other half intact for now. How to cut up a Mango

Hold the mango flat in your hand again. Cut all the way down to the pit lengthwise about 1 cm apart all the way across the mango.

How to cut up a Mango

You will end up with a series of cuts all the way across the mango. How to cut up a Mango

Next, turn the mango and make the same incisions across the width of the mango. Make sure you are cutting all the way down to the pit as you go on every cut. You might need to rock the knife from tip to heel across the pit if you have a mango with a rounded pit.

How to cut up a Mango

You will end up with a whole series of squares. How to cut up a Mango

Next, insert your blade at the top of the mango and follow your way slowly along the pit to cut all the mango off. The Thai Honey Mango has a very flat pit, and so it is very easy to do this. However, some mangoes have rounder shaped pits, so you might need to work from the sides towards the middle, rather than in the length like we are able to do with this flat pitted mango. How to cut up a Mango

Turn the mango over and repeat the same process on the other side. The other side is a little bit messier because you are now holding the pit in your hand instead of the skin of the mango.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato

The sweet potato is an edible tuberous root that is long and tapered, with a smooth skin whose color ranges between yellow, orange, red, brown, purple, and beige. It is only distantly related to the potato and does not belong to the nightshade family. Its flesh ranges from beige through white, red, pink, violet, yellow, orange, and purple. Sweet potato varieties with white or pale yellow flesh are less sweet and moist than those with red, pink or orange flesh.

The origin and domestication of sweet potato is thought to be in either Central America or South America. In Central America, sweet potatoes were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago. In South America, Peruvian sweet potato remnants dating as far back as 8000 BC have been found.

In New Zealand the sweet potato is known by the Maori name of Kumara, while in parts of North America it is referred to as “yams” although sweet potatoes are botanically quite distinct from yams.

Okra, Ladies Finger


Okra is known in many English-speaking countries as ladies’ fingers, bhindi, bamia, ochro or gumbo. 

The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins all being possible.

Okra has a tendency to become slimy when cooked. Some people like it this way, while others prefer to minimize this. Brief cooking such as stir-frying can help to keep them less slimy, as can cooking with acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar. Alternatively the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time until the slime dissolves. 



Za’atar is the generic name for the herbs oregano, thyme, and marjoram. As a spice mix it is usually based on these dried herbs, combined with sesame seeds, salt, and sometimes sumac and other spices. Used widely in Arab cuisine, both the herb and spice mixture are popular throughout the Middle East.

You can often find this in your supermarket (try the Asian food section), or by looking for a Middle Eastern supermarket in your city.

If you are not able to find it, then you can mix it up yourself. There is no definitive recipe for Za’atar as it is a blend of spices that varies from store to store in its native Lebanon, but this is a basic recipe you can use and vary from.

If you are unable to find it, you can also make it using our za’atar recipe



Asafoetida is the dried resin extracted from a particular species of herb. The species is native to the deserts of Iran, mountains of Afghanistan, and is mainly cultivated in  India. Asafoetida is a very smelly spice, but in cooked dishes it delivers a flavor similar to leeks.

Asafoetida is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and in pickle. It typically works as a flavor enhancer and, used along with turmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine. When making a lentil curry (dal) and many other vegetable dishes, the flavour is often enhanced with a tempering (quick fry) of asafoetida together with other spices.

It is especially widely used in South Indian and Maharashtrian (Mumbai) cuisine, which is mainly vegetarian. It is often used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty and spicy components in food.

Thai Curry Paste

Thai Curry Paste

Thai curry pastes are used as the basis for Thai curries. They can be made at home fresh (which we also do), but there are also some very good pre-made curry pastes available that can save you the time of preparing them from scratch.

Common ingredients used in many Thai curry pastes are:

  • Shrimp paste
  • Chillies, depending on the curry these can be dried or fresh, red or green.
  • Onions or shallots
  • Garlic
  • Lemongrass
  • Galangal
  • Coriander (cilantro) root

We keep Green, Yellow and Panang curry pastes in our store cupboard, which with the addition of coconut milk, onion, garlic, and vegetables can be turned into an easy dinner when we are running late.

Be careful to read the label, as not all curry pastes are created equal. The ones that we buy were recommended by a foodie friend of ours from Thailand, and contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives. We go to an Asian foodstore (Thai supermarket) to buy them as they are not available in our supermarket.



Galangal is a member of the ginger family. There are two types of it – the more common one in the west which originates from Indonesia and tastes like a combination of ginger and pine. This galangal is commonly used in Indonesian cooking. A second species originates from China and tastes like a combination of ginger and pepper. The Chinese galangal is more commonly used in Thai cooking.

While Galangal is a member of the ginger family, they do not taste the same, however they way they are cooked with is similar. To use galangal, you first need to remove the tough outer layer, and then either crush it or chop it into strips.

For most recipes, if you are unable to find galangal, you can substitute it for ginger, or alternatively you can buy dried galangal, which is sometimes sold as “Laos galangal.” 1 tsp of dried galangal is roughly equivalent to 1.5cm of fresh galangal.


Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is made by crushing apples and squeezing out the liquid. Bacteria and Yeast are added to the liquid to start the alcoholic fermentation process, and the sugars are turned into alcohol. In a second fermentation process, the alcohol is converted into vinegar by acetic acid-forming bacteria.

Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (like Bragg’s) also contains “mother,” strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky, cobweb-like appearance.

Organic Apple Cider is thought to be antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.

It can be used in salad dressings, marinades, vinaigrettes, preserving foods , and chutneys, amongst other things.

Air Fryer

Air Fryer

We bought our Air Fryer around 2 years ago, and have spent a lot of time experimenting with it and using it for cooking a range of vegetables.

It basically uses a heating element and a fan to cook food faster than a convection oven, and with less fat than if you were deep frying.

To cook sweet potato fries we add just 1 tsp of coconut oil to around 500g of cut up sweet potatoes and cook it at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes.

It is also great for baked eggplant (aubergine), courgette, and can even be used for baking – I have also cooked chocolate muffins in it.

You can also use an oven to bake any of the recipes that we cook in the Air Fryer, but you should approximately double the cooking time.

The Philips AirFryer is available on Amazon, and many good electronics and cooking stores.



PapayaThe papaya (also known as papaw, or pawpaw) is native to the tropics of the Americas, perhaps from southern Mexico and neighbouring Central America. However, it is now grown in most tropical countries and can be found used in many cuisines.

The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds, but can also be used in curries. The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads, and stews. Green papaya is used in Southeast Asian cooking, both raw and cooked. 

The fruit is rich in papain, and can be used for tenderizing meat and other proteins. The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper.