Tag Archives: glossary



Ghee is a type of clarified butter that originated in ancient India and is commonly used in Kurdish, Afghani, Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Sri Lankan cuisine, traditional medicine and religious rituals.

Ghee is prepared by simmering butter and removing the residue. The texture, color, and taste of ghee depend on the quality of the butter and the duration of the boiling.

Ghee is made from butter but the milk solids and impurities have been removed so most people who are lactose or casein intolerant have no issue with ghee.

Ghee can be used for frying because its smoke point is 250 °C, which is higher than typical cooking temperatures.

We use Ghee sparingly when cooking Indian food, and for some dishes where pan frying is required. Ghee gives a delicious buttery, nutty taste, but could be substituted with Coconut Oil if you prefer.


Sea Salt

Sea Salt

Sea salt is salt produced from the evaporation of seawater. It is also called bay salt or solar salt. Like mineral salt, production of sea salt has been dated to prehistoric times.

According to The Mayo Clinic and Australian Professor Bruce Neal, the health consequences of ingesting sea salt or regular table salt are the same, as the content of sea salt is still mainly sodium chloride.

In comparison, table salt is more heavily processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping.

Some gourmets believe sea salt tastes better and has a better texture than ordinary table salt. This is because sea salt is generally of a coarser texture, so it can provide a different mouth feel, and may change flavor due to dissolving slower than table salt.

The mineral content of sea salt also affects the taste. The colors and variety of flavors are due to local clays and algae found in the waters the salt is harvested from. For example, some boutique salts from Korea and France are pinkish gray, some from India are black.

There are however other salts that are also coloured, such as pink “Himalayan salt”, Maras salt from the ancient Inca hot springs, or rock salt.




Chili Pepper


The chili pepper (also chile pepper or chilli pepper) is part of the capsicum family. Chillies come in a lot of different varieties and colours (from green through to yellow, orange and red) and are one of the most popular spices in the world.

Originally from South America, they are thought to have spread through Asia and the rest of the world with the Portugese traders in the 16th century.

Chillies can be used fresh, dried or powdered, and the level of heat varies from type to type, from sweet and mellow to blisteringly hot. As a general rule, the smaller the chilli, the hotter the taste. Green chillies are also generally sweeter than red ones.

The substance that generates the heat is called capsaicin, which is found mainly in the pith and, to a lesser extent, the seeds.

Chilis are also a member of the nightshade family, so people with nightshade sensitivities should be cautious with Chilis.



Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. They are believed to have originated around Iraq, and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 4000 BCE. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia in 6000 BCE. Dates are an important traditional crop in Iraq, Arabia, and north Africa west to Morocco. Dates are also mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible and 20 times in the Qur’an. 

Dry or soft dates are eaten out-of-hand, or may be pitted and stuffed with fillings such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, or tahini. Dates can also be chopped and used in a range of sweet and savory dishes, from tajines (tagines) in Morocco, to puddings, and other dessert items. We use them as a sweetener in our breakfast muffins.

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is an intensely sweet flavour that is often used for topping pancakes, waffles, and french toast. It can also be used as a sugar substitute in baking, or used over nuts or fruits that are being dried to increase their sweetness.

Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring.

A hole is bored into the trunks of the trees, and the sap is collected. The sap is boiled to evaporate out the water, leaving a more concentrated syrup. Most of the maple syrup produced in the world comes from the Canadian province of Quebec.

Beware of immitations: In the US, maple syrups must include only maple syrup, with only trace ingredients of for example salt allowed. “Maple-flavoured” syrups on the other hand include maple syrup but may contain additional ingredients. “Pancake syrup”, “waffle syrup”, “table syrup”, and similarly named syrups are substitutes which are less expensive than maple syrup, but their primary ingredient is most often high fructose corn syrup flavoured; they have no genuine maple content.



Passionfruit is a vine species that is native to Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. Its common names include passion fruit, passionfruit, and purple granadilla.

It is grown in tropical and subtropical areas for its sweet, seedy fruit and is widely grown in several countries of South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Southern Asia, Israel, Australia, Hawaii and United States.

The passion fruit is round to oval, either yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. It has a very strong tropical flavour, and is delicious in drinks, sauces, fruit salads, and used as a flavouring or topping for cakes.

You eat both the seeds and the yellow seed sacks. The skin will turn wrinkly when it is ripe, so don’t think that it has gone off if you see this happening.



Vanilla bean

Vanilla comes from a variety of orchid that is native to Mexico. Initial attempts to grow it outside Mexico failed and it wasn’t until 1841 that a method of pollination was discovered (by hand) which didn’t rely on the native Mexican bees. This resulted in the spread of vanilla to many other tropical lands – including Indonesia who is now one of the biggest producers.

The labour intensive nature of pollination has ensured that vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron.

There are four main commercial preparations of natural vanilla:

  • whole pod
  • powder (ground pods, kept pure or blended with sugar, starch, or other ingredients)
  • extract (in alcoholic or occasionally glycerol solution; both pure and imitation forms of vanilla contain at least 35% alcohol)
  • vanilla sugar, a pre-packaged mix of sugar and vanilla extract

We only buy the whole pods to avoid the likelihood of sugar and alcohol having been added commercially.

Vanilla can be added to a dish either by adding the whole pod to the liquid  in a dish that is being heated (a stronger flavour will be imparted if you cut open the vanilla bean before adding it), or by cutting open the pod and scraping out the seeds. Adding the seeds is commonly used in baking.


Pea aubergine

Pea aubergine

Pea aubergines have a fairly tough skin, and burst satisfyingly in the mouth. They are are usually added to curries, especially Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Kiaw Wan), but can also be found in Jamaican and Lao cuisine. They cook quickly, and are usually added to curry for about 5 minutes to soften slightly.

In Tamil Nadu, India, the fruit is consumed directly, or as cooked food in dishes such as Sundaikkai Sambar, Sundaikkai Poriyal, Sundaikkai Aviyal & Sundaikkai Pulikulambu.  In Siddha medicine, one of the traditional systems of India, Sundaivattral Choornam is used to improve digestion.

They are also known as Devil’s Fig, Prickly Nightshade, Shoo-shoo Bush, Wild Eggplant, Pea Eggplant, Pea Aubergine, and Susumber.

You may find them in Asian foodstores in your country, otherwise substitute with the aubergine that is locally available where you are.

Aubergines are a nightshade vegetable, and should not be eaten by anyone who has a sensitivity to nightshade vegetables.

Apple Aubergine

Apple Aubergine

Green or Apple Aubergines (eggplant) are about the size of a plum. They are green and white, and are usually quartered and added to curries, especially Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Kiaw Wan). They discolour quickly, so are chopped and added immediately to the curry, and cook in 5-10 minutes when they have softened slightly.

They can be replaced with locally available aubergines if you are not able to find them at your local asian food store.

Aubergines are a nightshade, so should be avoided if you have a nightshade sensitivity.



Tahini Paste

Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are soaked in water and then crushed to separate the bran from the kernels. The crushed seeds are soaked in salt water, causing the bran to sink. The floating kernels are skimmed off the surface, toasted, and ground to produce an oily paste.

Because of tahini’s high oil content, many manufacturers recommend refrigeration to prevent spoilage. This is particularly true among makers of raw, organic tahini, who will often prepare their tahini at low temperatures and ship and store it in refrigerated cases to maximize quality and shelf life.

Used in middle eastern cooking, it has a peanut buttery flavour. You will find it used in hummus and other Middle Eastern dips.