Cookery terms

I love watching cookery programs, which are very popular in the UK. I particularly enjoy listening to the colourful language used by TV chefs and the way it is peppered with French words and expressions. I’ve picked three that I heard over the weekend and that I liked.
The narrator said that a bain-marie was "a fancy word for a pan full of water". Which is exactly right. You then put a container with the food, which is heated gently and gradually. Who was Marie?
The device’s invention is popularly attributed to Mary the Jewess, an ancient alchemist traditionally supposed to have been Miriam, a sister of Moses and who invented or improved this technique with a vase called κηροτακίς. The name comes from the medieval-Latin term balneum Mariae — literally, Mary’s bath — from which the French bain de Marie, or bain-marie, is derived.
A cartouche is a circle of paper that is put on top of a sauce to stop a skin forming.
Borrowed from Italian cartoccio (carta "paper" and diminutive –occio) or "paper cornet")
A ballotine is a piece of meat that has been boned, stuffed and then rolled and tied into a bundle before being cooked.
Derived from ballot(t)e, a cookery term coming from ballot, derived from balle, "box of merchandise"
As I was looking for a good cookery glossary and failed, I came across this video, which shows us how things can go horribly wrong when American ladies don’t understand cooking terms like "stir" and "boil". Priceless.

I probably won’t be blogging till the new year now, but I’ll see you in January. Have a good break everyone!

By | 2016-10-18T15:49:20+00:00 December 23rd, 2008|Words|9 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Anouk December 23, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    If you understand “l’accent québécois” I suggest this 3 min video by “les recycleurs”. Very funny!
    Enjoy 🙂
    (click on the green arrow to start movie)

  2. andydog December 30, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Don’t forget ‘ramequin’ (or little round bowl)

  3. Mara January 3, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Thanks Celine, it’s great!!!
    By the way did you find the glossary?

  4. céline January 3, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    No, but I’d love to. I might look for one in a good old-fashioned shop. You know, the ones that are too hot and full of people.

  5. Mara January 5, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Yes, nice places, too 🙂
    May I ask what kind of glossary are you looking for? (In english or french, about cooking in general or on an “ethnic” (read any) cuisine).
    I might have/suggest a book or help with a specific term 🙂

  6. céline January 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Ideally, an English or French glossary of general cookery terms. Any ideas?

  7. Mara January 6, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Hello Celine,
    On paper, glossaries are usually “technical” (like Glossary for the Food Industries). A general cookery glossary make me think of a very good cookbook 🙂
    But check also: The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford Companions, 2006.)

  8. Lakshmi January 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Hello Céline,
    I really enjoy your blog: it’s one of my favourite stops in cyberspace.
    Here’s a link to a fairly exhaustive French/English food glossary by cookbook writer and restaurant critic Patricia Wells.

  9. céline January 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Mara and Lakshmi, thanks a lot.

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