O level Notes : Food Technology Design - Preparation, Cooking And Presentation Of Different Food And Beverages - Food Appearance

Important aspects of appearance are colour, texture and surface. You might judge the appearance of food to see if it looks fresh, healthy or appetising.


Important aspects of appearance are colour, texture and surface. You might judge the appearance of food to see if it looks fresh, healthy or appetising.

Colour of food

The colour influences the appearance of all dishes. A meal should contain a wide variety of natural colours to make it attractive and interesting. Bright colours of fruits and vegetables are one of the most attractive features of a meal. Food coloured an unusual way (e.g. orangeade or coloured blue) will affect the enjoyment of it, even if the taste is the same. Liquid food colourings are also useful but must be used in moderation to improve a natural colour rather than hide or distort it.

Vegetables and salads add attractive colours to meals. Their colour must be well preserved without spoiling the vitamin content. Once fruit and vegetables have been picked, their colour starts to deteriorate, particularly if they are cut or bruised because of release of enzymes. The enzymes in the presents of oxygen in the air causes colour changes for example bananas avocado, apples and potatoes will go brown if left unattended. Sprinkle or cover food with lemon juice or soak in cold water to prevent discolouration.

The fresh original colour of green vegetables darkens to a dull olive-green colour or even brownish green colour if they are cooked for a long time. This is brought about by the action of heat and acids present in the food. Opening the saucepan during cooking helps acids to escape with the steam and so the colour change is less. Addition of baking soda to the cooking water particularly neutralizes the acids and produce vegetables of a bright green colour. However, baking soda destroys vitamin C in vegetables. Its use is not recommended.

Texture and consistency

Texture is described as the feel, appearance or consistency of food that is sensed by touch with hands and in the mouth. Food texture can be described as being soft, hard, mushy, crunchy, lumpy, crispy, fine or delicate or coarse; smooth or uneven; heavy or light; flaky, crispy, tough or soggy. The feel of food in the mouth is an important part of our appreciation of it. Textures in a meal should be varied to avoid monotony.

Texture is determined by:

  • The proportion of the various ingredients.
  • The method of mixing, and whether it is done correctly.
  • The quality of the ingredients used.
  • The method of cooking, especially, whether the cooking was at the correct temperature for the correct period. Take note of the fact that dry methods of cooking generally give food a crisp texture and moist methods give food a moist soft texture, for example boiled rice. Hence the need to vary methods of cooking.

The quality of the crumb that is formed, when baked products are broken, touched or pressed together, when assessing texture, it can be described as snappy, coarse open texture, short, crisp, soft and so on.

The quality and consistency of fillings, sauces, stews, doughs, batters, decorations and garnishes are important. The consistency of a mixture can be described by use of the following terms; creamy, watery, thick, coating, glazing, binding, stiff, soft dropping. Consistency should not be lumpy, crumbly or dry.


Evaluation of taste is very important in food preparation. Cooked or prepared food should be tasted to make sure that it is up to standard. The taste of food is detected by the taste buds on the tongue. The tongue can detect the following distinct taste; saltiness, sourness, bitterness, or sweetness.


Salt is added to some food for the following reasons;

  • to bring up natural flavours in food
  • It is a source of sodium, iodine and chlorine in the diet.
  • It strengthens gluten in flour mixture.
  • It acts as a preservative for many foods.

Certain foods such as processed bacon, sausages contain salt and there is no need to add salt when cooking them.

Some foods have just one taste e.g. sugar. Foods such as a lemon have more than one taste, namely sweet and bitter at the same time. Remember that some foods taste better when sugar and salt are added for example porridge.


Sourness may be an indication that food has gone bad due to the production of acid in the food for instance fresh milk that has gone sour. Although souring of milk is usually regarded as being undesirable, it is made use of in the processing of yoghurt, butter and cheese.

Sourness may be imparted to dishes deliberately to give variety in taste, for example traditional Mahewu is left to stand overnight get the sour taste before it is ready to be drunk. Lemon maybe added to a dish such as porridge to achieve sourness in the porridge.

Oranges and lemons are sour due to the presence of citric acid. Citric acid may be used as a flavouring agent. It is the basis of lemon drinks and is available in powder form. Lemons and oranges supply both juice and the outer rind “zest”. The juice of these citrus fruits is an important source of vitamin C and when used should not be overheated as much as possible to conserve the nutrients. Acids such as vinegar are also used to preserve food, flavour fish and in salads as well as in marinades.

Flavouring and seasoning

The term seasoning is only used for savoury food while flavouring may be used for both sweet and savoury food. The flavour of food is very important to its enjoyment hence flavouring requires great skill on the part of the chef. Correct preparation of food will influence the flavour and colour.

Flavour should be subtle, not overpowering as this can spoil the enjoyment of the meal. Particularly strong flavours such as garlic, curries, spices and herbs should be used sparingly as guests may find them too strong.  Salt is another common ingredient that may be added to food to bring up flavour and it needs a certain amount of restraint and caution on the cook's part as too much will spoil the food and too little will not enhance the flavour. Therefore, it is important to taste and adjust flavour of food before serving it.

The smell or aroma

Aroma or smell of food is due to substances that vaporise, they turn into gas when exposed to air. Such substances are said to be volatile thus, they readily vaporize at a relatively low temperature. When ground coffee is heated or when coffee is made a splendid aroma is produced. Great care must be taken by heating the coffee gently and for the shortest possible time so that loss of flavour is kept to a minimum.

Tea and coffee is infused for 3-4 minutes in hot water because heat unlocks flavour by melting the oils present in tea and coffee releasing the flavour into water.

Flavouring essences and wines are volatile substances that are used to enhance the smell and aroma of food to which they are added and will help to give variety in the diet. Use carefully to prevent the flavour from being lost hence, they should be added towards the end of the main cooking.

Flavours can be combined to give contrast to the meal. Mixing different food flavours, for example, adding vegetables to meat in casseroles and stews or mixing fruit or

vegetables in salad. Flavours may be developed by frying certain foods such as onion and meat. Herbs and spices are also used for flavouring food. We shall discuss the culinary herbs and spices below.

Culinary herbs

Herbs are green plants containing pungent and fragrant essential oils. They include roots, stem, flowers and seeds. They are green plants that can be used fresh or dried. Herbs supply flavour and when fresh also a little vitamin C. They owe their aromas and flavours to volatile oils.

Take note of the following points when using herbs:

Fresh herbs

  • Chop fresh herbs to release the volatile oils to get the best of the aroma and flavour.
  • They can be used for both garnishing and flavouring.
  • Store in polythene bags in the refrigerator vegetable drawer for one week or freeze for long term storage.


Dried herbs

  • Useful flavourings but not suitable for garnishing.
  • Store dried herbs in screw top bottles away from light.
  • Dried herbs have a concentrated flavour due to moisture lost during drying. Use only one third of the amount specified for fresh herbs.

Herb butters

  • Well known herb butters include garlic butter; used in garlic bread and parsley butter; served as a garnish for steaks.
  • The crushed garlic or chopped green herb is simply mixed with butter.
  • In the interest of a healthy diet the herb butters can be using low-fat spreads.

Herb vinegars

  • Herb vinegar is made quarter filling a vinegar bottle with clean dried herb leaves and filling the bottle with hot vinegar. The bottle is then cocked and kept for approximately one month. The vinegar is then poured in another container (decanted) and may be used at once or stored.

Herb mixtures

  • A mixture of dried or fresh herbs can be bought as bouquets garni, usually in little bags, some of which look like tea bags.
  • To make one take a small piece of muslin cloth and a string, put the herb mixture on the cloth (for example one bay leaf, sprig of parsley, sprig of thyme). Draw the edges of the muslin and secure with a string making a small bag with herbs inside.
  • The bouquet garni is removed before serving.

Some of the commonly used herbs are listed below for your reference.


A bulb related to onion. The sections of the bulb when divided are known as cloves. The flavour and smell are both strong penetrating and lingering.

A shrub-like perennial grey-green, oval slightly hairy leave over a mauve flower.

Soup and savoury stews, curries, pate, pizzas, salad dressings, marinating meat and poultry, flavouring salads by rubbing the bowl. Very little garlic is needed to yield a strong flavour.

Used in stuffing for pork, goose and duck. Gas a strong flavour which over powers  other  flowers.


Perennial herb or undershrub with sweet pine and citrus flavours.

Add the leaves tovegetables , tomato based dishes, stuffing, forcemeats, sausages, preserved meats, game poultry and pulses.


Two kinds of black and lemon thyme. Both have small shiny leaves.

They are perennials.

Used  in  mixed  herbs, in soups, omelettes, salads and force-meats.




A small shrub with small thick narrow leaves of greyish green colour. Has a pretty blue colour.

Must be used sparingly – has a pungent flavour. It is traditionally used with roast mutton and may be added to soup, stew and salads.

The common kinds are sweet and pot marjoram.

In salads, soups and stuffing





There are two kinds namely apple and spearmint. Apple mint with round hairy leaves and mild flavour. Spearmint has pointed leaves and a stronger flavour.

Deep green curly leave it is biennial and can be grown by seeds

A tall perennial with feathery leaves and a mild flavour.

To flavour potatoes and peas. In mint sauces to serve with lamb

As a garnish either whole or chopped, for example sauces, soups and stuffing. The stem has more flavour than the leaf.




Sweet basil


Shrub or tree. Leaves are used.

A short small stemmed plant. Leaves are used.

A dried root of a plant. The root can be used fresh or can be dried and grounded into powder.

Used in savoury and in sweet dishes, meat stew, poultry, soups and milk puddings. It is mixed with other herbs to make bouquet garnish.

It has a strong flavour so small amounts must be used. Used in savoury dishes, especially cheese, mushroom, egg, tomato and most meat dishes. Can also b e   u s e d   i n   s a l a d s .


U s e  i n  c a k e s ,  s w e e t dishes and sweet-making. It has a sweet, hot flavour. Can be used in pickling.


Dried seed of a mustard plant.

One of the most used condiments, used with beef and pork. It is used in cheese and other savoury dishes.


The stalk seeds and the leaves are used

T h e   s t a l k   a n d   t h e seeds are used in many pickle recipes. The leaves are used to marinate fish.


A seed of a freshly fruit of a nutmeg tree.

Used mainly in sweet dishes. Can  be  added  to  potato nd  tomato  dishes.  Should be used sparingly.


It is essential to purchase spices from a retailer with a fast turnover because flavour is lost during storage. Some of the commonly used spices are listed below for your reference.

Spices are mostly dried aromatic parts of plants which include seeds, bark, leaves, flowers or fruits of tropical plants with very strong flavours and scent. They owe their aromas and flavours to volatile oils. Spices can be purchased whole or powdered.








The dried unopened flower buds of a species of myrtle.

Very strong in flavour and can

destroy other flavours. Used in cooked apple dishes, pickling, savoury soups and in medicine.



The dried root of a plant like ginger.it is deep yellow in colour and is hot in flavour as ginger.

Used to colour savoury rice dishes. Is one of the ingredients to many curry powders.






The dried pods of a special orchid

The sweetest of all spices with a

delicate flavour and aroma. Used to flavour custards, ice creams, and many sweet dishes. The pod may be

infused in milk or made into vanilla



Cayenne pepper


Ground dried chillies or capsicums.

It has an extremely hot flavour, must

be used sparingly. It is bright red in colour and is used in tiny amounts to garnish savoury dishes. It brings out the flavour of other ingredients e.g. cheese and fish.

Pepper- black peppercorns,

white peppercorns, ground black or white pepper

The dried berry of a special shrub. The whole berries with the skin or skin removed. The peppercorns are mild with or without the skin.

Used in soups that are strained. White

has a mild flavour than black and is one of the most generally used seasonings and condiments.





Also known as pimento and

Jamaica pepper. It is a dried berry of a shrub called allspice. The aroma resembles that of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Used whole or ground to flavour

sauces, soups, pickles, chutneys, milk puddings and meat dishes such as potted beef. Should never be mixed with mixed spice.






The aromatic bark of a type

of laurel tree. It is available as bark, a stick or ground into powder.

Cinnamon combines well with apple, rice, fish, and chicken and ham dishes and with egg and milk dishes such as custards. Ground cinnamon is combined with dried fruit in a fruit cake mixture.




Chilli fruit when ripened becomes red chilli which is further grounded to form red chilli powder. These are categorised as hot pepper.


They can be chopped and added to salad mixture, e.g. salsas, or when ground they combine well with meat.




This is the seed of a feathery

European plant

The seeds smell strongly of camphor.

They give rice, curry and some sweet dishes a scented odour. The pods are removed after cooking.