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Skinning Peppers and Tomatoes

Guide:

Skinning Peppers and Tomatoes

A quick and easy method for skinning and peeling peppers and tomatoes. There simply is no better way!

Peppers

Two important things to remember about peppers: The skin is tough no matter how long the pepper is cooked for. Secondly, and more important, is that the skin has a bitter flavour that can permeate a dish when peppers are cooked with their skins on.

– Cut the peppers in half and remove the stalk, seeds and white membrane.
– Place the peppers under a hot grill, skin side up, turning as the skin blackens.
– Seal in a plastic bag or wrap in clingfilm and leave the peppers to cool.
– Remove the peppers from the bag. The skin should now peel away easily and leave you with the pepper flesh.

Tomatoes:

Peeling tomatoes is an arduous task whether you blanch the tomatoes or employ a serrated peeler. Some would argue there is rarely a need for peeling tomatoes (the peel is quite edible after all), but some specific instances call for peeling tomatoes to make a better end product.

– Fill a sauce pan with water and bring to the boil –– big enough that you can fit all of your tomatoes in it.
-With a very sharp knife make a cross on the top and the bottom of the tomato. Only scoring it very lightly trying not to go actually into the tomato and only through the skin.
– Once your water comes to the boil, gently place the tomatoes into it and leave them for 5 minutes or until you start to see the skins coming away from the tomatoes.
– When you take them out of the water the skins will slide off.

It is not always necessary but here are 4 good reasons to skin a tomato:

1. Size Matters

Here’s the obvious one: tiny tomatoes don’t need to be peeled. Large heirloom varieties, with their tender skin, don’t need peeling either. Hearty beefsteaks and those varieties bred for canning (such as plum or roma) have a pretty thick skin that wouldn’t be welcomed in smooth sauces or soups.

2. Silky-Smooth Soups and Sauces

Nobody minds a little tomato skin in their salad or on toast, but tomato skin in a luscious late-summer gazpacho would interrupt that moment of seasonal zen. Besides, peeled tomatoes blend faster, which means faster-cooking sauces and sipping soups.

3. Tomato Paste

Preserving tomatoes sometimes requires peeling. Paste is a great example; unless you own a food mill (which will remove the peel as it purées) peeling before making paste is recommended. The peel would keep the paste from being the smooth, luscious product we know and love.

4. Canning

Long-term storage of tomatoes requires peeling. Think about it: Have you ever bought canned tomatoes with any sort of peel in them? The reason is simple: Most canned tomatoes are turned into sauce, so canners want to remove the tough skins of the tomatoes before canning.

Cooking Perfect Quinoa

Guide:

Cooking Perfect Quinoa

When cooked correctly quinoa be be really tasty and fluffy, a grain with a little bit of texture and bite to it, which can really add to certain dishes.

I’m often asked how to cook quinoa and to be honest, cooking quinoa is a tough one to get right. Quinoa is one of those ingredients that people think that they don’t like because they haven’t tried it in the way it is supposed to be. If you’ve tried it and it didn’t cook right, you will be unlikely to make it again, which is a shame but understandable.

Quinoa should not be a soggy wet mess that looks like lumpy porridge –– the only time this is allowed is if you’re eating it as porridge, in which case you can overcook quinoa!

Using the correct amount of water is the most important part as you will not giving it the option to overcook. So you want to make sure that no excess water should be present once cooked.

I get quite specific about quinoa because it’s a little like rice. You know when you can never seem to cook just the right amount? Yes, I’m sure you do. You think you will have just one portion and end up with a kilo on your plate!

Personally, I batch cook my quinoa as this enables me to control the portions. For example, I will cook 500g at a time to eat over the course of 4-5 days for quick, easy meals.

The video will take you through my method and show you exactly how to do cook quinoa. However, below are step-by-step points which can be a quick reference for you:

  • Cook quinoa in double the amount of water. If you are cooking a 500g bag of quinoa then you will use 1 litre of water.
  • Start by placing the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil on a high heat. Add a pinch of salt to your water, if preferred.
  • Once the water has reached a rapid boil, place your quinoa in and gently stir just once to avoid the quinoa clumping.
  • Adding your quinoa will cool the water down slightly, so wait for it to return to the boil and continue on a rapid boil for 4 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to stir in the hot water for a further ten minutes. This will continue the cooking process and allow the quinoa to absorb all of the water without over cooking.
  • If there is any excess water you may need to let it stand a little longer to continue cooking but ten minutes should be fine.
  • Once you have done this, either use the cooked quinoa straight away for a dish or place it onto a tray or large plate and allow to cool at room temperature.
  • Then add a little drizzle of olive oil and salt too, to prevent the quinoa from sticking together, mix this in well before leaving to cool.

Download Recipe PDF

Cooking Perfect Quinoa

Dicing Onions

Guide:

Dicing Onions

I would say that onions are used in at least 40-50% of the savoury recipes you’re going to be making, so learning how to chop one properly is important.

  • Hold the onion steady with your non-knife hand and trim off the ends by about 1cm.
  • Placing the onion on its flat surface on the chopping board then cut your onion into two straight down the middle.
  • Peel both halves of the onion by removing the outside layer.
  • Place both halves of your onion flat on the chopping board
  • Make a series of horizontal slices, holding the top of the onion steady with the tips of your fingers. Slice nearly all the way through, but keep the root end intact so that the layers remain connected to each other.
  • Then make a series of vertical cuts with the same spacing as your horizontal cuts, again keeping the root end intact. To hold the onion, curl back the tips of the fingers on your non-knife hand, keeping your thumb behind them in order to prevent accidentally cutting your fingertips or thumb. Hold the knife blade directly against your knuckles to guide your knife strokes.
  • Finally, dice the onion by making a series of vertical cuts perpendicular to the ones you just made, again using the knuckles of your non-knife hand as a guide for the blade. As you get toward the root end, you can rotate the onion 90 degrees forward so that the most stable side is facing down, and continue slicing to the end.

Deseeding A Pomegranate

Guide:

Deseeding A Pomegranate

Pomegranate seeds are amazing. Before I learnt this simple trick I never used pomegranates but thanks to this I can now remove the seeds quickly and easily in around 30 seconds.

Pomegranate seeds are one of my favourite things and are packed with flavour. They are a superfood food and filled with goodness. I mainly use them as an addition to salads but they can be used as a sweet snack or even as a garnish to cakes.

Other useful tips, which will make it even cleaner and easier when prepping your pomegranates include:

* Roll the fruit between your chopping board and your hand first to loosen the seeds, when you turn them over to remove the seeds they will fall out and need less bashing and create less juice.
* Score around the middle and tear it open into halves instead of slicing straight through the fruit. This will prevent you finding broken seeds and will keep them whole.
* Hold each half over a bowl, seeds facing down and tap the skin with a wooden spoon, squeezing a little to release the seeds.
* Alternatively, score 4 lines from top to bottom and tear the fruit open to quarter the pomegranate, you then either bash out the seeds or remove with your hands into water.
* Submerge the pomegranate in a bowl of water and and pull apart the quarters, releasing the seeds with your hands into the water.
* The pith will float and the seeds will sink. Remove the pith from the top of the water and discard, then drain the seeds from the water and they are ready to use. This is a great way to separate the two.

Health benefits of pomegranates and their juice:

* Pomegranate seeds get their vibrant red hue from polyphenols. These chemicals are powerful antioxidants. Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices and the antioxidants in pomegranate juice can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation.
* The juice of a single pomegranate has more than 40% of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Vitamin C cannot be broken down when pasteurized, so opt for homemade or fresh pomegranate juice to get the most of the nutrients.
* Pomegranate juice can reduce inflammation in the gut and improve digestion.
* Drinking pomegranate juice daily may also help lower systolic blood pressure
* In addition to vitamin C and vitamin E, pomegranate juice is a good source of folate, potassium, and vitamin K.

Taking Care of Your Knives

Guide:

Taking Care of Your Knives

Below are the most important points to note and remember when taking care of your knives.

– A huge part of looking after your knives is keeping them sharp. See more about this and how to sharpen them in the knife sharpening guide.

– When you are chopping and using knifes, make sure that you are only ever using a plastic or a wooden chopping board. Glass or marble, for example will be too hard and will damage your knife and be potentially dangerous should the knife slip.

– Don’t use your knife for anything other than a cutting tool, thats what they are for – for chopping and cutting food. Trying to use a knife as a cleaver for doing heavier jobs is not going to keep them in good condition.

– Steer clear of leaving knives in the sink. Wash them separately and always make sure that they are hand dried afterwards too. Leaving them to soak in a sink full of water will encourage corrosion and rust along their fine edges, stainless steel or not. Same goes with the dishwasher leaving them in the dishwasher can cause the same damage and even fall off the shelves and chip.

– Find a good place to store your knives when your are not using them. It’s important that knives are not kept loosely because they could break, become dull, or chip at their handles and blades. Metal on metal is not good so keeping them either in a box to separate them or in a knife roll is a great idea and will stop them getting damaged. Alternatively, a magnetic strip to keep them on the wall and easily accessible is also great.

– Clean your knives after each use; wash and dry your knives individually while holding the knife so that the top of the blade is pointed away from you. Avoid submerging knives completely underwater and instead use a damp dishcloth to gently wipe the blade down; the dull top side first followed by the sharper edge. For a deeper, slightly more aggressive clean, use a sponge with a scaring pad instead of a dishcloth.

– To prevent hurting yourself while you clean your knife, consider setting the knife on the flat surface of a countertop and wash the knife one side at a time with your sponge or dishcloth. Never leave your knifes in the sink where they are out of sight and could pose a danger to unknowing hands.

– Skip the dishwasher. It might be tempting to wash knives the easier way with whatever dishes you place in your dishwasher, but due to the humidity, excess water, heat, and harsh detergent, rust and decay for your knives can be a consequence of its use. Knives may also chip within packed dishwashers as a result of objects rubbing against its blade. Washing your knives by hand ensures a gentle, targeted clean without risking any damage to them.

Keeping a Sharp Knife

Guide:

Keeping a Sharp Knife

Cutting and working with a blunt knife will not only make your life in the kitchen harder and take longer, but believe it or not keeping a sharp knife is also absolutely necessary for your safety too.

Working with a blunt knife can hugely increase your risk of injury; if your knife is blunt it is more likely to slip from the item that you are cutting and onto your fingers. The sharper your knife the easier it is to control and keep the knife where you want it to be.

Having a sharp knife will also improve the standard and presentation of your food. It’s going to give your cuts nice clean edges and make everything you prepare look great and consistent. Cutting with a blunt knife can make your edges rough and messy.

Never sharpen your knife on a power-driven grinding wheel. This can burn the temper from your blade, which will make the edge brittle and possibly chip or crack.

Two ways to sharpen your knife:

With a stone:

Sharpening stones are probably the best and most effective way to sharpen your knives but they do require a bit more technique and time to practice the technique of sharpening the knife. It is worth taking the time to get a sharper knife and a better result.

* Do not drop your stone
* Always protect the surface of the stone, during storage and during use.
* After every use, use a little extra water and wipe the stone clean and dry.
* Clean often and make sure there is no build up of debris.

With a steel:

A steel is a quicker option to the stone but is more for a quick top to keep your knife sharp on the go while you are working.

My personal favourite is a ceramic diamond steel. I find it’s the easiest way to keep your knife sharp and at keeping the angles nicely.

Controlling the angle:

Controlling the angles when sharpening your knife is the most important part. Your knife will have its own angles when you buy it so it’s really useful to work out what they are so you can see what angle you need to sharpen your knife at. Try and get used to these angles to keep them. Sharpen your knife slowly and steady to get used to the angles.

I like to rest my steel on a surface holding it at arms length to keep it steady and with the other arm slowly sharpening each side. Starting slow will allow you to get used to the motion and become familiar with the angles of your knife.

Knife Skills

Guide:

Knife Skills

Anyone who wants to cook — whether professionally or at home — needs to know how to use a knife. That doesn’t just mean knowing how to cut various vegetables into various shapes, although that’s certainly part of it, but it means many other things too. It will throughly improve the way that you work in the kitchen and can make you far more efficient.

Various Knives & Their Uses

Here is a small selection of my favourites and recommendations:

* Pastry knife: A pastry knife has a long serrated blade that is shaped in a way that it makes it very versatile and an easy to use, all-round knife. The shape of the knife will still allow it to be a great option for chopping, providing a fine chop or slice, yet it is serrated and very long so can also be used for slicing and as a bread knife too. It’s a great shaped knife to rock on your chopping board.

* Slicing knife: A slicing knife is generally a very long and thin straight edged knife. It’s also normally very flexible and bendy. Slicing knifes would be used for things like carving meats, salmon and most commonly, cakes. It’s really important to keep a slicing knife sharp so that it just glides through the food giving us a clean, thin slice. A very handy knife to have.

* Chefs knife: A standard chefs knife has a very distinct shape, being really thick at the heel end closest to the handle and going down the knife, getting thinner and coming to a point at the end. This creates the perfect shape for fast rocking on the board, up and down when chopping. To get really fast takes a good amount of practise but once you get the right technique you will get faster and faster every time. The tall shape of the chefs knife also allows for extra room so the knife can be safely guided with our knuckles up against it.

* Japanese chopping knife: Similar to our standard chefs knife but has more of a rectangular shape with all the corners being 90oc to each other. The shape is great, giving us a tall knife for rocking and chopping. The only slight downside to this shape of knife is that it doesn’t really have much of a tip or point on the end, so when dicing an onion, for example, it takes a bit more getting used to.

* Paring knife: Your very standard smaller prep knife normally with a 2-3inch blade is mostly used for any smaller prep, such as breaking down vegetables. The paring knife would normally be used for chopping but a is a lot safer than using a big chopping knife for a lot of smaller prep jobs. A very handy and a must-have in any kitchen.

Different cuts and chopping skills:

Knowing, practicing and mastering the following 7 basic cuts and chopping will help you become faster, give you great knife skills and make you a better chef.

* Large Dice
* Medium Dice
* Brunoise
* The Baton
* Julienne
* Chiffonade
* Mincing

Holding your Knife:

How to hold a knife and, equally importantly, how to hold the item you’re cutting in a way that prevents you from cutting yourself is crucial. Learning how to hold and use a knife correctly will not only help you work more safely, but will also enable you to work faster, making you much more efficient in the kitchen, your prep faster and of a better quality.

Firstly, you should be holding your knife so that its comfortable for you. This is very important. You should spend some time with this and experiment with it before you jump into too much chopping. Have a really good feel of the knife in your hand, make sure you have a really good firm grip of the knives handle in the palm of your hand. Become familiar with the weight of it, making sure that there are no fingers in the way! The more you do this the more you will get used to your knives and discover what kind of knives you prefer.

When you have got used to your knife, continue to practise to ensure that it is safe and be confident in the way you are going to be working with it.

Why knife skills are so important:

If safety and speed don’t give you enough incentive to improve your knife skills, good knife skills also allow you to cut your food in a uniform fashion. Uniformity is very important for two reasons: pieces of an individual food that are the same size and shape will cook at the same rate, if they are all different sizing then they will not.

Imagine, that you want to make sweet potato fries. If you cut your potatoes into a collection of all different shapes and sizes, the small pieces will cook much more quickly than the large ones, so when the small pieces are done, the large pieces will be just this side of raw. Worse, by the time the larger pieces are done, the small ones will be beyond overcooked and burnt. However, if you cut your potatoes into beautiful, nearly perfect chips, not only will they cook together perfectly, but they’ll look uniform and fantastic, too.

Presentation is the second reason why skills are important. There’s a definite elegance to perfectly cut, perfectly sized vegetables that simply cannot be attained with rough cuts. Restaurant patrons may not understand the principles of even cooking that lie behind uniform cuts, but their subconscious registers that if you aim for perfection with something as seemingly insignificant as your vegetable cuts, then you must take the same care with every aspect of preparation. When you’re cooking at home, presentation may matter less, but making food look beautiful will certainly wow your guests and make your family feel loved and special. We all eat with our eyes and food that looks amazing is just giving it that extra mile of amazing.

Why investing in a good set of knives is really important:

If you are investing money and time in this course to learn about food and get back into the kitchen and fall in love with what is feeding you, then I really do advise that you also invest in the tools that are going to help you with that mission.

Your knife can become your best friend when you are in the kitchen a lot and I believe you need to take the time to look after the tools that you are going to be using. Would you believe that I still have and use the very first knife that I ever had as a chef nearly 12 years ago? I do. Your knives will be what you are most familiar with and as I mentioned earlier, being conferrable and having a good grip on your knives such an important part to your knife skills.

Keeping a Sharp knife

Guide:

Keeping a Sharp Knife

Cutting and working with a blunt knife will not only make your life in the kitchen harder and take longer, but believe it or not keeping a sharp knife is also absolutely necessary for your safety too.

Why is this so important?

Working with a blunt knife can hugely increase your risk of injury; if your knife is blunt it is more likely to slip from the item that you are cutting and onto your fingers. The sharper your knife the easier it is to control and keep the knife where you want it to be.

Having a sharp knife will also improve the standard and presentation of your food. It’s going to give your cuts nice clean edges and make everything you prepare look great and consistent. Cutting with a blunt knife can make your edges rough and messy.

Never sharpen your knife on a power-driven grinding wheel. This can burn the temper from your blade, which will make the edge brittle and possibly chip or crack.

Two ways to sharpen your knife:

With a stone:

Sharpening stones are probably the best and most effective way to sharpen your knives but they do require a bit more technique and time to practice the technique of sharpening the knife. It is worth taking the time to get a sharper knife and a better result.

* Do not drop your stone
* Always protect the surface of the stone, during storage and during use.
* After every use, use a little extra water and wipe the stone clean and dry.
* Clean often and make sure there is no build up of debris.

With a steel:

A steel is a quicker option to the stone but is more for a quick top to keep your knife sharp on the go while you are working.

My personal favourite is a ceramic diamond steel. I find it’s the easiest way to keep your knife sharp and at keeping the angles nicely.

Controlling the angle:

Controlling the angles when sharpening your knife is the most important part. Your knife will have its own angles when you buy it so it’s really useful to work out what they are so you can see what angle you need to sharpen your knife at. Try and get used to these angles to keep them. Sharpen your knife slowly and steady to get used to the angles.

I like to rest my steel on a surface holding it at arms length to keep it steady and with the other arm slowly sharpening each side. Starting slow will allow you to get used to the motion and become familiar with the angles of your knife.

Key Takeaways:

Insert key point

Learning to Use Your Knife

Guide:

Learning to Use Your Knife

Anyone who wants to cook — whether professionally or at home — needs to know how to use a knife. That doesn’t just mean knowing how to cut various vegetables into various shapes, although that’s certainly part of it, but it means many other things too. It will throughly improve the way that you work in the kitchen and can make you far more efficient.

Various Knives & Their Uses

Here is a small selection of my favourites and recommendations:

Pastry knife:

A pastry knife has a long serrated blade that is shaped in a way that it makes it very versatile and an easy to use, all-round knife. The shape of the knife will still allow it to be a great option for chopping, providing a fine chop or slice, yet it is serrated and very long so can also be used for slicing and as a bread knife too. It’s a great shaped knife to rock on your chopping board.

Slicing knife:

A slicing knife is generally a very long and thin straight edged knife. It’s also normally very flexible and bendy. Slicing knifes would be used for things like carving meats, salmon and most commonly, cakes. It’s really important to keep a slicing knife sharp so that it just glides through the food giving us a clean, thin slice. A very handy knife to have.

Chefs knife:

A standard chefs knife has a very distinct shape, being really thick at the heel end closest to the handle and going down the knife, getting thinner and coming to a point at the end. This creates the perfect shape for fast rocking on the board, up and down when chopping. To get really fast takes a good amount of practise but once you get the right technique you will get faster and faster every time. The tall shape of the chefs knife also allows for extra room so the knife can be safely guided with our knuckles up against it.

Japanese chopping knife:

Similar to our standard chefs knife but has more of a rectangular shape with all the corners being 90oc to each other. The shape is great, giving us a tall knife for rocking and chopping. The only slight downside to this shape of knife is that it doesn’t really have much of a tip or point on the end, so when dicing an onion, for example, it takes a bit more getting used to.

Paring knife:

Your very standard smaller prep knife normally with a 2-3inch blade is mostly used for any smaller prep, such as breaking down vegetables. The paring knife would normally be used for chopping but a is a lot safer than using a big chopping knife for a lot of smaller prep jobs. A very handy and a must-have in any kitchen.

Different cuts and chopping skills:

Knowing, practicing and mastering the following 7 basic cuts and chopping will help you become faster, give you great knife skills and make you a better chef.

from left to right, top to bottom on the image

– baton
– chiffonade
– fine dice
– julienne
– large dice
– minced
– medium dice
– rough chop

 

Holding your Knife:

How to hold a knife and, equally importantly, how to hold the item you’re cutting in a way that prevents you from cutting yourself is crucial. Learning how to hold and use a knife correctly will not only help you work more safely, but will also enable you to work faster, making you much more efficient in the kitchen, your prep faster and of a better quality.

Firstly, you should be holding your knife so that its comfortable for you. This is very important. You should spend some time with this and experiment with it before you jump into too much chopping. Have a really good feel of the knife in your hand, make sure you have a really good firm grip of the knives handle in the palm of your hand. Become familiar with the weight of it, making sure that there are no fingers in the way! The more you do this the more you will get used to your knives and discover what kind of knives you prefer.

When you have got used to your knife, continue to practise to ensure that it is safe and be confident in the way you are going to be working with it.

Why knife skills are so important:

If safety and speed don’t give you enough incentive to improve your knife skills, good knife skills also allow you to cut your food in a uniform fashion. Uniformity is very important for two reasons: pieces of an individual food that are the same size and shape will cook at the same rate, if they are all different sizing then they will not.

Imagine, that you want to make sweet potato fries. If you cut your potatoes into a collection of all diferent shapes and sizes, the small pieces will cook much more quickly than the large ones, so when the small pieces are done, the large pieces will be just this side of raw. Worse, by the time the larger pieces are done, the small ones will be beyond overcooked and burnt. However, if you cut your potatoes into beautiful, nearly perfect chips, not only will they cook together perfectly, but they’ll look uniform and fantastic, too.

Presentation is the second reason why skills are important. There’s a definite elegance to perfectly cut, perfectly sized vegetables that simply cannot be attained with rough cuts. Restaurant patrons may not understand the principles of even cooking that lie behind uniform cuts, but their subconscious registers that if you aim for perfection with something as seemingly insignificant as your vegetable cuts, then you must take the same care with every aspect of preparation. When you’re cooking at home, presentation may matter less, but making food look beautiful will certainly wow your guests and make your family feel loved and special. We all eat with our eyes and food that looks amazing is just giving it that extra mile of amazing.

Why investing in a good set of knives is really important:

If you are investing money and time in this course to learn about food and get back into the kitchen and fall in love with what is feeding you, then I really do advise that you also invest in the tools that are going to help you with that mission.

Your knife can become your best friend when you are in the kitchen a lot and I believe you need to take the time to look after the tools that you are going to be using. Would you believe that I still have and use the very first knife that I ever had as a chef nearly 12 years ago? I do. Your knives will be what you are most familiar with and as I mentioned earlier, being conferrable and having a good grip on your knives such an important part to your knife skills.

Key Takeaways:

Insert key point