Back in December I got a lovely email from a Stonesoup reader, Ciska. Like me, Ciska is a big fan of shaved or shredded vegetable salads and had an excellent question…
I have been looking for some info for a while and am hoping you might be able to help. I love all the shredded salads we’re getting a lot of in restaurants these days – but my hand-shredding skills are terrible (and really really slow)! What would you say is the best implement for finely shredding vegetables? A mandolin? Food processor? Something else?
At the risk of sounding like a ‘hedger’ here, I find there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. I use different implements depending on the type of vegetable and my desired outcome.
So here are my 4 favourites (in no particular order, just in case you think I’m playing favourites)…
I’ve had my mandoline for over 8 years. I think it cost around $30 and has been an excellent kitchen investment. Although I have been thinking about replacing it because the blade isn’t as sharp as it used to be.
Regular shaped veg or veg that can be sliced in half to reveal a flat surface. Think potatoes, fennel, beets, zucchini, mushrooms.
Super hard veg like sweet potato. Or irregular shapes like snow peas or carrots, parsnips (thick at one end and thin at the other).
hot tip 1
ALWAYS use the safety attachment for holding whatever you’re slicing. I once lost a large chunk of my thumb ‘living dangerously’ and slicing potatoes for gratin dauphinois without the safety. Easily the most painful (and messy) kitchen accident I’ve ever had.
hot tip 2
The harder you press down, the thicker your slices. So a light touch is required for spider-web thin slices. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, it took me years to figure this out.
Making vegetable ‘noodles’ or ribbons. I use mine for zucchini, carrots and celeriac (celery root) ‘noodles’.
Large jobs. Tends to be quite time consuming and tough on the wrists. Also not so good for anything wider than the width of your peeler blade.
It’s worthwhile investing in quality. A cheap peeler from the supermarket won’t be anywhere near as good as a ‘fancier’ version from a kitchenware shop. Cheap peelers tend to go blunt in record time too.
They’re expensive and they create lots of washing up, but I use mine all the time. Although it’s mostly for ‘pureeing’ things like hummus, grating veg for salads or vegetable ‘rice’ comes in close second.
Shredded or ‘grated’ veg salads like carrot, cauliflower or beet. Especially good at ploughing through large amounts of veg in record time. Essential for making light and crisp potato rosti.
Smaller jobs where it doesn’t make sense to have all the extra washing up. I tend to use a box or hand grater instead. I’ve also tried it to grate cabbage and the result was quite strong tasting and nowhere near as lovely as a shaved cabbage salad using my mandoline.
I find the ‘slicer’ attachment pretty useless mostly because it’s difficult to choose the orientation in which the veg gets sliced. They also tend to be thicker than I’d like for shaved salads.
Use veg cut into as large chunks as will fit in your food processor funnel to minimise ‘odds and ends’ that don’t get grated properly and end up in the compost.
Sharp Knife (+ a steady hand)
If you don’t have a good sharp knife, that should be your next kitchen investment. Using your knife to ‘shave’ vegetables can require practice and patience.
When you can’t be bothered to get another utensil dirty or for jobs that aren’t suited to one of our previous tools. Also ideal for irregular shaped veg like our snow peas below.
Large jobs or when you aren’t very confident with your knife. Also problematic on days when a steady hand is nowhere to be found (ie. don’t try this when you have a hangover).
There’s really only one way to get better with your knife and that’s to practice!
Shaved Snow Pea & Ham Salad
Please don’t feel like you need to have amazing knife skills to make this salad. While it is lovely if your snow peas are super finely shredded, it’s also great with more of a chunky snow pea vibe. This is one of those salads you can make ahead and it will stay crunchy even with the dressing tossed in.
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or lemon juice
250g (1/2 lb) snow peas (mange tout)
2 handfuls shredded ham
1. Mix mustard, vinegar or lemon juice and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl. Season but remember the ham will be quite salty.
2. Trim the tops from the snow peas and remove the strings. Slice as finely as you can using a sharp knife and a steady hand but don’t stress too much.
3. Toss the shaved snow peas in the dressing and serve salad topped with the ham.
different veg – shaved cabbage is great although it needs to be super fine. Try green beans or asparagus or zucchini.
vegetarian – replace ham with halved hard boiled eggs.
vegan – skip the ham and serve with a drained can of chickpeas or chunks of avocado instead.
leafier – toss in a handful of mint or parsley leaves or some snow pea sprouts.
Video version of the recipe.
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