The Best Implement for Shaved or Shredded Veg Salads?

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…

“Hi Jules,

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?

Thanks,
Ciska”

Brilliant question!

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)…

shaved veg salads-4

Mandoline

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.

best for
Regular shaped veg or veg that can be sliced in half to reveal a flat surface. Think potatoes, fennel, beets, zucchini, mushrooms.

not-so-great for
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.

examples
shaved fennel salad
shaved beet, pear & marinated feta salad
shaved cabbage salad with parmesan
shaved zucchini salad with sardines

shaved veg salads-3

Vegetable Peeler

best for
Making vegetable ‘noodles’ or ribbons. I use mine for zucchini, carrots and celeriac (celery root) ‘noodles’.

not-so-great for
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.

hot tip
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.

examples
carrot ribbon salad with pesto & cashews
cucumber salad
celeriac noodles

shaved veg salads-2

Food Processor

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.

best for
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.

not-so-great for
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.

hot tip
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.

examples
raw beet salad
carrot salad (replace beets with carrots in the recipe above)
cauliflower ‘rice’

shaved veg salads-5

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.

best for
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.

not-so-great for
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).

hot tip
There’s really only one way to get better with your knife and that’s to practice!

examples
shaved cabbage & yoghurt salad
rolls royce ‘slaw
shaved snow pea & ham salad [recipe below.]

shaved veg salads-8

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.

per person…
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.

VARIATIONS
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.

Have you seen my NEW eBook?

30Dinners 3D Cover2

Then what are you waiting for?

To see if ’30-Dinners in 30-Days’ can help you, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/30dinners

With love,
Jules x

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{ 16 comments }

Sarah, simply cooked February 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I recently got a julienne peeler from a nice department store. I was a great investment for making thin courgette noodles. They come off in long spirals – so beautiful!

Lynne February 12, 2013 at 8:14 pm

The two things I absolutely wouldn’t be without are a good knife, and a good knife sharpener to keep it sharp. I went through a succession of cheap sharpeners which just didn’t cut the mustard (to use a truly awful pun!). Eight months ago I spent a decent amount of money on a good brand one that restored even my old cheap and blunt knives to scalpel edges. Now I feel like a chef as I chop, slice and fillet with ease.

Nat February 12, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Great tips! I’ve almost worn my peeler out making veggie ribbons! Probably time to invest in a good quality one ;)

Gene February 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm

We recently picked up a spiral slicer. I find it an amazing tool that helps a cook create some healthy dishes. Superb for creating ‘ribbons,’ and even creates ‘angel hair’ vegetables that can be used in place of pasta.

Heather H February 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I also have a spirilizer (spiral slicer) and love it, I make courgette noodles with it. I also use my mandoline, food processor and knife. All are great kitchen tools.

Christina from Fussy Guide February 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Hi Jules,
I received a mandoline for Christmas and have eaten most of my vegetables in shredded for since! Essential kitchen gadget for anyone particularly interested in eating for wellness.

Incidentally, I have written my own guide to salad, freshly posted on my blog today – fussyguide.com.

x.

Danielle February 12, 2013 at 11:32 pm

You’ve missed an important one! I use the shaver in my food processor for one thing: shredding cabbage! It works like a dream. Just cut the cabbage into chunks small enough for the shoot, use the slicer (NOT the grater). You end up with thickly grated cabbage.

jules February 22, 2013 at 8:49 am

Thanks Danielle
I’m actually not a fan of my food processor shredding attachement… I find I get really variable results… and I prefer my veg more finely shredded.

Amanda February 13, 2013 at 8:09 am

Very nice post, thanks. I love a kitchen gadget and I actually own a mandolin, but am horribly afraid of it’s wickedly sharp blades. I love my Microplanes, but bear the scars of carelessness, and basically I find I use my knives more than anything.

jules February 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

Amanda!
You need a mandolin with a safetly attachment… takes all the fear out of it :)

Michele Hays February 14, 2013 at 2:58 am

Protip: shredded snow peas, just like you made them here, are an excellent substitute for bean sprouts whether cooked or raw. Whole snow peas keep better in the fridge and have fewer food safety issues than sprouts.

jules February 22, 2013 at 7:08 am

Love it Michele!

Katie February 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Hi Jules, you mention light potato rostis. Any chance you could share your recipe please? I adore them but have never made them at home and would love to try it.

jules February 22, 2013 at 7:04 am

Katie!
I’m glad you asked… I have a brilliant recipe… will add it to my list of future blog posts

Ashley Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine) February 15, 2013 at 4:14 am

Bookmarking this because it is a great resource, thanks!

Connie @ Real Food Family Meals February 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Hi, this is my first time visiting your blog – I love the clean look of it! These tips on kitchen tools are great. I recently bought an awesome vegetable peeler at our Minnesota State Fair from one of those cheesy demos. My husband and I watched, mesmerized, and couldn’t resist buying in. We have been really impressed with it though!

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