I’ve been thinking of writing a blog post on knife skills and techniques for a while now. I had a plan in my mind. There would be a brief explanation in words, but the focus would be on an instructional video, showing how to chop safely and quickly. Too easy.
Then recently I came a cross a video by Jamie Oliver on Twitter where the ex-naked chef was doing a demo, not only exactly as I had planned to do mine, but better and more charismatically. Not to mention with more flattering lighting and better camera work. So I figured it was best not to re-invent the wheel.
But before we get to Jamie, I wanted to share a few of my own knife tips and a brilliant little salad that has been on high rotation in our house: ribbons of carrot dressed in a slightly unusually dairy-free pesto. So fresh. So colourful. So good.
stonesoup knife tips
1. get a good knife sharpening system
I’m planning a separate post on knife maintenance, but I can’t stress how much easier your life will be if you keep your knives sharp. I’m a big fan of the Furi fingers because they’re the most foolproof system I’ve used.
2. go for quality
Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Think of your chefs knife as the little black dress of your kitchen equipment. It’s the one piece of equipment you’re most likely to be using every time you step into the kitchen, so it makes sense to invest in the best you can afford.
3. forget about quantity
Those fancy knife blocks may seem like a great idea when they’re heavily discounted in your favourite kitchenware store, but they’re just going to take up valuable space. All you need is one decent cooks knife and possibly a bread knife, if you happen to develop an addiction to homemade sourdough. That’s it.
4. get a good storage place
After following tip 1, it can be very dangerous to have your super-sharp knife knocking about in your cutlery drawer. Not to mention, not the greatest for your knives. If possible, it’s worthwhile setting up a knife magnet so your knives are always safe and only a short reach away. Next best thing is to invest in cheap plastic blade covers that will protect both you and your sharp blade.
5. use an appropriate cutting surface
A decent chopping board is just as important as a good quality knife. And even though I’m a minimalist, I’d recommend investing in more than one board. I have a wooden all purpose board I use for most general jobs, and then plastic colour coded ones for raw meat, fish, poultry and veg. There’s a lot of controversy around the food safety and hygiene aspects of using plastic v’s wooden boards. I’m happy with my system of relying on the hottest cycle in my dishwasher to keep any nasties at bay.
6. know when your knife isn’t the best tool for the job.
Even the most dexterous chefs know that their trusty knife isn’t necessarily the best tool for the job. Case in point the carrot salad below with wonderful pappadelle-like ribbons of carrot, achieved effortlessly with a good quality vegetable peeler.
how to chop like jamie
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
carrot ribbon salad with pesto dressing & cashews
This is a great prepare ahead salad that will be happy to hang out both in and out of the fridge.
Feel free to use a commercial pesto, if you aren’t in the mood to make your own. But I highly recommend trying the dairy free Sicilian nut pesto below.
6 tablespoons pesto
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large carrots, scrubbed
large handful roasted cashews
1. Combine pesto, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large mixing bowl.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, shave carrots into wide ribbons.
3. Toss carrot ribbons in the dressing. Taste, season & serve with cashews sprinkled over.
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
sicilian nut pesto
make about 1 1/4 cups
I prefer to use the food processor for this. But you could also use the more minimalist food processor-free pesto method I posted about last year.
You can use this pretty much anywhere you’d normally use pesto. Stirred through pasta, on top of soup, as a sandwich spread, eating it straight from the jar – so many options.
Feel free to use different nuts, or even a combination. Almonds and hazelnuts are good as are a few pinenuts,
Will keep in the fridge for a week or so.
1 bunch basil, leaves picked
1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Whizz basil, garlic and cashews in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. Add oil and stir until combined.
3. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon for freshness.