Introduction

Welcome to How to Chop a Carrot!

I was lucky enough to grow up with a mum who, while not a great chef, is a very good cook. She knows how to put together a good meal quickly, and she taught me to cook too.

Cooking is really hard to learn without a teacher! If you look at even a ‘simple’ recipe, each step in the method contains three different things to do, half the ingredients are pre-prepared, and they all seem to think you know what terms like ‘finely diced’ mean. This blog is different.

Each month I want to introduce to you a handful of new cooking techniques, as simple as “How to Chop a Carrot”, and then bring them all together in a yummy dish at the end. I’m going to share with you some of my favourite dishes that I grew up with, and some of my newest inventions. Hopefully there’ll be something for everyone.

Before we get cooking though, I’ve taken the first four posts to cover some kitchen essentials – basic kitchen equipment (here) and a little health and safety (knife, heat, and food safety). Please take the time to read them – it’s not nearly as exciting as yummy food, but it is important.

I’m really looking forward to continuing this kitchen adventure with you all; I hope you love it as much as I do!

(Updated 5/1/2019)

How to Oven-Bake Fish

Fish is a great source of protein and essential oils. It’s also fairly easy to tell when it’s cooked – the flesh goes from being translucent (mostly see-through) to opaque.

Fish is one of my favourite foods, but it can be dry and tough when over-cooked. That’s why I like this technique; it gently steams the fish and gives you a bit of leeway in cooking times. The fancy name for this technique is cooking en papillote, which is just French for in parchment. I usually use foil though.

You will need:

  • aluminium foil
  • a baking tray
  • an oven
  • oven gloves

and the ingredients:

  • 1 fillet of fish per person
  • a little lemon juice
  • a pinch of salt

Start by turning on your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180° (160° fan).

Cut pieces of aluminium foil to size. It needs to be big enough to go around your fillet; I find that a square about half the width of the roll fits most pieces of fish.

hand drawing of a square of aluminium foil

Put your fish in the middle of the foil, and add a little sprinkle of lemon juice and salt.

hand drawing of a piece of salmon sitting in the middle of a square of aluminium foil

Fold the foil up around the edges of the fish, leaving space around the edges and sides, and roughly pinch it together at the top. The aim here is to make a little fish parcel that can fill up with steam, but it needs to let some of the steam escape so that it doesn’t burst.

hand drawing of a piece of salmon sitting inside an aluminium foil parcel

 

 

Place your foil parcel(s) on a baking tray and bake in the oven. Oily fish like salmon will take 20-25 minutes, while white fish like cod take only 10-15 minutes to cook.

 

After the cooking time has passed, open the fish parcel and check that the fish is cooked through. (Be careful – it’s hot!)

 

photograph of a cooked salmon fillet, served with sweet potato wedges and stir-fried vegetables
Sweet potato wedges and a rainbow of vegetables are delicious with fish!

You can try out a lot of different flavours in these little fish parcels, which makes them really versatile! Why not try adding some herbs like parsley or lemongrass, or spice it up with a pinch of chilli. You could also replace the lemon juice with vinegar for a different twist.

Remember to wash up and then reuse or recycle your aluminium foil!

How to Chop Broccoli – into florets

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

I think a lot of people have a bit of a love/hate relationship with green vegetables, but broccoli is a firm favourite of mine. Broccoli is an interesting vegetable because it’s actually the flowers of the broccoli plant!

If you can, try not to wash your broccoli. A lot of water can get trapped between the flowers, which can make it rather soggy to eat.

Broccoli is sold in ‘heads’, and the individual ‘branches’ are called florets (see the picture below). In this tutorial I’ll teach you how to cut and cook the florets.

Hand drawing of a broccoli
The grey circle indicates one floret

For cutting, it’s easiest to work from the outside in. Hold the broccoli so that the floret you want is as close as possible to the chopping board. (I like to hold the stalk with my left hand as I cut with my right.) Slide your knife between the floret and the stalk, and chop downwards.

Hand drawing of a broccoli showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Carry on chopping, working from the outside in, until you have enough broccoli. (Depending on the size of the florets, I usually allow 1-3 florets per person.) The very top of the broccoli can be a little tricky because the florets become less clearly defined. Just try and cut it into pieces about the same size as the florets you’ve already chopped.

Hand drawing of a broccoli floret showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

 

 

 

 

It’s a really common mistake for people to overcook broccoli; one of the reasons is that the stalk cooks more slowly than the flowers. To combat this, place the broccoli florets upside down and cut about halfway down the stem. Try and make sure all the pieces of stem are smaller than about ½cm (quarter of an inch).

 

 

Broccoli only takes about five minutes to cook, whether you’re boiling, microwaving, or steaming. (If you’re boiling or steaming, place the florets with the stalks at the bottom.) Once cooked, broccoli turns a slightly brighter colour than when it’s raw. It also looks a little shinier! And just like carrots and potatoes, cooked broccoli is soft enough to easily poke a fork into.

How to Chop a Carrot – into slices

Happy New Year, and a special welcome to anyone joining How to Chop a Carrot in the wake of New Year’s resolutions!

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Carrots were almost always part of a hot meal when I was growing up. I’ve already made a tutorial for carrot chunks (here), but slices of carrot cook much quicker!

First, take a carrot. You don’t need to peel it (a lot of the minerals are right underneath the skin), but you might want to wash it. Use clean water to wash off things like soil, and if you want to be a bit more thorough you can scrub you carrots with a clean washing-up brush.Hand drawing of an orange carrot

Next, check your carrots over for any discolouration or blemishes. These aren’t dangerous, they just don’t taste or look very good. If they are on the end of the carrot, you can just cut the end off. If they’re in the middle of the carrot, first place the carrot flat on a chopping board or plate with the blemish facing upwards. Then make a small cut either side of the blemish, making a small ‘V’ (see picture).

Hand drawing of a carrot showing a close up of a small blemish and cutting guidelines

We also don’t want to eat the very top or bottom of the carrot. (These are often known as the top and tail – to top and tail your carrots means to chop the top and bottom off.) Leave the top of the carrot on for now – it’s useful to hold on to while you’re cutting slices.

 

Hand drawing of a carrot showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Next cut slices about half a centimetre (¼ inch) thick, working up the carrot from the tail. Don’t worry if your slices vary a little in size. Hand drawing of a carrot showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Carrot slices can be eaten raw in salads, but I usually eat them boiled. Place your carrot slices in a saucepan and add enough water to just about cover them. Heat on the hob until they start to boil, then turn down the heat a little and keep them boiling gently for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, carrots should be soft enough to easily poke a fork into. Just try not to boil them to death – you’ll lose all those lovely vitamins.

Hand drawing of an orange carrot wearing a chef's hat, waving a banner that reads THANK YOU!!!I can’t believe it’s been two months since we launched How to Chop a Carrot! There’s no new recipe this week, but I really wanted to say a big thank you to all of you readers. It’s been hard work at times but it’s been so great getting to launch this project, and I’ve really appreciated all the support I’ve received.

How to Chop a Carrot will be back in the new year with techniques, recipes, and more… I look forward to seeing you then!

How to Make Pot Roast Vegetables

Whether you’re making Sunday lunch, Christmas dinner, or just a warm winter treat, pot roast vegetables are melt-in-the-mouth delicious!

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • an oven-proof dish
  • an oven
  • oven gloves

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 4 medium carrots (about the length of your hand)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 potatoes (about the size of your fist)
  • ½ large or 1 small swede
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 parsnips
  • dried mixed herbs
  • salt
  • oil

 

Start by turning on your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180° (160° fan).

Chop your carrots, onions, potatoes, and swede into chunks. (You can find more detailed instructions here: carrots, onions, potatoes, swede)

Put your chopped vegetables into your oven-proof dish.

Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, and swede

Add salt, oil, and herbs to the dish. You just need to cover the vegetables in the dish, like in the picture below.

Pot Roast Vegetables 2

Stir or shake your seasonings and vegetables together. Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, and swede, lightly coated in herbs and oil

Place the lid on your dish and put it into the oven. It will take about two hours to cook from here.

Chop your sweet potato and parsnip into chunks. (More detailed instructions here: sweet potato, parsnip)

After your dish has been cooking for about an hour, add your sweet potato and parsnip chunks. Give your veggies another good stir or shake together, but be careful – it’s hot!

Photograph of an orange oven dish filled with chopped carrot, onion, potato, swede, parsnip, and sweet potato, lightly coated in herbs and oil

After another hour in the oven, your dish will be ready to serve! Serve it alongside whatever source of protein you fancy – it goes fantastically with a huge range of meat and veggie options!

Photograph of a brown serving dish filled with roasted carrot, onion, potato, swede, parsnip, and sweet potato

You can roast a huge variety of vegetables, this recipe is just the start! Feel free to play with the seasonings too – try adding pepper, or using sage, rosemary and thyme instead of a pre-made mix of dried herbs.

If you make pot roast vegetables with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Chop a Swede – into chunks

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Hand drawing of a swede

 

 

 

 

Swedes, also called rutabaga and occasionally turnips, are a tough root vegetable with surprisingly bright yellow flesh. They’re a great winter vegetable!

 

 

 

Starting from one end of the swede, chop off a thin layer of the thick skin or dried up flesh. Then cut off a slice about 2cm (a little under an inch) thick.

Hand drawing of a swede showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

The skin of swedes is very tough, so it’s best to peel it off. I find it easiest to do this one slice at a time – lay the slice of swede on your chopping board and cut downwards around the edges. For some of the slices, you may need to angle your knife a little. Just remember to keep your fingers out of the way.

Hand drawing of a slice of swede showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Keep cutting off and peeling slices until you’ve got as much swede as you want to cook. (You can get swedes in quite a lot of different sizes; the big ones will often last for two meals.) Chop each peeled slice into chunks about 2cm (a little under 1 inch) on each side. Remember we want the chunks to all be about the same size, so that they cook at about the same time, and absorb any flavours from herbs, spices, or sauces evenly too.

Hand drawing of a slice of swede showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Swedes are very hard, so they can be difficult to chop. Make sure you’ve got a good, sharp knife, and you may want to practice your chopping skills on carrots and potatoes before you tackle a swede.

These swede chunks are perfect for roasts, casseroles, and stews. They take about 2 hours to cook in an oven at Gas Mark 4 (180°C, 160°C in a fan oven). You can also boil swede, although I’d recommend cutting it into smaller pieces. Once they’re cooked, swede chunks should be soft enough to easily poke a fork into.

A photograph of casseroled swede chunks on a grey plate

How to Chop a Parsnip – into chunks

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Parsnips are a funny-looking vegetable – they’re a bit like carrots but much paler and their shape is kind of exaggerated. Parsnips are quite soft for a root vegetable, and they have a unique flavour. In this tutorial, we’ll be making parsnip chunks.

Just like with carrots, it’s best if you can avoid peeling your parsnips to preserve the mineral content. Rinse them off under clean running water, and give them a scrub with a clean washing-up brush if they need it.

Chop the very top and bottom off the parsnip. When you chop the top off, check for for brown discolouration inside. If there is any, just chop a little bit more off the top.

Hand drawing of a parsnip showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

(If there are any other blemishes, you can cut a small ‘V’ shape either side of the blemish to get rid of it, just like with carrots.)

The shape of a parsnip makes it a little harder to cut chunks all the same size. Remember, we’re aiming for chunks about 2cm (a little under an inch) on each side. So I would start from the skinny end of the parsnip, like in the picture below.

Hand drawing of a parsnip showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

When you reach the top of the parsnip, place it on its flat surface to cut it into thirds or quarters, depending how wide it is. Hand drawing of a parsnip chunk showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Chunks of parsnip are great in roasts, but they’re good in casseroles and stews too. Because they’re soft, parsnips only take an hour to cook in an oven at Gas Mark 4 (180°C, 160°C in a fan oven). Once they’re cooked, parsnips should be soft enough to easily poke a fork into.

A photograph of roast parsnip chunks on a blue-grey plate