How to Chop an Onion – 2 Ways to Dice an Onion

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link) Please remember to give onions special consideration because of their shape, texture, and tendency to make your eyes water!

We’ve been gradually reducing the size of our onions – going from onion chunks (link), to onion slices (link), and now diced onion! Dicing onions is a great way to get a lot of flavour out of them in a short cooking time.

This tutorial contains two different methods to dice an onion. The first method is simpler, but it does take a little time. The second is so fast your eyes barely have time to water, but it is a more advanced technique.

Method 1

Start by chopping your onion into slices. Just follow the tutorial from last month (link), although you can skip cutting the onion into quarters and just slice the halves.

Once you have your slices, lay them down to dice. I like to cut a sort of lazy grid pattern, but you could also cut it into triangles (sort of like a mini pizza; see picture below).

Hand drawing of two onion slices with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

To save time, you can cut through multiple slices at once. I would recommend you start with just one and work your way up slowly to find how many slices you’re comfortable chopping at once. Make sure if you’re stacking slices that you have the largest one on the bottom and the smallest on the top – it’s important that your stack doesn’t fall over during cutting.

 

Method 2

I actually learned this second technique from the anime sweetness & lightning. It’s a little tricky, because it involves breaking my second rule of knife safety (see my earlier post here). But it’s so much faster that I’ve diced onions this way ever since.

To start, remove the skin and top of the onion, but leave the root end on. (This will help the onion stay together as you chop it.) Cut the onion in half.

Hand drawing of half a red onion, peeled but with the root end still attached

Next, cut into the onion towards the root end. You don’t need to cut all the way through, but you’ll need to use your non-knife hand to steady the onion.

Hand drawing of half a red onion with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Now cut downwards. You don’t need to cut right to the edges, because of the layers in the onion. I usually find just three cuts is plenty.

Hand drawing of half a red onion with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Finally, cut as if you were slicing the onion. Perfectly diced pieces of onion will simply fall off the end!

Hand drawing of half a red onion with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

As you get towards the end of the onion, you may find that it starts to fall apart a bit. Hold it together if you can, but you can always deal with those parts that do fall off separately.

This technique definitely takes a bit of getting used to, but if you can master it it’s so worth it!

 

Diced onions can be used to add flavour to a huge variety of dishes, including stews, soups, and curries. They’re especially great in dishes where you want a little bit of everything in every spoonful.

You can fry diced onions in about 15-25 minutes, although it rather depends on how soft you like your onions! Onions can be eaten raw, or very well-done, so it’s really a matter of taste.

How to Make Stir-Fry (or should that be Steam-Fry?)

We love stir-fry in our house, in fact it’s kind of the default meal option! Now a proper stir-fry is cooked hot and fast, and preserves a lot of the vitamins and minerals in your food. This dish that we call stir-fry is really more of a steam-fry – it starts with a little frying to really get the flavours going, then gently steams the vegetables in their own moisture.

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a wok or deep saucepan with lid

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • a little oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 bell pepper
  • beansprouts
  • leafy green vegetable such as baby spinach
  • frozen prawns or unsalted cashew nuts

 

Start by placing your pan on a gentle heat. Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), and slice your onion. (You can find more detailed instructions here: onions)

Add your onion to the pan, along with any spices you want to use. This recipe gets plenty of flavour from all the lovely veggies, but a little ginger or Chinese five spice is also nice.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of sliced onions, lightly sprinkled with powdered ginger

While your onion is gently frying, cut your carrots into sticks, then add them to the pan. (More detailed cutting instructions here)

Photograph of a wok with a layer of carrot sticks on top of sliced onions

Once you’ve added your carrots, put the lid on so the vegetables can steam. The dish will take about 20 minutes from this point.

Cut your bell pepper into strips (chopping tutorial here), then add them to the pan.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of red pepper strips on top of carrots & onions

While your other vegetables are cooking, check your beansprouts and leafy greens over for any that don’t look tasty.

Five minutes before serving, add your prawns (if you’re using them) and beansprouts to the pan.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of prawns on top of red pepper, carrots & onions

Photograph of a wok with a layer of beansprouts on top of prawns, red pepper, carrots & onions

Finally, add your leafy greens. (You could use frozen peas instead, but they’re harder to pick up with chopsticks!)

Photograph of a wok with a layer of pak choi on top of beansprouts, prawns, red pepper, carrots & onions

The stir-fry is cooked when the greens wilt down ever so slightly, and turn a brighter shade of green – this usually takes less than 5 minutes.

Photograph of a wok with a layer of pak choi on top of beansprouts, prawns, red pepper, carrots & onions

Stir everything together before serving. If you’re using cashew nuts instead of prawns, add them now.

Photograph of white bowl filled with stir-fried vegetables and cashew nuts on egg noodles

This dish looks like a rainbow on a plate! I like it with rice or noodles, but it’s also delicious just as is. Serve with soy sauce; you can add some during cooking but I think it’s nice to let everyone season to their own tastes.

If you want a sweeter dish, try adding a tin of pineapple along with the beansprouts. And if you fancy a little chilli kick, some sweet chilli sauce goes beautifully!

If you make stir-fry with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Chop a Bell Pepper – into strips

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

Hand drawing of a red bell pepper

 

 

Bell peppers are actually a fruit, but they’re great in savoury dishes. Like carrots, you can eat them both raw and cooked, so you can use them in dishes from salads to stir-fries.

 

You can wash bell peppers if you want, but they have a natural waxy coating that helps to protect them while they’re growing.

 

 

The easiest way to start chopping a bell pepper is by cutting it in half. Bell peppers have smooth, shiny skin, so to prevent your knife from slipping place it in one of the grooves of the pepper. Then cut straight down. (You may also see a small black stick at the base of the pepper – this is just part of the old flower; you can pull it off with your fingers.)

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

Cut each half in half again, so you can get to the pith – the white parts of the flesh. The pith is edible, but it has a bitter taste so most people prefer to remove it. The pith is found mostly at the top and joins of the pepper, and is easiest to cut out where it joins to the brightly coloured flesh.

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

Now you’re ready to cut your pepper into strips. Start by cutting each quarter in half from side to side. (You can skip this step if you want, but I find that it’s easier to get even-sized strips when you deal with the top and bottom halves separately.) Then take each of these chunks and cut off strips about 1cm (½ inch) wide.

Hand drawing of a quartered red pepper showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)Hand drawing of a chunk of red pepper showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can eat bell peppers raw, or lightly fried. (If you cook them for longer than about 15 minutes they tend to get a bit soggy and fall to pieces.) Bell peppers also work well in rich, tomatoey sauces where they add a hint of sweetness!

Bell peppers don’t last long once they’ve been cut, so it’s best to use them within a day or two. If parts of the pepper are squishy, it often means it’s already started to break down. Cut out these squishy bits and discard them – I find it easiest to do this right at the end.

How to Chop a Carrot – into sticks

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

We’ve already done a few How to Chop a Carrot tutorials, but carrots really do feature in almost every meal I cook, so bear with me! They’re also a great vegetable to practice on, because they’re inexpensive and can be eaten both raw and cooked. In today’s tutorial we’ll be making carrot sticks.

The first few steps are the same as we’ve learned so far. Wash your carrot with clean water (and a scrubbing brush if you want), but try and leave the skin on to preserve the mineral content.

Check your carrots over for any discolouration or blemishes that you want to cut out. Just like before, cut them out using a small ‘V’ shape.

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

Chop off the top and bottom (or top and tail) of your carrots.

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

Next, cut the carrot into chunks the same length as the sticks you want to end up with. I usually aim for about 4-5cm or so (a little under 2 inches).

Hand drawing of chunks of carrot

 

 

 

 

With each chunk, start by chopping it in half. This gives you a flat surface to rest the carrot on, which makes the rest of the chopping safer. There are a couple of different ways to go from here.

 

 

 

 

The way I always used to make carrot sticks is to just keep halving until you end up with sticks that are about half a centimetre (¼ inch) at the fat end.

Hand drawing of three sticks of carrot, each one half the width of the last

Recently I’ve found, however, that it’s more efficient to cut carrot sticks using a kind of grid pattern. Slice each chunk into four lengthwise, then cut each thick slice into sticks. You can even stack your slices to make chopping faster!Hand drawing of thick slices of carrot showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only are sticks great finger food, you can also boil them like slices (link). However, my favourite way to cook carrot sticks is in a stir-fry, which is the recipe we’re working towards this month!

How to Make Friday Fish Supper

The market near where I live has lovely fresh fish, which makes for a great meal. But the thing I find tricky when cooking fish is timings – getting everything on the table at the same time. This recipe combines the oven-baked fish technique from last week (link) with some good, basic, potatoes and veggies.

You will need:

  • aluminium foil
  • a baking tray
  • an oven
  • oven gloves
  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a saucepan

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 4 fillet(s) of fish
  • a little lemon juice
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • half a head of broccoli

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

Wrap each fillet of fish in foil, with a little lemon juice and salt. Start with oily fish – they take longer to cook. (More detailed instructions here: oven-baked fish) Place the finished fish parcels on a baking tray.

Photograph of three foil parcels on a baking tray

Cut your potatoes into chunks, and your carrots into slices. (You can find more detailed instructions here: potatoes, carrots) Place them in a saucepan, and mostly cover with cold water. Put the lid on, then heat gently on the hob.

Photograph of a saucepan half-filled with carrots and potatoes; water covers most of the vegetables but some are still poking up above the water line

If you’re use oily fish, put them in the oven now. (They take about 20-25 minutes to cook.)

While your other vegetables are cooking, cut your broccoli into florets. (More detailed instructions here: broccoli)

If you’re using white fish, put them in the oven now. (They take about 10-15 minutes to cook.)

 

Five minutes before serving, put your broccoli in with the carrots and potatoes. You can either put it directly in the saucepan (it doesn’t need to be covered by the water), or use a metal sieve inside your saucepan as a steamer.

Photograph of a saucepan (containing carrots and potatoes) with a metal sieve full of broccoli inside
If you line up the handle of your sieve with the handle of the saucepan, you’re less likely to knock it over

Make sure to check your fish and vegetables are cooked through before serving!

Photograph of a piece of smoked haddock; boiled potatoes, carrots, and broccoli; and fried leek and pepper on a white plate
My family loves veggies, so I added some fried peppers and leeks to this dish!

This meal is a bit harder than the one-pot recipes I’ve written so far, but it’s a great staple meal in our house! You can use a wide variety of fish, and for a bit of vegetable variety try replacing the broccoli with frozen peas or tinned sweetcorn.

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

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.