How to Chop a Cucumber

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

Although it’s mostly been hidden behind rain clouds today, the summer sun has arrived here in England! With hotter weather comes the desire for more refreshing foods like salads and sandwiches. One of my favourite ingredients for both is cucumber.

Hand drawing of a dark green cucumber

Cucumber has dark green skin, paler green flesh and translucent seeds in the middle. You can basically eat the whole thing but the end parts of the cucumber, which don’t have any seeds in, are often a bit bitter. (I usually chop off the ends and feed them to my guinea pigs!)

Depending on what you want to use your cucumber for, you may want to cut it into slices, sticks, or cubes.

Slices of cucumber are best for sandwiches, and they’re very straightforward to cut. Simply work from one end of the cucumber, cutting off slices as thin or as thick as you like! Although, if you are going to use them in sandwiches, I’d recommend slices thinner than ½ cm (¼ inch).

Hand drawing of a dark green cucumber with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Sticks of cucumber are perfect for finger food. I especially like them with some fresh hummus. To cut a cucumber into sticks, start by chopping off a chunk of cucumber the same length as you want your sticks. (You may remember this method from my post on carrot sticks here.) Then just keep halving until your cucumber sticks are as thin as you like.

Hand drawing of a chunk of dark green cucumber with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Cubes of cucumber are perfect for mixing into salads. You can also use slices, but I personally think cubes let you mix all the ingredients together better. You can cut cubes of cucumber from either slices or sticks, but my favourite is using a sort of grid pattern like we did for diced carrot (link). This is the fastest way of cutting cubes I’ve found.

Start with a chunk of cucumber like for sticks, and cut it into long, thick slices as in the picture below.

Hand drawing of a chunk of dark green cucumber with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Cut each thick slice into sticks, then into cubes about 1cm (½ inch) square. Try and hold the sticks together for faster cutting.

27.6 cucumber diced 6

And there you have it! How to chop a cucumber, for all your summer dishes!

How to Chop a Mushroom – into chunks or slices

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

We have a bit of a love/hate relationships with mushrooms in our house. By which I mean, two of us love them, one is indifferent, and one of us hates them.

Hand drawing of a pair of chestnut mushrooms, with the stalk and cap labelled

 

 

Mushrooms are a type of fungus, and there are actually a lot of different varieties. However, the ones you’ll see most often in supermarkets are closed-cup, chestnut, or button mushrooms.

These mushrooms have already had some of the prep done for you. All that’s left are the stalk and cap, so you can eat the whole thing!

 

 

 

You don’t even need to wash mushrooms; in fact it’s best to avoid getting them wet. Not only will it make them feel kind of slimy, it makes it very easy for mould to grow on mushrooms. (Mould growing on mushrooms has always amused me, a little fungus growing on a big fungus, but I digress.)

Hand drawing of the cap of a chestnut mushroom, showing the inside

 

 

 

If your mushrooms are getting a little old, however, you may want to peel them. It’s actually easiest to do this with your fingers! Start by pulling the stalk off the mushroom. You can then reach into the middle of the mushroom and get hold of the edge of the skin, close to where the stalk was. Then, gently pull it off.

 

 

 

To chop your mushrooms, it’s easiest to start with them lying on their caps. For chunks, you can just quarter them.

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

If you’d rather have sliced mushrooms, start by chopping them in half. Then place the mushroom on its cut side as you slice it. I like slices about half a centimetre (1/4 inch) thick.

Hand drawing of a halved chestnut mushroom showing cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

Mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked, but an overcooked mushroom is rubbery and chewy. To fry mushrooms, simply heat them in a frying pan for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes! It really depends on how well-done you like your mushroom.

How to Chop an Onion – into slices

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!

The chunks of onion from our previous tutorial (link) are great for slow-cooking, but if you want fried onions then I like slices best.

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

 

 

 

 

Just like before, we want to take off the skin, top and bottom from the onion. You can start in the exact same way – chop off the root and the top of the onion, making sure to keep your fingers out of the way.

(For slices, you might actually want to leave the root end on for now – try it both ways and see which you prefer!)

 

 

Once you have a flat surface at one end of the ball, you can rest it there to cut downwards, slicing your onion in half. Then deal with each half in turn, starting with a cut right down the middle.

Hand drawing of a red onion showing a single cutting guideline right down the middle (grey dotted line)

When you’re chopping onions, it’s a lot easier and quicker to work with if all the layers stay stuck together. So, when you’re slicing, work from the thin end(s) into the middle. And if you need to turn the onion around to get to the other end with your dominant hand, try turning the chopping board instead.

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

 

 

 

Although very thin slices of onion are so impressive (I’ve always loved watching chefs cut off super thin slices at top speed!), slices about half a centimeter (1/4 of an inch) thick are great for everyday cooking.

 

 

 

 

These onion slices take about 15-25 minutes to fry, although it depends how soft you like your onions! Onions can be eaten raw, or very well-done, so it’s really a matter of taste. They’re a great accompaniment to fried meats like sausages or burgers, or (my personal favourite) fish. And they’re a great source of flavour in a stir-fry, which 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 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.