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How To Chop Onions, Peppers And Other Vegetables

halve-and-dice-onions
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Photography: Ben Backhouse

If your fruit and veg intake starts and stops at a banana with your breakfast porridge and a lunchtime jacket potato, it’s time to fix up and look sharp. By learning to prepare different greens faster you’ll expand both your options and your palate. What’s more, you only need to learn a handful of easy techniques to feel like a pro at the chopping board. Michelin-starred chef Adam Gray and Jeffrey Elliot, author of The Complete Book Of Knife Skills (opens in new tab) are here to take you through them.

Halve And Dice Onions

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Get yourself a cheap bag of onions and get to work on this fundamental skill, explained by Elliot.

“First, cut the stem end off your onion,” says Elliot. “Now cut it in half, lengthways, and peel the skin off one of the halves. Now lay that half flat and hold it in place with your non-cutting hand.

“Cut into the onion parallel to your cutting board, stopping just before you reach the root. Do this two or three more times. Now cut into the onion towards the root, perpendicular to the cutting board, again making evenly-spaced cuts.

“Finally, turn the onion 90˚ and dice it. This will create evenly sized cubes, perfect for stir-frying or salads. You can use this technique with most round vegetables.”

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Cook them for a few minutes in a pan, with oil or butter, to kick off almost any stew or casserole recipe. Or don’t – red onions are naturally sweeter, so you can put them in salads raw. Replacing a white onion with a red one not only adds colour to your culinary creations, it also provides your body with some powerful anti-cancer compounds, according to the journal Food Research International. Red onions have a particularly high concentration of quercetin, a flavonoid that kills cancer cells, as well as being high in quercetin-supporting anthocyanins, which give certain fruit and veg a distinctive dark red or purple colour.

Top, Chop And Roll Peppers

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There’s an easy way to take out all the seeds and ribs, with minimal hassle. First, slice off the top and bottom, then make a vertical slice down the pepper so you can open it up. Put it skin-side down and work the knife along the inside with your blade parallel to the work surface, removing the extraneous bits as you go. Now chop it into strips or chunks.

Cook them in scrambled eggs, omelettes or stir-fries – or you can eat them raw.

Slice Leeks

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“You need a very sharp knife for this,” says Gray. “If it’s blunt the fibres get jagged, which means you’ll lose nutrients in the cooking process.” Pull off the outer layer, then use your finest blade to halve your leek by slicing it down the middle, making a half-cylinder. Now slice it as finely as possible. “People throw away too much of the leek, because the green bits seem too tough after they’re cooked,” says Gray. “But that’s because they’re not slicing it fine enough.”

Cook them in a dash of rapeseed oil, with some chorizo or salami for the simplest of side dishes.

Shred Cabbage

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You can use more of the outer leaves than you think, if you use the technique known as “chiffonading”. Remove any obviously damaged leaves and cut the cabbage in half and then into quarters. Cut off the hard core from each quarter at an angle, then tear off the leaves and roll them up into cigar shapes to fine-chop them. With a well-designed knife, the easiest way is to “roll” it: keep the very tip of the blade on the cutting board and rock it backwards and forwards as you feed the cabbage through with your other hand.

Cook them with sausages and lentils for healthy comfort food – or just chuck them in a salad.

Adam Gray is a Michelin-starred chef who runs healthy cooking courses. He is currently head chef at Bourne And Hollingsworth Group (opens in new tab). Visit adamgraychef.co.uk (opens in new tab) for more info.

Joel Snape
Joel Snape

From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.