How to Prepare Different Vegetables
Skinning green and red peppers
Place them directly on the shelf of an oven preheated to 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4) for about 20-25 minutes, when the skin should be blistered and cracked. Or scorch the peppers under a hot grill, turning frequently, until the skin is blistered all over – about ten minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven or grill and place them in a loosely tied plastic bag for about five minutes. Rub them together in the bag to loosen the skin; then peel it off.
If you have ahob, spear the tomato on a fork and hold it in a gas flame until the skin blisters and splits. It will then be easy to peel. If you don’t have gas, plunge the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds until the skin splits. Rinse in cold water, and then carefully peel off the skin.
Hold the artichoke firmly on the edge of a table and push down hard on the stem to break it off. This will pull out the tougher fibres at the same time. Trim the spiky tops off lower leaves with a pair of scissors and then cut off about 12mm (1/2in) of the leafy top with a knife.
Slicing a tomato
Use a bread knife or other serrated knife, and you’ll cut through the skin without squashing the tomato.
If onions disagree with you
Before you give up on this tasty vegetable try pouring boiling water over peeled and chopped onions and leaving them to soak for about a minute. Drain off the water and use the onions as the recipe directs. Many people find that the problem disappears.
Onions too strong for a salad?
For a milder flavour, soak the rings in cold water for about an hour, then drain before using.
Cutting onions without tears
Cut off the top end of the onion only, leaving the root end intact. Peel back the skin over the roots and use it as a handle while you slice. It’s thought the milky juice at the root end causes tears.
Getting rid of celery strings
Use a potato peeler to remove the strings from each stalk of celery, whether you are planning to cook it or eat it raw. For erudite, to serve with dips, cut the celery into similar-sized sticks once the strings are removed.
If possible, peel Jerusalem artichokes after cooking – it saves nutrients and makes the job easier. If you do need to peel them first, use a stainless-steel peeler or knife, and put the peeled artichokes straight into water with a squeeze of lemon juice added to stop them turning pinky-grey.
Too late to soak dried beans overnight?
Speed up the soaking process by placing the beans in a pan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil for two minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to soak for an hour. Drain and cook as usual.
If beans cause wind
It may help to throw away the soaking water rather than adding it to the recipe. In addition, try bringing the beans to the boil and simmering them for ten minutes before draining off the water and cooking them as usual.
Serving an avocado pear
Believe it or not, there is an easy way to get an avocado neatly out of its skin. Follow these steps and you won’t end up with a shapeless mess:
1. Use a stainless-steel knife to cut the avocado in half lengthways. Cut through as far as the stone all the way around the fruit. Twist the two halves gently in opposite directions in order to separate them.
2. Remove the stone from the halved avocado by striking it sharply with a sharp knife so that the blade lodges in the stone. Give the knife a quick twist and the stone should come free of the soft flesh without damage or mess.
3. Carefully peel the skin off one half, or remove it with a paring knife if it does not come away easily. Place the skinned half, cut side down, on a chopping board and cut it into thin slices with a small knife. Do not separate the slices as you cut them.
4. Slide a cake server under the sliced avocado half and transfer it carefully to a serving plate. Gently fan out the slices as you push them onto the plate. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning. Then peel, slice and serve the other half.