Kitchen kit part 1: the easiest way to cut up a pepper
How do you build up the tools of your kitchen? Which items are indispensable and how many gadgets have you consigned to the car-boot sale?
I arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1995 with my life packed into a couple of suitcases. My furniture, books and some precious items were in storage. Everything else had been disposed of including most of my fairly basic kitchen implements. I’d spent the first year of my married life living in Bath while my husband started a new job in Jeddah. I quit my job and joined him once we decided that this was a permanent move and exchanged a life of freedom, and to all intents and purposes that of a single woman, for one of complete dependence.
Furthermore, for reasons I won’t go into here, I was to share my new apartment with KP (said husband) and P, another chap from the rugby club. P and KP had also been living a batchelor-style life consisting mainly of sport and socialising. I walked into the kitchen and they proudly showed me the extra plate, knife, fork and spoon that they had bought in my honour (taking the total from two to three!). A few pans, a knife, a wooden spoon and a colander were my batterie de cuisine.
This is a sobering thought when I look at my bulging kitchen cupboards of stuff collected over the last 16 years. What would I take in my suitcase as essential items if starting again? This prompted the first in an occasional series about my favourite gadgets or implements.
Those early days in Saudi were ones of leisure, seclusion and borrowed time (I was expecting my first child). I did something that felt elicit and watched some daytime American cookery shows. They may have been in English but the presenters spoke another language and introduced ingredients and gadgets I had never heard of. Two shows stood out – Caprial’s Cafe and Biba’s Italian kitchen.
Caprial was the Delia Smith of Portland, Oregon and explained things very precisely including how to cut up a pepper (or capsicum). I’ve been following this method for so long that I can’t remember how I did it before but I know that I got the seeds everywhere. Believe me, if you’ve ever had problems this is the only way to go.
To cut anything properly you need a good knife and this is my ultimate kitchen gadget. A well-balanced cooks knife can be used for chopping, slicing, paring and the heel of the knife for crushing the skins from garlic cloves. I bought my Zwilling J.A. Henkels cooks knife from Kitchens in Bath about 15 years ago, it cost £60 and I use it everyday. KP bought me a Global vegetable knife for Christmas which I also like but one good knife is all you need.
How to chop a pepper
- Stand the pepper upright on a board. Think of it like a box with four sides.
- Holding it steady with one hand, slice off one side of the box.
- Turn the pepper a quarter turn and slice of the next side (from top to bottom) avoiding the core.
- Repeat until all four sides have been cut off (if the pepper has a wobbly base you might have to lie it on its side). You will be left with the core and four pieces.
- Remove any white pith from the inside of the slices with a paring knife.
- You can now slice or chop into any sized pieces you like.
Try it. Happy to answer any questions below on the ‘pepper chopping help line’ comments section. If you have ever struggled with a pepper these days are over. Trust me.
In Kitchen, Nigella dedicates a whole chapter to stuff she’s chucked! Emily Shardlow mentioned her faves and fails in The National. Is there a gadget you can’t live without (or threw away with gusto)?