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Kitchen kit part 1: the easiest way to cut up a pepper

April 7, 2011

A knife cutting into 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.

green and red peppers

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.

green and red peppers

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.

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How to chop a pepper

  1. Stand the pepper upright on a board.  Think of it like a box with four sides.
  2. Holding it steady with one hand, slice off one side of the box.
  3. Turn the pepper a quarter turn and slice of the next side (from top to bottom) avoiding the core.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove any white pith from the inside of the slices with a paring knife.
  6. You can now slice or chop into any sized pieces you like.chopped peppers

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)?

  1. April 7, 2011 7:52 am

    Sally, I love that video thingy up there. Sorry don’t know the technical term for it. And your knife looks so super sharp. How do you get it to stay so sharp? I’m not sure if I have a favourite kitchen gadget that I can’t live without.

    • April 7, 2011 9:42 am

      Tavola offer a free knife sharpening service (for one sharpening) when you buy these Global knives. They are super sharp I must say. I would never trust my knives to the people who bring a grinding wheel house to house! Thanks for nice comment on the slideshow – it’s a WordPress thing.

  2. April 7, 2011 8:17 am

    I am stuck on the difference of life in Bath and Dubai – they are worlds apart! I visited Bath once and have vowed to go back!
    I did a post a while bak on Top 10 Kitchen Items and it was motivated by living abroad away from my own kitchen.
    🙂 Mandy

    • April 7, 2011 9:43 am

      I’ll search for that one Mandy – would love to read it. Bath to Saudi was the biggest shock! Dubai is, as Lyn Barber described it once, ‘Middle East lite’

  3. April 7, 2011 8:53 am

    Sometimes, when you think of it, you only need one item. And sometimes too, less is more! Beautiful pictures 🙂

    • April 7, 2011 9:45 am

      Agree Mich – although gadgets have crept into my kitchen over the years and some have made themselves quite at home. Often think about taking my knife on holiday as when cooking in other people’s kitchens they have awful knives. Might throw up some awkward questions at the airport though!

  4. April 7, 2011 9:01 am

    nice slider! Gotta love Globals.

    • April 7, 2011 9:45 am

      A recent convert since KP bought me a carving knife for Christmas (either brave or foolish).

  5. Sherri Voebel permalink
    April 7, 2011 4:01 pm

    In January, I returned from Al Ain to a fully functional kitchen in the states. The item I use daily is my VitaMix. It’s so powerful… with a 2 horsepower high speed motor and is used in commercial applications such as juice bars, hotels and Star Bucks for cold icy drinks. For raw foodies or heart healthy recipes it is a must have blender, juicer, smoothie maker, flour and seed grinder… and is indispensible for liquifying fruit and vegetable pulp. All the pulp and skin is ground so fine – nothing is wasted nutritionally. I add cooked vegetables to my cream sauce base which lightens the soup, reduces the calories and adds much needed fiber for the heart and bowel. Absolutely nothing found in the UAE compares.

    The only quandry is how much space will be required in one piece of luggage for this apparatus (base unit, dry cannister, wet cannister and tamper). I will be packing my socks, undies and personal items inside the two cannisters during transit. And will say a special prayer the luggage arrives!

  6. April 7, 2011 9:42 pm

    Wow….good investments do pay off. To have had a knife for 15 years….and lovely photos of the peppers

  7. Anna permalink
    April 7, 2011 9:51 pm

    Great colours and nifty chopping method!

  8. April 8, 2011 3:24 am

    It was interesting to read about your acclimation to life in a new land.

    Great photos and technique which I totally plan to adopt.

  9. April 8, 2011 6:36 am

    What an adventuresome life you’d had! To move from England to Saudia Arabia must be been….quite exciting, and a bit frightening too.
    Thanks for the pepper tip, I’m going to try it next time I’m cutting a pepper.

  10. April 8, 2011 1:16 pm

    Great tutorial Sally! I guess every cook has their own way of chopping peppers but yours seems quite fuss-free. Nice knives you got there 🙂

  11. April 9, 2011 2:01 pm

    I am ashamed to say my knives aren’t that great. They’re pretty good but not great. I too did a big inter-country move when I started married life, and we started out on a very tight budget. When we could afford it, we bought a top of the line heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan set which gets used nearly every day. It was an investment that paid off.

    Thanks for the great pepper chopping tips 🙂 It will mean less seeds across the kitchen floor for sure.

  12. April 10, 2011 8:43 am

    Great post as always Sally. Wusthof knives, Le Creuset pan and saucepans, and my trusty Kenwood are my staples – couldn’t live without them. All have done 14 moves in 17 years…
    Beautiful photography Sally, you are one super-talented woman.

  13. April 10, 2011 7:31 pm

    Interesting post Sally. Bath and Dubai are very different places – it must have taken some getting used to. Now I still don’t have a proper chefs knife (I’ve been using my little serrated kitchen devil for the last 20+ years) but I would like to get one. I have a friend who swears by her Global but I’m still undecided. Out of the two you have, which would you choose if you could only keep one?

  14. April 11, 2011 1:10 am

    Great tutorial, thank you! You’ve certainly made the most of the capsicum! We have a set of Furi knives – an Australian brand – and I don’t know where I’d be without them!

    • April 12, 2011 8:55 am

      Yes – I think this method appeals to me as I was brought up not to waste anything. Will look out for Furi knives.

  15. April 11, 2011 8:28 am

    thanks for allowing this peek into your life… i can only imagine the contrasts that came into your life when you moved to saudi. but seriously youve stuck it out in the region for so many years… dont know if i’d ever make it to 16 years as an expat!!!!! lord hope not! :O

    • April 12, 2011 8:54 am

      We never imagined we’d be here that long either!

  16. April 20, 2011 1:48 am

    Hello Sally!
    I saw the FBC 2011 badge at your sidebar. Will you attend this conference? I wish you are because I will be there too and would be really glad to meet you there!


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