Tag Archives: Knives

George’s awesome week of awesome II

This is part II of a three part series, Part I can be found here and part three will be published in the next few days

Awesome

Wednesday morning in the meeting hall, I was greeted by a room full of college staff and twenty-somethings. After a quick look around I grabbed a seat beside the only person in the room that I could see looked even remotely close to my age.

Induction began and I realised 3 things, that I’ve since learnt are all true…

  1. These people aren’t all on my course.
  2. Some of my lecturers could be younger than me.
  3. I’m probably going to be the oldest on my course.

After a while we were divided into groups by our courses and sent off trailing our course tutor, through the building and straight into a kitchen.

Thankfully we weren’t being chucked in the deep end too quickly, it was just an introduction to the room and to the course, what we could expect, what not to do and so on and so forth. Finally off we trundled to our first of two proper classes that day – Computer applications. Grand, some familiar territory to get things started with!

Next up, was French, very unfamiliar territory for me and thankfully about half of the rest of the group. Still, I’m already so far out of my comfort zone, at this point, it’s a wonder my brain hasn’t packed it’s little suitcase and made a dash for it out my nose leaving nothing but a “so long and thanks for all the fish” sign in it’s place and the thoughts of having to start learning a language, something I’ve never been great with, really weren’t helping.

Thankfully, Thursday’s classes, Communications, Tourism Awareness and Nutrition got me back into my comfort zone and set me up nicely for an afternoon of running around Dublin City centre, purchasing books, knives, chef’s uniform and other assorted bits ‘n’ pieces so I could actually take part in Friday’s four hour cookery practical session. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s rewind to Thursday night.

A few weeks back Elly spotted a very reasonably priced knife skills course in Donnybrook Fair and I decided that I would like to do it, not for a minute thinking that I would be starting a hotel and catering course the same week. So after spending the afternoon shopping in Dublin and grabbing a bus home, I promptly dropped everything once in the door, drank two pints of water in quick succession, had a pee and ran out the back door, jumped in the car and headed to Donnybrook, thanks to lousy parking facilities I ended up walking about a kilometre to get to the class and being about ten minutes late, not a great start.

After making my apologies to both chef and class I grabbed a seat and realised that I hasn’t missed much past “this is a knife” :)

The class was great, starting off with how to use a steel to sharpen your knives, moving through some vegetable preparations, filleting a fish and even removing the carcass from a chicken, so you can pack more stuffing and flavour in. Given how good Elly’s Roast Chicken is and how much work is involved I don’t see myself doing that too often at home but it could be a handy skill to have for college and sure a little extra practice ain’t going to hurt.

Kitchen Essentials – Sharp Things

What would a kitchen be without knives?

I couldn’t imagine cooking a meal without having a knife close to hand. I even know the specific use of each knife thanks to choppychoppy.com and their various posts specializing in kitchen knives. In general I’ve found that there are two schools of thought when it comes to knives. The “Each knife has a purpose” school and “The one knife suits all” School. Both have their own merits, so I’m going to give details on both.

Knives
Knives

I subscribe to the “Each knife has a purpose” school while Elly is more of a “The one knife suits all” type of gal.

“The one knife suits all” school, I think has a lot of “this is what I’m comfortable and happy with” about it. Which is good because the one thing you should never be is uncomfortable with a knife in your hand, you’ll only end up cutting badly or cutting yourself. Elly uses her large Kitchen Devil for almost all cutting and slicing jobs and it works for her, if I’m honest she’s far quicker at slicing and chopping than me.

The “Each knife has a purpose” school that I subscribe to means I generate more washing up to be done, but that’s a small price to pay. I use a selection of Sabatier steel knives, there are six in total, ranging from a small paring knife, up to “Mr. Choppy II, The Cleaver”. OK, so maybe I have a bit of a thing for knives, but each one really does serve it’s own purpose.

The two smaller paring knives I use mostly for fruit and I find them great for really fine slicing and dicing of garlic and chilli. My vegetable knife, is appropriately used for almost all my veg chopping requirements these days, with the exception of butternut squash (which I despise preparing BTW) the only thing for those beasts is Mr. Choppy and a good swing followed by a reassuring thud, I find it helps relieve the stress of dealing with squash.

While we’re on the subject of Mr. Choppy, cleavers are the ideal tool for slicing raw meat. Provided he’s sharp Mr. Choppy will slice through almost any meat by simply dragging the blade across it, without any downward pressure.

Next up is the bread knife which does what it says and really if you bake your own bread or buy any type of bread that isn’t sliced a bread knife is the only way to slice it without squashing the bread into a doughy icky mess.

Lastly is the carving knife, this is the least used as we don’t cook whole poultry or large joints of meat too often and in the modern world is probably the least essential knife that we own. For most people carving is almost a lost art and with electric carving knives being so cheap and easy to use why would you want to learn the art of carving?

Outside of knives we also use three other sharp things in our kitchen, a mezzaluna, a peeler and a julienne peeler.

Peelers
Peelers

A mezzaluna is basically a large curved double blade with a handle on either end, that is ideal for chopping fresh herbs and with the amount of those that we use in our cooking we would be lost without it, yes I can chops herbs almost as quickly with a vegetable knife but it takes more effort and concentration, so why not take the easier option?

I’m hoping that I don’t need to explain the use of a peeler to anyone, but a julienne peeler may be a bit different, this looks almost exactly the same as a regular peeler except that the blade has teeth which slice vertically while you’re peeling, it’s great for julienne carrots but also for finely dicing them for a risotto, simply julienne first then hold the bunch and dice them quickly and easily.

The most important thing when choosing a knife or set of knives is that you feel comfortable with them, I like mine because they are exceptionally well balanced so you only lift the weight of the knife you’re not “holding up” the tip you’re simply holding the knife.

So which school do you prefer or currently use?