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Dicing onions
Slice thickly for large dice and thinly for fine dice.
1. Using a sharp chef’s knife, hold the onion firmly in one hand, then cut it in half lengthways. Peel off the skin, but leave the root intact so that the layers are held together.
2. Lay one half on a cutting board, cut-side down. Make a few slices into the onion horizontally, making sure that you cut up to, but not through, the root.
3. Hold the onion firmly, then, with the tip of the knife, slice down vertically, cutting close to the root. Repeat, slicing at regular intervals.
4. Cut across the slices for even dice. Use the root to hold the onion steady; discard this part when the rest of the onion has been diced.

Washing and slicing leeks
Leeks are related to onions but have a much milder flavor.
1. Trim off the root and some of the dark leaf top. Cut in half lengthways. Spread the layers apart and rinse well to remove any soil, then pat dry.
2. Lay the halved leek, flat-side down, on the cutting board and slice it into thick or thin strips, according to the recipe.

Peeling and chopping or crushing garlic
Garlic needs to be chopped or crushed to release all of its flavor.
1. Place the garlic clove on a cutting board. Push down with the flat side of a large knife; this makes it easier to peel. Cut off the ends.
2. Slice lengthways, then cut across into tiny chunks. Collect them into a pile and finely chop again or crush with the flat of the knife.

Peeling and seeding tomatoes
Choose firm tomatoes; vine-ripened ones have the best flavor.
1. Hold the tomato steady and use a sharp knife to score an “X” through the skin at the base. Immerse completely in boiling water for about 20 seconds, or until the skin splits.
2. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the tomato from the boiling water and immediately plunge it into a bowl of iced water to cool it.
3. When the tomato is cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to peel off the skin, starting at the base where the “X” was made.
4. Slice the tomato in half, then gently squeeze the seeds out and discard. Place the seedless tomato on a board, hold firmly, and slice into strips.

Peeling raw beets and cutting into batonettes
Raw beets can also be very thinly sliced or grated.
1. Hold the beet firmly in one hand and peel the skin thinly, using a vegetable peeler or small paring knife. If you wish, wear latex gloves to keep your hands from getting stained.
2. Place the beet on a clean cutting board and hold it steady. Use a chef’s knife to trim the sides, doing this as evenly as possible in order to form a square shape.
3. Hold the trimmed block gently but firmly. Cut into equal slices 1⁄8in (3mm) thick for julienne and 1⁄4 in (5mm) thick for batonettes.
4. Stack the slices a few at a time to prevent them from sliding. Cut each batch into square-edged strips as thick as the slices.

Making zucchini batonettes
Young zucchini with glossy skins will not need peeling.
1. Place the zucchini on a board and cut off both ends. Cut it in half lengthways, then hold it on its side and cut into slices 1⁄4in (5mm) thick.
2. Put each slice on the board and cut across with a sharp chef’s knife to make equal-sized batonettes, about 1⁄4in (5mm) wide.

Making carrot batonettes
For the best flavor, scrape young carrots; older ones need peeling.
1. Set the mandolin blade to a thickness of 1⁄4in (5mm) and hold the mandolin steady. Slide the carrot up and down to make uniform slices.
2. Stack the carrot slices and cut in half crossways. Trim off the rounded sides then cut the slices lengthways into equal strips.

Preparing asparagus
Look for fresh, sprightly spears with tightly closed tips.
1. Lay the spears on a board with the ends in line. Cut off about 1–13⁄4in (2½–4cm) of woody stem. If very fresh, the stems can be snapped off.
2. To ensure tender spears, hold the tip very carefully, then use a vegetable peeler to peel off a thin layer of skin from all sides of the stalk.

Preparing corn
Corn tastes best when used fresh rather than canned or frozen.
1. Remove the husks and all the silk thread from the corn-on-the-cob. Rinse the husked corn under cold running water.
2. Place the blunt end on a cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice straight down the cob. Rotate the cob and repeat.

Preparing whole artichokes
Look for artichokes with tightly closed leaves and firm stalks.
1. Put the artichoke on a cutting board and hold firmly by the stalk. Then, with a pair of strong kitchen scissors, snip off the tough tips of the outer leaves.
2. Next, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut through the stalk at the base of the artichoke head. Alternatively, if it is very fresh, twist off the stalks and the connective strings will come away, too.
3. Pull out any tough, darker green leaves and discard. Cut through the pointed tip. The artichoke is now ready to cook.

Eating whole artichokes
Steam in a vegetable steamer for 30 minutes. Dip the fleshy leaves in melted butter or French dressing and draw between your teeth to scrape off the flesh. When the outer leaves are eaten, pull away the cone of pale inner leaves, scoop out the choke underneath, and eat the succulent heart.

To roast, scoop out the cone and choke. Stuff with breadcrumbs, Parmesan 3 cheese, and olive oil, and roast.

Preparing artichoke hearts
Make sure you remove the hairy choke as it is inedible.
1. Place the whole artichoke on a cutting board. Carefully cut or pull away all of the leaves from the artichoke first, then cut the stalk from the base and discard.
2. Hold the artichoke firmly on the board and, using a sharp knife, cut off the soft middle cone of leaves, which can be found just above the hairy choke.
3. Trim away the bottom leaves with a paring knife. Scoop out the hairy choke if you plan to cut the heart into pieces for cooking.
4. Using a spoon, scoop out the choke fibers. Rub the exposed flesh with lemon juice to keep it from browning.

Preparing avocados
Once ripe enough to eat, avocados are easy to peel and pit.
1. Hold the avocado firmly in one hand then, with a chef’s knife, slice straight into the flesh, making sure that you cut all the way around the pit.
2. Once the avocado has been cut all the way around, gently twist the two halves in opposite directions and carefully pull them apart to separate them.
3. Strike the cutting edge of your knife into the pit and lift the knife (wiggling it if need be) to remove the pit from the avocado.
4. To release the pit from the knife, use a wooden spoon to carefully pry it away, then discard it.
5. Use a spatula to remove the flesh from the skin, keeping it whole if possible. Then place the avocado on a cutting board and cut into slices or wedges.
6. Alternatively, quarter the avocado and hold it very gently to avoid damaging the flesh. Then use a small paring knife to peel away the skin.
7. To dice the avocado, cut it into neat slices lengthways, then repeat the cuts crossways to the desired size.

Storing avocado
Store the fruit in a cool, dark place but do not chill. Once cut and exposed to oxygen, an avocado will discolor quickly. The easiest way to slow this process is by rubbing the exposed flesh with the cut side of a lemon or lime wedge. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top, pressing down as close to the flesh as possible, and store in a refrigerator until needed.

Preparing bell peppers
Red, green, orange, and yellow bell peppers add color to a dish.
1. Place the pepper on its side. Cut off the top and bottom, then stand it on one of the cut ends and slice in half. Remove the core and seeds.
2. Lay each section flat. Remove the pale, fleshy ribs. Cut into smaller sections, following the divisions of the pepper, and chop as required.

Roasting and peeling peppers
Charring the skin makes peeling easier and lends a smoky flavor.
1. Use a pair of tongs to hold the pepper over a flame or place it under a hot broiler to char the skin, turning occasionally. Cool in a plastic bag.
2. When it has cooled, peel away the skin. Pull off the stalk, with the core attached. Discard the seeds and dice the flesh or cut it into strips.

Preparing chiles
Removing the seeds and veins from chiles will reduce their heat.
1. Cut the chile in half lengthways. Using the tip of your knife, scrape out the seeds and remove the membrane and stem.
2. Place the chile half flesh-side down and flatten. Turn over and slice lengthways into strips. For dice, slice the strips crossways into equal pieces.

Roasting and grinding chiles
Remove the stems and seeds before dry-roasting the chiles. 
1. To impart a smoky flavor to chiles, dry-roast in a heavy-based frying pan over high heat. Remove when they begin to darken.
2. Use a mortar and pestle to grind dry-roasted chiles to a powder. Alternatively, they can be soaked, sieved, and ground to a paste.

Roasting potatoes
Scoring the potatoes before roasting gives them a good crust.
1. Peel and cut into equal-sized pieces. Boil in lightly salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool, then score with a fork.
2. Heat a pan with a layer of vegetable oil in the oven at 400°F (200°C). Coat the potatoes in the hot oil and roast for 1 hour, or until crisp.

Mashing potatoes
Use floury varieties, which have a soft, fluffy texture when cooked.
1. Boil until tender, drain, then return to the pan. Add butter, cream or milk, salt and freshly ground black pepper, and nutmeg to taste.  
2. Cover and leave for 5 minutes. Mash with a potato masher until smooth and fluffy. Add extra butter and cream or milk if needed. 

Pan-frying potatoes
Choose firm potatoes that have unbroken skins and no bruises.
1. Clean unpeeled potatoes by washing in water and scrubbing to remove any dirt. Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a frying pan until hot.

2. Cover and leave for 5 minutes. Mash with a potato masher until smooth and fluffy. Add extra butter and cream or milk if needed.

Making fries
Double-frying fries ensures that they will be really crisp.
1. Cut large, floury potatoes into fry shapes. Heat oil for deep-frying to 325°F (160°C). Fry for 5–6 minutes until soft, but not brown. Drain.
2. Reheat the oil to 350°F (180°C) and fry all the fries again for 2–3 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.

Boiling green vegetables
Texture and color are best preserved if the cooking is brief.
1. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Add the prepared vegetables. Bring to a rapid boil and cook until they are tender.
2. Drain through a colander and serve, or, to set the green color and stop the vegetables cooking, rinse under cold running water.

Stir-frying vegetables
Speed is the key to successful stir-frying; toss and stir continuously.
1. When the wok (or pan) is hot, add sunflower, canola, or peanut oil, tilting the pan to spread the oil. Then toss in garlic or ginger.
2. Add the desired vegetables and toss them continuously. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover, and cook briefly until tender.

Steaming vegetables
As the vegetables are not immersed, nutrients are better preserved.

1. Bring 1in (2½ cm) of water to a boil in the bottom pan of a steamer. Place the prepared vegetables in the upper basket and position on top.
2. When the steam rises, cover the pan with a fitted lid and cook until the vegetables are just tender when pierced with a knife.

Sautéing firm vegetables
Use this quick method of cooking for batonettes or dice.
1. Set a sauté pan over high heat. When hot, add a thin layer of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the vegetables and keep turning them to cook evenly.
2. Keep tossing the vegetables in the pan. Once they take on a light golden-brown color and become tender, remove from the heat and serve.

Preparing herbs
Fresh herbs can be used whole, chopped, or pounded.
To strip the leaves off woody herbs, hold the top end and run the thumb and forefinger of the other hand along the stalk
For a bouquet garni, tie a sprig of thyme and parsley with a bay leaf. Rosemary or sage could also be used. Discard before serving.

Chopping tender herbs
Herbs with easily bruised leaves should be chopped bunched together.
1. To chop herbs with tender leaves, such as basil, without bruising them, stack the leaves together and roll them into a tight bunch.
2. Holding the bunch steady and using the knife in a rocking motion, chop finely, turning the leaves 90 degrees halfway through.

Preparing spices
Bruising, cutting, and grinding help to release the aroma of spices.
To prepare whole fresh spices such as lemongrass, bruise them by pressing down with the flat side of a heavy knife. This will help to release their volatile oils.
To prepare spice roots such as ginger, turmeric, and horseradish, grate them or finely chop them by hand, using a knife. Peel off the skin beforehand.
When spices are fried until lightly colored, the oil takes on their flavor. It can then be used along with the spices.
To dry-roast spices, place them in an oven preheated to 325˚F (160˚C), or toast them in a dry pan until lightly browned.

Cooking rice by absorption
Always soak and rinse the rice before cooking; use stock for flavor.
1. Put the rice and 1 1⁄2 times as much water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir, simmer uncovered until the water is absorbed, then take off the heat.
2. Cover with a tea towel and lid, steam for 20 minutes, then remove the towel and replace the lid. Leave for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Rehydrating instant couscous
Couscous is normally enriched with oil or butter before serving.
1. Pour twice its volume of boiling water or stock over the couscous. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, a knob of butter or other flavorings, and seasoning. Fluff up the grains again until they are separate, then serve.

Making risotto
Short to medium grains that swell but maintain their shape are ideal.
1. Heat 3 cups stock in a saucepan to a simmer. In another pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 5 tbsp butter. Stir in 10oz (280g) risotto rice, coating the grains in the butter and oil.
2. Add 1⁄3 cup white wine and boil, stirring until absorbed. Add a ladle of the hot stock and stir until absorbed. Continue adding the stock, one ladle at a time, and stirring constantly.
3. When all the stock is added and the rice is tender but with a bite (about 20 minutes), add some butter, season, and remove from the heat.
4. The risotto should have a creamy texture. It is best served immediately or it will continue to cook and become too soft.

Making pie dough by hand
Pie dough can be used for both sweet and savory baking.
1. Sift 1 cup all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl (or use whole wheat flour without sifting). Add 6 tbsp cold diced butter, margarine, or other fat. Lightly stir.
2. Using your fingertips, rub together the flour and butter until the mixture forms the consistency of coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 2 tbsp iced water over the mixture.

3. Use your fingers to gather the dough together and roll around to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes before using.

The art of good pie dough
Butter gives the best flavor, but half butter and half lard or vegetable shortening gives a shorter crust.
Keep the ingredients cold and handle them as little as possible.
Do not over-mix the dough or it will be tough.
Leave to chill and rest before rolling. Always roll away from you and turn the dough, not the rolling pin.

Making pie dough in a food processor
Be careful not to over-process the dough; pulse on a low speed.
1. Fit the metal blade into a food processor. Add the butter, salt, egg yolk, sugar, and milk and purée until smooth. Gradually add the sifted flour.
2. Pulse the mixture until it starts to come together to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lining a pie dish with dough
Remove excess dough and decorate the edges for a finished look.
1. Roll the dough out and press gently into the bottom of the pan and against the sides. Roll a rolling pin over the top to trim off excess dough.
2. For a fluted edge, push an index finger against the outer rim and pinch the dough with the other index finger and thumb to form a ruffle.

Baking dough blind
Pre-cook dough if its filling will be baked only briefly, or not at all.
1. After lining a pie dish with dough, carefully prick the bottom all over with a fork. This will allow trapped air to escape during baking and prevent puffing.
2. Cut out a circle of parchment paper, slightly larger than the dish. Fold it in half 3 times to make a triangle. Snip the edges at regular intervals with scissors.
3. Place the parchment circle into the dish. Fill it with an even layer of ceramic baking beans. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 15–20 minutes.
4. Leave to cool, then remove the beans and parchment. For a fully baked crust, bake for a further 5–8 minutes, or until golden.

Making a classic omelet
Always check eggs are free from any cracks; discard broken ones.
1. Beat and season the eggs. Melt a knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. When frothy, add the eggs, tilting the pan so that they can spread across it.
2. Stir with a fork to distribute the eggs evenly. Stop stirring as soon as they are set. Fold the side of the omelet nearest to you halfway across the circle.
3. To form a neatly rolled omelet, sharply tap the handle to encourage the omelet to curl over and slide to the edge.
4. When the omelet is cooked to your taste, tilt the pan over a serving plate until the omelet slides onto it, seam-side down. Serve at once.
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