Prepare packed lunches quickly – How to cut vegetables

Keep thumb out of the way

This post was written to help you prepare packed lunches quickly and time is always of the essence but this will also be useful when preparing your meals of course.To cut and prepare vegetable efficiently, all you need is a chef’s knife and a smaller utility knife. Don’t cut one little piece at a time but try and gather as much of the vegetable as possible when doing your cuts. I will show you what I mean using pictures. As well as describing some personal cutting techniques, I have also included some tips which I hope you will find useful.

Carrots– if used in wraps and salads for a packed lunch, they are best grated. Otherwise, below is how I cut carrots into small cubes. Peel and cut the tips. Tap the tips of the carrots with your chef’s knife to align (I know, the picture was taken too early…. dough!).

Tap tips to align

If large, cut the carrot in half lengthwise pushing down the tip of the knife first. Use your other hand to help you guide and push the blade down.

Use other hand to help push blade down

Place both halves with their cut side on the board, for stability, and cut again in half (or cut more lengths if you want to end up with very small cubes). Tip: cut lengthwise in quarters leaving the tip untouched to help hold the lengths together.

Leave tip untouched to hold lengths together

Then, hold them tight with one hand, making sure your thumb is out of the way, place the knife at a slight angle and push forward and down as you cut through the lengths.

Keep thumb out of the way

You might need to start with fewer carrots until you get the hang of it.

Courgettes- You won’t be using them in your packed lunches of course but you still need to cut them for cooking. So, here is what I do. The quickest way to explain is using a picture. This is just one courgette, nicely cut in lengths to improve efficiency.

Cutting courgette efficiently

Align all ends and start cutting across

Garlic– don’t forget to remove the green sprout/germ before using your garlic otherwhise it makes the garlic hard to digest. I think it will also help reduce that garlic breath and it tastes bitter anyway. All you need to do is cut the garlic in  two, lengthwise and remove the germ with the point of your knife. Then chop finely.

Green sprout/germ from garlic

Discard the green sprout / germ

Leeks– Don’t use them in your packed lunch, red onions or spring onions would go better. In any case, watch out! You might think that your leek is clean but the chances are that there is a lot of mud hidden inside. So, put the tip of your knife right at the centre of the leek, starting at the roots and run the knife all the way to the green leaves. Try and stay right in the middle otherwise your knife will soon be cutting the chopping board away from the leek (you could turn the leek 90° and run the knife along the other edge of the leek to get even smaller cuts, but this gets really tricky).

Cutting right along centre

Then open up your leek and rinse under the tap to remove any mud. Given it a good shake to remove excess water. Next, cut off the green part of the leek. Tip: The green part and root of leeks are great to flavour home-made stock. Don’t remove the root just yet as it helps keep the leaves together when cutting. Next, cut across the length of the leek so as to get two halves. Then place the two halves next to each other and cut with your chef’s knife using a forward motion and starting at a slight angle. You can discard the root now.
Peppers– stand the pepper straight and, with a small knife, cut around the stem area to remove it.

Remove stem area

Then cut in half and remove the white bits and seeds inside. Cut the halves into thin lengths. Bring all the lengths together. Holding them together with your thumb folded out of the way (you can’t see my hand here because I was taking the picture, but you can in the section Carrots), put the knife at a slight angle and push forward and down as it cuts through the lengths.

Cutting cubes

Onions– use red onions in your packed lunches (although I used white ones in my pictures, the latter are best left for cooking). Use in small quantities to spice up and give some nice bright colour to your food but not too much, otherwise you will have an onion taste in your mouth all afternoon….:-). Cut the onion in half then, as the picture shows, make cuts across the half, holding top and bottom with the thumb and index of your other hand so that the onion does not lose its shape. Use the knife with the same forward motion.

Hold the onion steady with other hand

Then turn the onion at 90° and make similar cuts across the onion, using the other hand to hold the shape, taking care of your fingers as you reach the end.

Smaller spacing gives smaller cubes

Tip: Did you know that onion peel is great to flavour home-made stock?

Swede – this vegetable is really tricky to cut because of its hard flesh so be careful. In any case, you will never want to serve it raw. Use is cooked in soups or other dishes. Step-by-step instructions are shown below:

Tomatoes – keep the seeds if you are making a rice or pasta salad but you should remove (most of) them if used in sandwiches or wraps to keep them dry. Cut the tomato in half. Tip: hold both halves upside down over the sink or a plate and shake them once with your arm and wrists while squeezing to make the seeds fall off.