Preparing Fruits & Vegetables

21/07/2012 16:56

Don't miss out on delicious fruit and veggies because you're not sure how to prepare them. Here are some useful tips to show you how.  


PINEAPPLES ~ don't ripen once they have been picked. So the best indication as to whether you are getting a good ripe pineapple is to choose one that is nice and plump and has a bright green crown (leaves) and one that has a golden -yellow shell. Have a sniff too, the base of the pineapple should have a fragrant, mild sweet aroma, meaning it is ripe.

PEELING A PINEAPPLE ~ Remove the leafy crown with a sharp knife and cut a thin slice from the base. Stand it upright on a chopping board and slice off the skin from top to bottom, working your way around the pineapple. Dig out any stuborn spikes with the point of a small knife. Slice or cut into wedges. If you are not serving the pineapple straight away, sprinkle it with a little lemon juice to prevent it from browning.

MANGO ~ Mangos have a very distinctive sweet taste.There are many different types of mango. Skin colour ranges from green to orange and red but does not indicate the ripeness. Select those which are firm and bright with a distinct pleasant aroma. Cut only when ready to use to keep their aroma.

TO PREPPARE ~ To peel cut from the stem end first and skin will pull away easily if ripe.
An easy way to prepare mango and that also looks good, is to slice each side of the large flat stone to obtain two fleshy cheeks. Score the flesh into cubes but not through the skin. Turn skin inside out so flesh is easy to remove. Cut any remaining flesh from around the stone.

PAPAYA ~ also known as Paw paw and is similar in appearance to a mango. It has a yellowy-green skin tinged with orange when it's ripe. Inside, are jet-black or grey -black seeds that look like giant caviar.

TO PREPARE ~ Cut the papaya in half lengthway. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the black seeds and discard. Cut the flesh away from the skin, which can't be eaten.

STARFRUIT ~ This fruit acquired its name from the five pointed star shape when cut across the middle of the fruit. This fruit also goes by many other names too, here is a few - bilimbi, Chinese star fruit, and the star apple.
TO PREPARE ~ Slice with a large sharp knife to get cute little stars. The whole fruit is edible, including the skin, Its sweet and sour flavour make it an unusual addition to fruit salads.

LYCHEES ~ round or slightly egg-shaped,the size of a walnut shell, pink to reddish-brown in colour, with a textured skin. An attractive fruit with translucent, pearly white flesh, that has a delicate sweet taste. In the centre is a shiny brown seed.
TO PREPARE ~ Peeling lychees is easy - Simply split the shell open with your fingers or a knife, taking care not to cut the flesh, and peel the skin off. Discard the small seed. For a lovely presentation cut skin with scissors from tip end into petals. Fold each petal under fruit or force outwards so it resembles a flower.

POMEGRANATE ~ Crack these little orbs open and hidden inside you shall find little crimson jewels just bursting with juicy flavour!

TO PREPARE ~ Using a sharp knife, carefully cut off the crown, then gently remove the lid to expose the edible seeds inside. Score the pomegranate into four sections and break the pomegranate in half by gently pulling it apart with your fingers. Then break the half into quarters. Now place the sections in a bowl of cold water, and roll the arils (seeds) out of the membrane with your fingers,letting them sink to the bottom of the bowl. (By doing this in the sink, and under water, helps to prevent the seeds from spurting all over you and your kitchen!) Discard the empty membranes. Then, turn the bowl of water over a strainer, leaving just the pomegranate seeds. Now they are ready to

Tip ~ Pomegranate juice stains, so it's very good idea to protect your clothes and work surfaces.

AVOCADOS ~ come in different shapes from oval to pear depending on which variety they are from.
But green or dark, rough or smooth, they are all the same inside. With a large inedible stone surrounded by soft, buttery, creamy-white to greenish-yellow flesh which has a delicate nutty taste.

STONING AN AVOCADO ~ Halve the avocado lenghtways and twist the halves in opposite directions to separate. Place the halve with the stone on a board and carefully strike the stone with a large shap knife. Twist to dislodge the stone.

PEACHES,PLUMS, APRICOTS & NECTERINES ~ Choosing the best - look for fruit that is plump, firm and heavy for its size. The flesh should give when lightly pressed. Colour isn't really a sign of ripeness, instead give it a sniff- ripe fruit is very aromatic. Fruit will soften off the tree but won't get any sweeter.

REMOVING THE STONE ~ run a sharp knife around the natural groove of the fruit and, holding half in each hand, gently twist the two halves in opposite directions. If ripe the two halves will come away easily.

PEELING STONE FRUIT ~ cut a small cross in the bottom of the fruit and drop into boiling water for a few seconds, then refresh in cold water - the skins will peel off easily. Rub the peeled fruits with lemon juice to keep them from darkening.

RHUBARB ~ Botanically, rhubarb is a vegetable being related to such plants like dock and sorrel, but it is treated as a fruit because of its high acidity. Rhubarb leaves are toxic and have no safe culinary use.

TO PREPARE ~ Wash and trim the rhubarb stems before use and discard the leaves. If using the outdoor-grown rhubarb, then remove any stringy outer layers. Cut the rhubarb into equal-sized pieces to ensure even cooking.

* As with other relatively acidic foods it is recommended that rhubarb is
not cooked using aluminum pots. - The problem with aluminium is it reacts with some types of foods, especially with those with alkaline of acidic components - aluminium particles might be leached into the food.

CHESTNUTS ~ before cooking the Chestnuts, the most important step is to cut the shell to prevent the nut from exploding whilst cooking! Some cut a slit across the face of the nut, others cut a cross into the pale end (hilum).

PEELING CHESTNUTS ~ It is easier to peel chestnuts while they are still warm and damp. Wrap the cooked chestnuts in a tea towel to keep them warm while you are peeling the others. Remove the outer shell and also the inner brown skin or 'pellicle', as this can sometimes taste quite bitter. Boiled chestnuts are probably the easiest ones from which to peel the pellicle, though if you dry roast or grill them, it is not so important to remove all the pellicle prior to eating. Different varieties vary in their ease of peeling.

CHILLI ~ There are hundreds of different varieties of chillies ranging from very mild to scorchingly hot. The strength of the chilli depends on the amount of capsaicin, a volatile oil, in the seeds and pith. It is this oil that can burn the skin and eyes, so when preparing chillies it is best to wear rubber gloves and cut out the seeds and pith. If you do use bare fingers make sure you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. DESEED A CHILLI ~ The hottest part is the white strip and seeds - if you want flavour without heat, slice lengthways and scrape out the strip and seeds with a spoon.

GINGER ~ Fresh root ginger can vary in size and has a pale brown, dry skin. Once cut, ginger will keep chilled in cling wrap for up to 2 weeks. or can be frozen in a airtight container.
Thinly peel or scrape off the skin from a fresh piece of root ginger. Grate the root taking care not to graze your fingers at the end! Peeled ginger can be ground to a paste with garlic and a little oil to make a smooth mixture. Cut thin, peeled, slices of ginger into matchstick strips for stri-fries or similar dishes. Bruise the root using a flat blade of a knife, this is used in dishes where the ginger will be removed and not eaten.

GARLIC ~ The intensity of flavour of fresh garlic will depend on how the garlic is prepared first. Using WHOLE cloves will give you a mild flavour, as will SLICING them, as the oils and the juices form the garlic have not yet been released. CHOPPING will give a medium flavour, whilst MINCED cloves releases large amounts of the garlic's oils and juices so will give a full flavour. SMASHED,  PUREED  and PRESSED garlic cloves will have the most Intense flavour of all.

ONIONS & SHALLOTS ~ Peeling small onions is fiddly work, try blanching them for a few seconds in boiling water before draining and running through with cold water- This loosens the skins and makes peeling much easier.

To help prevent tears in the kitchen ~

* Place the onions in the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes before chopping
* Peel the onions under running water
* Use a wet chopping board and a sharp knife.
* Chopped Onion can be frozen for up to three months. Once defrosted they can be used as normal in sauces, stews and casseroles.

PEELING TOMATOES ~  make a cross in the skin on the bottom of each one, then plunge into boiling water for 15 seconds, remove and drop into cold water. The skins will peel off nicely.

SQUASHES ~ First cut them into manageable sized pieces. Do this by halving a squash widthways then lengthways, scoop out the seeds and peel the skin with a potato peeler. For pumpkins it is easier to cut wedges off the whole pumpkin.

Butternuts hard rind and awkward shape means that they require careful cutting.
The best way I find to cut up a Butternut squash is to use a good heavy chefs knife. Then, cut of the top and bottom off the squash. Halve and scrape out all the seeds. Then peel using a sharp vegetable peeler to peel the skin away in long strips. Then cut into strips the width you require for your recipe, then dice into cubes. (usually recipes call for 1-2inch cubes.) then just cook you butternut as required.