Knife skills course- 12 in 2 list

On Saturday, I knocked off one of my ‘12 in 2 list‘ goals – do a knife skills course.  I went to the Chef’s Armoury in Rosebery, Sydney.  It was $89 for a 1.5 hour session – there were 6 people (though one didn’t turn up) to the one teacher in the specialist knife store – mainly Japanese knives, and some additional food items.  You were asked to bring a small and a large knife – which is smart, to learn how to use YOUR knife, rather than one of theirs.

First we started with carrots, and had our skills evaluated.  It is nerve racking having someone watch you do something you know you’re not that good at – that’s why I signed up for the course! Anyhow, no one was immediately eliminated, and despite threats that he’d shout ‘STOP EVERYTHING’ if he saw anything really dangerous, we all did pretty well.  Basically, the key learning was that you need to curve all your fingers around like you’re holding a stress ball, as you cut whatever item.  AS I said, we started with a LOT of carrots!  Practising our curled fingers we julienned carrots, and then finely diced them.  Then we moved onto leeks.

The non cutting hand should be shaped like it's around a stress ball.

The non cutting hand should be shaped like it’s around a stress ball.

The thing that I learnt about leeks was how to wash out that pesky dirt that is always near the tops of the white part.  Basically you cut the ‘head’ into quarters or eighths, making it like a brush.  Then you swish it around in a sink or bowl of water, and huzzah, no more dirt.  Really not rocket science, but something I’d never worked out on my own :s

Creating a leek 'brush' to clean out the dirt

Creating a leek ‘brush’ to clean out the dirt

So far, everyone had all their fingers.  Thought a few people had some knife to fingernail action, there was no blood or anything serious!  Next he really upped the ante, and whipped out the capsicum (bell peppers).  Seeing we’d mastered juliennes and dicing, we then were shown how to skin a capsicum with a knife.  Let me assume me, I do not think I’ve ever really thought ‘wow I need to skin this capsicum’ but as the instructor explained, the skin is bitter, and when you have a fine dice or similar, say for a bruschetta, you don’t want little bits of skin in your teeth.  I didn’t really master the finer skills in separating the capsicum skin from the flesh, but that’s ok, cause next up we went onto tomatoes).

Tomatoes are EASY in comparison!  I can skin a tomato, without boiling it, and then burning my fingers!  And then, just to keep up our skills, we finely diced the tomato as well.  We learnt that the fine dice was part of the beauty of cooking, the smaller pieces of carrot, leek, onion or tomato caramelise better due to the larger surface area.  So there you go, not something I’d ever considered, but of course is makes perfect sense.

Oh and back on the leeks – here’s a good way to dice them.  Cut into the core, and then lay it flat like a book.  Then julienne in line with the grain (ie cutting along the ‘long side’ rather than the ‘formerly round end’), then come back to dice them.

Lay the leek flat like a book

Lay the leek flat like a book

We leant two motions with the knife.  There was a pinch gripe, with a simple up and down motion.  This is where we started with the carrots.  Then we moved onto the locomotive grip, running in an elliptical motion.  This elliptical motion is crucial when cutting spring onion or shallots so that you don’t crush the circular structure.  It seems this is what I hadn’t mastered, as that’s what causes the shallots to no be cut right through (they sort of look like a potato hedgehog or something).  Definitely something I’ll need to practice some more as I didn’t reach perfection during the course.

Pinch grip on the knife (a lot further forward than where I usually was cutting from)

Pinch grip on the knife (a lot further forward than where I usually was cutting from)

Next up we learnt how to zest an orange (or any citrus fruit really).  Essentially it was just using the knife to finely peel the colour part from the pith.  Interestingly, whilst we were asked to bring a big and a small knife, we were encouraged to use the large knife for everything if we felt comfortable.  I also wasn’t the master of the zesting, but I got better as we were asked to peel the pith (without, obviously, removing too much of the lovely flesh!) Lastly we learnt how to cut out segments, leaving behind the nasty white niceness (cause white stuff is poisonous – like in the capsicum.  NO, no it’s not, but our teacher assures us every 5 year old will tell you it is!).  I didn’t take an action shot of this, but I’ll show you the mother’s day fruit salad I made on Sunday to test the skills

Mother's day fruit salad (my mother is a much stronger adherent to no sugar, so this was the PERFECT dessert for her)

Mother’s day fruit salad (my mother is a much stronger adherent to no sugar, so this was the PERFECT dessert for her)

Last, but by no means least, we learnt to cut onions.  Now, the teacher says the only way to not cry cutting them is to get someone else to cut them! The other participants said a mouthful of cider or beer will help – so I’m willing to try it.  Cause the matchstick between the teeth trick has come up bust with me lately.  Basically you keep the root on, and trim the head of the onion.  Then you cross the head of the onion, and use the knife to peel away the skin.  Tick and tick – well I wasn’t using a knife to peel away the skim previously, but otherwise I was following the method in my own cooking.  Then you halve the onion and cut wedges into it, keeping the root intact. There’s not need to do the whole ‘then cut horizontally through the onion’.  Then using the fingers around a ball technique, you dice the onion, with tears streaming down your face.  Tada, the sad end to the class!

Criss cross on the onion, to help peel it

Criss cross on the onion, to help peel it

Angled cut/slice back towards the root ball

Angled cut/slice back towards the root ball

I’m pleased I went, and in order to illustrate this post I tested all my skills in making a vegetable soup!  For the first six months he asks us to WATCH what we’re doing, but once we have finger placement down pat, the safety of it will mean we can cut and safely watch TV at the same time!  Wow, cool huh?

'Practice' complete - and a veggie soup so extensive I needed to do it in two batches as my saucepan is too small!

‘Practice’ complete – and a veggie soup so extensive I needed to do it in two batches as my saucepan is too small!

I did the course at The Chef’s Amoury on Botany Rd, Rosebery.  They were the most competitive course out there, with small class sizes.

Did I teach you anything new? Any cool tips you have, that I can add to my repertoire?

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Bucket list (beyond 12 in 2)

Thanks to Danny Dover, I have a longer bucket list!  I won’t set a deadline though!  And the list isn’t in a priority order either.

Travel

1. Visit every continent
2. See Machu Picchu
3. See Aurora Borealis
4. Visit tulip fields in The Netherlands
5. Go to the super bowl
6. See Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
7. Go to Burning Man, Black Rock desert, Nevarda USA
8. Go to (the original) Mardi Gras in New Orleans
9. Visit The Maldives
10. Visit Russia
11. Visit Serbia/Croatia/Bosnia/Romania
12. Visit Mauritius
13. Visit Ethiopia
14. Visit Oradour-sur-Glane, France
15. Spend Christmas or Thanksgiving in the US
16. Visit Vietnam/Cambodia
17. Visit Scandinavia (no more exact than that yet!)
18. Fly FIRST class
19. Stay in Igloo Village
20. Stay in a tree house
21. Live in NYC
22. Ride the bullet train in Japan
23. See the Golden Gate Bridge

Activities (that aren’t location specific)

24. Go zorbing (all the blue things are on my 12 in 2 list!)
25. Get hypnotised (ideally to solve a bad habit!)
26. Ride a segway
27. Drive on a race track
28. Go on a ‘big boat’ style cruise (maybe in retirement)
29. Fly on a trapeze
30. Swim with dolpins in NATURE (not in Dubai…:s)
31. Watch a movie at a drive in (if they still exist!)
32. Go jet skiing  (on the 12 in 2 list)
33. Get my palm read/fortune told
34. Make a gingerbread house (THIS YEAR!!)
35. Get body painted for an event
36. Go cave diving
37. Be part of a flash mob (thanks Moonwave for the tip!)
38. Complete a half marathon  (on the 12 in 2 list)
39. Learn the name and location of all the countries in Africa
40. Own a cello for purely decorative purposes (though I do know how to play, as does my bf..)
41. Own a luxury European vehicle (BMW, Audi or Mercedes)
42. Write my will
43. Prepay and plan my funeral
44. Learn to surf
45. Build a bonfire and make S’mores
46. Pay for someone else’s groceries (I LOVE this one, thanks http://www.lifed.com) Completed Jun 2013
47. Go to a silent retreat
48. Go white water rafting
49. Join the MHC
50. Get married
51. Have children
52. Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge

Remember, not in any priority order 😉

Completed Bucket List items

Adventure

– Hot air balloon (Dubai 2012)

Hot air ballooning
– Hang glide (fixed – Tasmania, freely – Wollongong 2011?)
– Sky dive (Wollongong 2010?)
– Helicopter ride (New York City 2011)
– Bungee jumping (really a canyon swing, but similar and less impact on the body 2005)

‘Education’

– Get a floristry certification 2009

Wedding flowes

Flowers for a friend’s wedding

– Get a motorcycle licence (for a scooter) 2009
– Learn to play cello 1995-2002
– Learn to play trombone 2001-2002

Travel – I’m lucky to have nomadic, travel loving parents, so up until 2005, they covered the cost. 2006 was on my own dime. India was at their inspiration. I have left off some of the smaller European destinations (BE–LUX – NE made it in, Andorra)

– Visit New Caledonia – 1988?
– Visit Tokyo (overnight) – 1992
– See the Statue of Liberty – first in 1992
– Visit Hong Kong – 1993
– See the Eiffel Tower – first time in 1993
– Live in France – 1993 & 2006
– Visit Barcelona – 1993
– Live in Vanuatu – 1995-1998 (went to boarding school in Brisbane)
– Visit Auckland NZ – 1995/6?
– Visit Bangkok – first in 1996? (my parents LOVE the place!)
– Visit Laos – 2004?
– Visit New Orleans – ?? 1997?
– See the Colosseum – 2006
– Visit Prague – 2006
– See the Pyramids – 2006
– Visit Venice – 2006
– Visited concentration camps (Aushwitz) – 2006
– Visit Singapore (overnight) – 2008
– Visit Germany – 2008
– See the Taj Mahal – 2008
– Visit Cuba – 2009
– Visit Canada (Montreal) – 2009
– Visit Bahamas – 2009
– Sail the Greek Isles – 2010
– Visit Amsterdam – 2010
– Visit Chicago – 2011
– Visit Israel – 2011
– Visit Dubai – 2012
– Visit Morocco – 2012
– Visit all major Australian Captials (Brisbane – birthplace, Sydney – current home, the most recent ones were Alice Springs/Ayres Rock in 2011, Adelaide in 2009, Perth in 2011, Hobart in 2009.  Darwin ain’t major… so not been there yet!)

Experience

– Attend Olympic Games – 2000 for water polo (which I still play, and in the SAME Sydney Olympic pool!) and volleyball (which I did play)
– See penguins in the wild – 2005
– Fly business class long haul (one way Paris – Dubai – Sydney)

Business class

– Go paint balling
– Try acupuncture (regularly!)
– Donate Blood
– Swim in the dead sea
– Visit Disneyland (Euro in 1994 and US style in 1996 I think)
– 100% debt free (credit card debt) – I never really wasn’t though!
– Go skinny dipping (we had a back yard pool as kids)
– Learnt to use chop sticks (enforced from a young age!)
– See Cirque du Soleil Show
– Order room service (ah, work trips!)

Stuff

– Buy a scooter – 2010
– Buy an (gorgeous) loft apartment by myself – Dec 2011!

I used a few sites to help me work out what’s on their list that I’ve done, such as http://www.lifelisted.com/life-list/ <— This was the main inspiration and why my list got SO long! (I did however add any that I thought he should have!)  At least I can add to my list of things I’d like to experience thanks to his comprehensive list!