Filmed by Steve Ager. Produced by Natalie Whittle. Illustrations by Matt Johnstone. Animation by Oliver McGuirk. Additional producing and editing by Josh de la Mare. With thanks to Grain Store, King's Cross.
The onion-- there's one tip I can give you that's really going to improve your life. It's how to chop one efficiently.
The knife-- this my favourite everyday knife. It's a Japanese Santoku. It's lethally sharp. The tip area here, we can cut very, very delicately with that point area. And then back here, that gives you a long straight area with which to chop.
Now you're probably thinking that chopping onions is all about crying and weeping. No, it doesn't have to be that way. You can wear swimming goggles, which is what my daughter does. But what makes you cry is a substance called oxalic acid, which is in the cells of the onion. When you cut through it with a blunt knife, you crush through those cells and it forms an aerosol of oxalic acid. But if you use a sharp knife, you go straight through those cells, and all of the deposits of oxalic acid induced just stick to the side of your knife. And if you don't sniff your knife, you don't cry.
The idea of cutting towards my thumb is just bonkers, so I just take the top off like that. Cut straight through the root. But that's the really key part of it. You've got to keep the root there, and it holds the onion together while you're doing the chopping.
The fast way to do it is to cup on a kind of radius back in towards the centre of the onion, leaving the root intact all the time. Then hold it. Use a claw. Remember that the blade is going to run against your knuckles. And just chop down through. And what falls away is just neat little cuboids of onion there.
Now if you want to go the chef-y way, still keeping the root intact, cut down through the onion, each slice about the same width apart as the thickness of each layer of the onion. That's going to give you some neat little cubes when you slice down through. But one of the problems you have with this is on the end of each slice, you've still got these big, ugly, sort of cheek pieces that are stuck there. So this is the sneaky trade secret. Take your half onion, bring it towards the edge of the board, and then very, very carefully, slice horizontally almost to the root, twice. Now use the tip of your blade again to go down through, almost to the root. And there you've got a pretty much perfect fine dice of onion, what a chef would call brunoise.
If you remember nothing else, two cardinal rules. Always was keep the root on and keep a very, very sharp knife.