Friday, 16 November 2012

A Nice Pair - Er


A paring knife doesn’t fulfil many tasks in my kitchen, the reason being, to be useful knives should be so sharp, that if you merely touch the edge, you’re nicked. A paring knife, as the name suggests is used to peel or take small slices off, say apples. This is done by holding the knife in the crook of your fingers with your thumb against the apple and bringing the knife onto your thumb. This is immediately followed by kitchen paper being applied with firm pressure to the ball of the thumb whilst being driven to hospital for stitches. I eat apples with my teeth, I peel veg with a peeler, the rule of “thumb” is you never cut towards your hand (except 2-3 cuts on half an onion to begin the dicing operation, but that’s another story)

The only task I use a parer for is scraping new potatoes, something that seems to have gone out of fashion. So many times they are served unpeeled, I find that gross, I can eat them, but that’s because I’ll eat anything, I’m such a pig. However, potato peel goes into the pig swill, it merely means the chef is lazy. If you have the correct parer and a good technique new potatoes can be scraped lickety spit. Exactly what constitutes a good parer? Below are two, top one is years old, a Boots Sabatier el Cheapo Nasty, not forged, and it’s been so long since the Sabatier family made very good knives that there is no trademark, anyone can call their knives Sabatier, Boots don’t even make knives.

The degree of sharpness of knives is of prime importance not just in the butchers or fishmongers, but in the kitchen too. Blunt knives cause accidents, too much force applied and the veggie moves and whoops; it’s a finger end in the stew. Someone said a knife is sharp enough if it can slice through a soft tomato without squashing it. The true test is to lay the knife on the tomato and holding the handle with thumb and one finger gently draw the knife back, if it slices the tomato, the knife is sharp enough.

The bottom knife is an Analon, high quality, fully forged high carbon, tempered and ice hardened, easy grip, Costa Lotto Mucho. A very good knife, but for what, the blade is too long for a parer, the blade is curved, why?  The point is too high; to get that point into a potato eye it has turn through 90 degrees. The Analon knife is a very good knife for opening packaging, not much else! One day, with the Boots knife I foolishly tried to prize something or other, knives ain’t tyre levers, and the point broke off. I searched high and low for a similar blade, but they were all as per the Analon. So, out came the angle grinder and I dressed a new point, actually improving the knife by shortening the blade. Many manufactures of high quality knives clearly lack a designer who actually knows how to use the damn things.


Correct grip for scraping taters, held in the crook of the index finger, flat of the blade towards the thumb, the first bit of the blade has to be blunted, the rest very sharp. With the left hand twirling the tater, the right hand flapping like a baby wave bye bye without opening the fingers, and the right thumb on the bottom of the tater, any stubborn eye or blemish is dealt with by a slight movement of the blade to the right to bring the point into play. New potatoes really are a lot better scraped, is there really an excuse not to!!!



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