Day 9: Classic Tomato Salsa

Hey! How are you getting on? It’s Day 9 of my May Back to Basics Cookery Challenge/Tutorial and we’re finally here, in the kitchen, ready to make one of my all time favourite foods – salsa!

But we’re not just starting with salsa because it’s my favourite, we’re starting here because it’s a great way to practice and improve your knife skills.

  • You’ll be dicing tomatoes with their skins on
  • Finely chopping onions and chillies
  • Chiffonading (thinly slicing) herbs

And bringing that all together with a big pile of corn chips to enjoy your salsa!

If you’re used to shop bought salsa, prepare for a completely different flavour! Branded salsa, the ones you get in the glass jars, are often nothing like REAL salsa. Too sweet, no texture and no lime hit, I’m not really sure it can be called salsa haha!

Fresh salsa on the other hand is filled with texture, fresh tomatoey flavours with a zing coming from the lime and heat from the chillies.

If you’re new to cooking or knife skills, I recommend starting with a chunky salsa. Once you find yourself dicing all of the ingredients easily and uniformly to around 1cm x 1cm x 1cm, move on to a smaller dice and a smaller dice again until you end up with a fine dice or ‘brunoise’ of 3mm x 3mm x 3mm.

How To Hold A Chef’s Knife Properly

In films, social media and sometimes in restaurants, you hear the sound of the knife being bashed against the chopping and often the chef doing flamboyant moves while grinning.

Don’t be impressed.

Be impressed when you’re able to chop in a smooth motion and you hear no sound when the knife touches the board.

Sounds equals the knife being blunted. No sounds equals it’s ‘at one’ with everything and you’ll be chopping ingredients properly.

Try it! Grab one of your tomatoes. Bring the knife down on it. Has it smooshed everywhere and not diced properly? Now hold your knife firmly and in a way that allows you to smoothly chop in a circular motion. It should completely slice the tomato with no sound.

When it comes to holding your knife, I’m of the opinion that it’s whatever works for you.

When I was in cookery school, I was told to hold my knife in a certain way but I actually couldn’t chop properly and it was uncomfortable.

As long as your fingers and thumb are out of the way of the blade, you can chop in a smooth motion and your hand is not aching, then I would say that’s a good starting point!

For me, I tend to hand my knife firmly near to where the blade begins, with my thumb and index finger holding the blade itself. But see what works for you!

Let’s Get Chopping!

Salsa’s come in many forms and today we’ll be making the classic raw salsa. No cooking requirement!

You’ll need:

  • 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander (a small handful)
  • 150g fresh tomatoes
  • 1 red onion (You can use white if that’s what you have.)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional: 1/2 red chilli or fresh jalapeno


  • Chef’s knife
  • Chopping board
  • Glass or stoneware bowl (don’t use a metal one as the ingredients might react causing an odd taste to your salsa)

Begin by…

  1. Dicing your tomatoes, 1/2 of the onion and the chilli if you’re using. Put those in your bowl.
  2. Thinly slice (chiffonade) your coriander. Add this to bowl as well.
  3. Cut your lime in half, and squeeze in to your bowl around 1 tbsp’s worth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Eat immediately with your tortilla chips 😀

I’ve put some examples below of a chunkier salsa chop. Try and get your onions around this size to begin with so you don’t scrunch down on a huge piece! The flavour will be a bit over powering haha!

End by…

Enjoying your gorgeous bowl of salsa!

It should taste balanced, not to citrusy and not too sweet. Depending on if you added the chilli or not, a heat should come through, and if like me you’re a fan of spice, a little volcano should happily dance around with each mouthful 😀

It shouldn’t be too salty either. Tortilla chips are already salted and add that additional seasoning for you.

Don’t forget, you can add this to a variety of meals including nachos, burritos, tacos, salads, grilled meats and fishes!

One of my favourites is chargrilling lamb and adding a salsa alongside – even looking at this picture gives me cravings haha!

Tips and Hints

If you want to make in advance or make a larger batch for the next couple of days, do not chop the coriander because it will wilt. Also, do not add the lime or salt because it’ll turn your tomatoes to mush.

Save your onion peelings for stock.

Don’t forget all parts of the coriander stem can be used and often I use the stem in my salsa saving the leaves for garnishes and salads.

Let’s Connect!

Along with the daily journal posts here, each Wednesday at 12pm BST I’ll be going live on my instagram @therebalancechef to recap on the week’s progress and show you around my kitchen. Depending on the weather you might even meet my rescue hens!

The main point of this challenge is to have fun with it, learn new skills and refresh old ones.

I want to see your creations so don’t forget to tag me and show off what you’ve been doing!

I’m taking part in the Rebalance May Cookery Challenge! Check it out here

What’s Coming Up and Your Ingredients List

Day 10 ingredients list:

  • Chicken carcass
  • Onion, carrot, leek scraps or 1 of each if you’d prefer
  • Black peppercorns
  • A selection of herbs including rosemary, parsley, bay and thyme