If you have been following the blog, then you know that increasingly we are trying to include as many raw vegetables as possible into our meals. Raw vegetables are not necessarily better for you and flavour is not lost (although flavour does change - for the better or not…) when they are cooked, but we generally feel better when we include a lot of raw veg in our diets.
When we do cook vegetables, we try to do so in a way that retains as many nutrients as possible, and preserves colour and texture. Prepping the vegetables for cooking is also an important step in retaining the goodness of our plant-based meals. I hadn’t realised that chopping vegetables and letting them sit before cooking or even on occasion before eating raw is such a valuable step in their preparation. Michael Greger M.D. - the man behind the site nutritionfacts.org that I frequently refer to for information (please check out his site if you haven’t already), advocates leaving certain chopped vegetables to rest for as long as possible, especially before cooking.
See link below an example of the benefits of chopping raw vegetables prior to cooking, in this case in respect of broccoli:
This has become our preferred method for prepping veg when we want it cooked and features in many of our recipes. The method has many names that do not quite describe it, such as healthy or water saute, I am not sure if the title I have chosen is the best title for it, but it makes the most sense to me. I like pan steaming because it implies that the vegetables are steamed in the pan and not in a pot or by using a steaming insert (which we also do, as described below). The liquid added to the pan is used to not only cook the veg but as a way to create sauces for the dish. We usually pan steam with the addition of a good quality bouillon powder. I first came across this method when looking through:
I admit that at first I was a bit dubious of this method, but when I finally gave it a chance I was very pleasantly surprised. The result is just as or even tastier than if sautéing with oil, especially if oil is added after the dish is cooked so that the pleasant mouth feel of adding oil is retained and the full flavour of the oil can be savoured.
With a lot of vegetables the time needed to cook can vary, but I am always trying to use as few pans as possible, so generally throw ingredients into the pan depending on how long they need to cook for. For example, if cooking a stir “fry”, I would add a cup of water, 1/2 cup of tamari/soy sauce, a tbsp of bouillon a crushed and diced garlic clove, a sliced head of onion and pan-steam, covered for 5 minutes, followed by broccoli or cauliflower florets for 2 minutes, finally adding a bunch of leafy greens (chard, spinach, kale or cabbage) for a further 3 minutes. If sesame oil is desired, the flavour will be much stronger if drizzled on at the end.
Pan-steaming is also great for making bases for dishes, instead of using oil, we use water and bouillon for a “soffritto” which is used in many of our favourite dishes, such as in risottos and soups.
I rarely use this method unless the final dish is all cooked in the pot, for example, when making soups. When I do use this method I generally reserve it for boiling leafy greens such as kale, chard, spinach and cabbages.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, drop the leaves in and remove after three minutes. We find that his allows the leaves to soften without loosing texture and colour and is best for flavour.
Vegetables that we steam include broccoli, cauliflower, green/string beans, asparagus, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot and fresh podded beans such as broad beans, peas (fresh or frozen), frozen corn, and shelled edamame.
Cauliflower and Broccoli:
Chop and let rest for 5-6 minutes and steam for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let rest uncovered until ready to eat.
Green beans and asparagus:
Steam for 5-7 minutes depending on size, remove from heat and let rest uncovered until ready to eat.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes:
Chop into bite size chunks, steam for 10-15 minutes or until soft, remove from heat and let rest uncovered until ready to eat.
Chop into bite size chunks, steam for 20-25 minutes or until soft, remove from heat and let rest uncovered until ready to eat.
Broad beans, peas, edamame:
Steam for 5 min then run under cold water.
Roasting is a technique that we use quite often as it doesn't require much attention (temp and time can be set while we get on with other things, such as the pressing matter of the toy that accidentally made its way under the sofa) and can enhance the flavours of some of our kitchen staples. Veg we like to roast include aubergine, potato, sweet potato, butternut squash and other pumpkin/squash varieties. We roast a lot of onions and the squish of a roasted garlic bulb is a bonus to many dishes.
The temperature is often set for 200C and the veg above generally take between 30-40 minutes. In the case of roasting, a little oil goes a long way, usually two tablespoons will go a long way. We use rapeseed/canola oil as it has a higher smoking point than olive oil and for variety. We generally know that the veg is cooked when it is lightly charred on the surface. We tend not to touch the veg that has gone into the oven, unless specified in a recipe.
Remove oven racks and preheat oven to 200C
Cut off the top of the aubergine and then slice lengthwise. Each slice should be at least 1cm thick (1/2 inch). We find that using thick slices allows for more tender and less leather like results. Place slices directly onto oven racks and brush with oil, lightly salt, turn over and repeat. Roast for 30 min.
Sweet potato, butternut squash and other pumpkin/squash varieties:
Preheat oven to 200C
These bad boys are not only nutritious but are great for growing and/or very hungry people.
We generally peel our squashes using a veg peeler, but this is not always necessary depending on the squash used. We scrub our sweet potatoes with a metal sponge to clean and remove any tougher skin. Otherwise they need to be sliced open and the seeds removed. Slice and then chop the squash into good chunks, roughly the size of a golf ball. Line a baking tray and spread your veg out so that there is enough space between each piece, if not then use a second tray. It is important that the veg has breathing space as this will allow them to roast and not become soggy. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and any other herbs that you may be using, measure 2 tbsp of oil and pour over the veg. Mix the pieces well to coat them in oil and spread them out once again. Roast for 30 min.
Preheat oven to 200C
We do not peel our potatoes, a good scrub in water is usually good enough. When using new potatoes, we leave them whole otherwise we cut them into nice bitesize chunks. Occasionally we roast potatoes with sweet potatoes or other squashes, when we do, we cut them slightly smaller so that they all cook for the same length of time.
As with the veg above, the potatoes need to have enough room on the tray to properly roast. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and any other herbs that you may be using, measure 2 tbsp of oil and pour over the veg. Mix the pieces well to coat them in oil and spread them out once again. Roast for 40 min.
Preheat oven to 200C
Onion is great roasted, it results in a deliciously caramelised topping or ingredient for many dishes. It comes out sweet as the sugars caramelise and the charred ends balance the flavours with a slight bitterness. Shallots can be thrown in as they are, in the peel, and will have a texture that is similar to roasted garlic, but will be more mellow in flavour. Regular red or yellow/white onions are usually peeled and quartered, placed on a lined baking tray skin side down (the larger curvy part), brushed with oil, lightly salted and roasted for 35-40 min.
This is an awesome ingredient. Blend with lemon juice, chickpeas, tahini and water for a delicious hummus. Squeeze a few cloves out onto toast and top with avocado or directly into your mouth when no one is looking, if anyone is suspicious then deny, deny, deny.
Preheat oven to 200C
Larger bulbs work best, as they can simply be cut in half. If smaller bulbs are all that are available, then slice off roughly a third off their bottoms (pointy end) and discard. Bruch the open end of the bulbs with oil and lightly salt. Roast for 30 min.