4 – 6 adults
There are many ways to prepare and cook vegetables. On the whole they are cooked for a number of reasons including softening them, sweetening them, and simply making them hot. It has to be said, however that for many vegetables, eating them raw or cured and fermented has long been an option. But for many people, of course, vegetables are usually cooked.
Apart from salad, this usually means carrot, cabbage, onion, French beans, runner beans, radish, courgette, peas, cucumber. On the whole they are washed and, if large, are cut into thin batons, and served with a dip. So the major part of the dish is the dip.
Whereas it is important to wash all your vegetables, cooked or raw, it is particularly important to wash them of all residues that might be on the produce, particularly so if they are not organic.
Purists will peel the vegetables first and serve on a platter, which are very colourful and appetising.
There are some vegetables that should never be eaten raw. Potatoes because they can be too tough, and because they contain alkaloids which although not really going to make you poorly, might give you a tummy ache. Rhubarb is rich in oxalic acid, and will similarly cause upsets. Swede is too hard to eat, and turnips a little too difficult on the teeth. Sprouts are too sulphurous and should always be boiled or steamed.
There is some controversy about using microwaves in some areas, but since there are so many millions of people who buy frozen vegetables and pop them in the microwave. There are some golden rules, and it also helps to see exactly what you are doing when you use a microwave.
The radiation emitted from the machine, which is dissipated by metal, and that is why there is a metal screen in the door / window, stretches the bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen in water, so they wobble. This generates heat, and thus the food is cooked very quickly.
It leaves no residue, taste or substance of any kind.
Put your vegetables in a glass bowl – do not use metal of any kind. Add a small amount of water, just a few tablespoons. Cover the dish in plastic wrap and pierce to allow steam to escape. Cook on HIGH for 3 minutes.
Test the vegetables and continue cooking for another minute if necessary.
Microwaving is possibly the best way to cook vegetables, in as much as the lower temperatures in the food, and the speed of cooking, means the nutrients are generally preserved, particularly compared to boiling, where much more destruction of nutrients takes place.
There are few vegetables that need to be boiled, as it is the worst for nutrient loss. You need an excess of water and a little salt. Perhaps the major use of the boiling pan is when you want softened root vegetables but you don’t want the caramelised and burnt flavours of roasting.
On the whole this means carrots, sometimes asparagus, swede, turnips and potatoes. Cabbage is also often boiled – but keep the water if you can, it’s great for making gravy, or just using as stock and there are many folk medicine uses for cabbage water.
It is customary to continually test the vegetable with a knife for ‘doneness’ throughout the cooking process, as over boiled vegetables easily turn to mush. This is particularly true of potatoes, where certain varieties break apart easily. These are the ‘floury’ potatoes such as King Edwards, Cara and Home Guard. Boiling potatoes are termed ‘waxy’ – such as Jersey Royals, Cheshire and Maris Peer.
A steamer is a very inexpensive alternative to microwaving in as much as it allows you to cook vegetables with little nutrient loss. You put the steamer on a pan of boiling water, and there are usually several compartments so you can steam a number of different vegetables at once.
You need to have the vegetables sliced thinly, and so steaming whole potatoes will eventually work, but would take an inordinate amount of time. But it is perfect for peas, julienne of carrot (strips), asparagus, cabbage – almost anything.
This is simplicity itself. simply chop your vegetables into a couple of centimetre pieces and place in a roasting dish.
Sprinkle liberally with oil and massage with your hands to coat everything.
Sprinkle with salt and add some herbs, rosemary, whole garlic corms etc.
Place in an oven at 180 C, Gas 4, 350 F
Roast for about 40 minutes, but keep an eye on them. You are looking for soft vegetable, but also some darkened pieces and lots of caramelisation.