As the Basics of Vegetable Cooking seem to have become a lost art, here are a few suggestions, to ensure that you do not spoil your harvest. So at the risk of teaching my Granny how to suck eggs, consider the following cooking methods:-
Steaming. Useful for keeping as much of the texture, taste, colour, vitamins and minerals as possible. Any pan with a lid, can be used. Put 1 cm depth of water in the pan and add the Vegetables for the recommended time. Use a folding stainless steel basket insert to the pan and convert it into a proper steamer. Do not let the pan boil dry, otherwise there will be a terrible smell! After steaming, save the water to use in Sauces and Soups, as it has a lot of flavour and aroma in it.
Roasting or baking. Useful for keeping as much of the texture, taste, colour, vitamins and minerals, as possible. After preparing the vegetables to roughly equal sizes, spray them with vegetable oil, if they are not being cooked in the meat juices. Useful if you already are using the oven to cook other food such as meat. Similarly, bake large whole potatoes.
Grilling. Either in a ridged grill pan or under the grill. Spray with a fine film of vegetable oil and cook quickly. Useful for “watery” vegetables.
Frying. Good for browning vegetables prior to using them in other dishes. Try and use a thin film of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan for the healthiest results.
Microwave. This is the quickest method to cook most vegetables, but it needs great care not to overcook the vegetables and make them “rubbery” or burn them. Always use a covered container, with a couple of spoonfuls of water, unless otherwise noted.
Pressure Cooking. Follow the instructions that came with the pressure cooker, and do not overcook, or the structure and texture of the vegetables will be lost.
Stir Frying. Using a little vegetable oil in a Wok over a high heat, for 1 or 2 minutes, this is a useful technique to retain most of the texture, colour and taste.
Boiling. Immersing vegetables in a pan of water, has to be the worst method of cooking them!!!! Why? Because all that you are doing is extracting taste, colour and the nutrients, from the vegetables into the water, and then throwing the water away. Crazy!
BASIC COOKING FOR VEGETABLES.
Consult a good cook book for more elaborate dishes.
Artichoke (Jerusalem) Scrub to remove all earth but do not bother to peel the roots. Can be steamed or micro waved till soft. Scrape out contents. A delicate taste, and can be “windy”.
Artichoke (Globe) Best cooked young. Place artichoke sideways on flat surface and break off stalk. Cut off top half of petals, and scoop out the centre choke. Put into boiling water, with added lemon juice to prevent the artichoke discolouring, and cook for 30 min, until soft. There is not much left to eat after their preparation.
Asparagus. Steam for 10 min, or spray with oil and Grill for 10 min.
Aubergine. Cut into 1 cm slices and Spray with oil and Grill or Fry for 10 min. See “Main Courses” Do not salt the slices before cooking, as it is not required.
Beetroot. Wash and remove leaves but leaving 2 cm of stalk attached to root, to prevent too much “bleeding” of the colour. Pressure cook for 20 min, or Boil for 1 hr. Cool and skin the roots, wearing washing up gloves to prevent staining of your hands. Be careful to keep the juice off your cloths. Most of the skin will rub off. Use directly in salads, or diced with diced cooked potatoes and mayonnaise. See also “Pickled Beetroot”.
Borecole or Kale. Steam for 10 min max.
Broad Beans. Steam for 15 min, and serve with a dressing of olive oil. If the beans are very young, the whole pod with immature beans, can be used early in the season.
Broccoli. Steam segments for 5 min. Serve with cheese sauce. Or Stir fry segments.
Brussel Sprouts. Remove damaged leaves and steam for 10 min. Season with pepper. Or Stir fry with crispy bacon pieces, or cooked ham pieces.
Butternut Squash. Cut right through the squash and remove the seeds. Cut into chunks and Roast, or fry, for some 20 min or until soft. Or prepare as for Winter Squash and Microwave for 5-10 min with no cover.
Cabbage. Remove outer damaged leaves and shred into 1 cm slices. To retain the natural sweet taste (yes, really!! ), steam for an absolute maximum of 10 min. Try apple slices or cranberries, placed on top of the cabbage while steaming. This is traditional and particularly good with red cabbage.
Cape Gooseberry. Remove or fold back the outer paper-like covering, and eat raw.
Cardoon. According to the books, it is the leaf stems that are blanched with brown paper for 2 months. The stems are boiled and then tossed with salt, pepper and oil.
Carrot. Scrub and remove any damaged bits. When young, cut into sticks or grate and use in salads. Should have a sweet taste. For cooking, cut into dice and cook any way you want.
Cauliflower. Break into segments and steam for 10 min. Serve with cheese sauce.
Celeriac. Wash and cut off the outer skin. When young, it can be grated into salads, for a wonderful long-lasting aroma. Best to wear washing-up gloves while preparing the Celeriac, as the aroma is difficult to wash off the skin. Otherwise, cut into dice, sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent the Celeriac discolouring, and steam, roast or fry for 15 min or until soft.
Celery. The Celery hearts are best eaten raw, with or without dressing. The outer stalks should be washed and cut into segments before steaming or stir frying.
Chard. Cut the thick stems into segments and then steam or stir fry for ten min. The leaves should be “wilted” for 2 min, as for Spinach.
Courgette. Cut the small (< 15 cm ) courgettes into segments, and stir fry for 1 min. The young flowers can be dipped in a batter of flour with fizzy water or beer, and a dash of Tabasco, and deep fried for 4 min.
Bulb Fennel. Trim off stalks and greenery (save the greenery to garnish fish), cut into half lengthwise, clean and steam or stir fry for 10 min or until soft. Young bulbs can be grated for salads.
French Beans. Top and tail young pods and steam or stir fry for 10 min.
Garlic. (Standard). Break head of garlic into individual cloves, cut off basal plate (at root), roll clove on hard surface to loosen skin and remove. Crush or slice thinly, and use as a flavouring. If frying, do not let the garlic burn, as it becomes bitter. Whole heads or cloves
of garlic can be roasted till soft.
Elephant Garlic. A larger version of standard garlic, but not as strong taste. Treat as for Garlic. Whole cloves can be roasted, or be added to stews.
Kohl Rabi. Skin the young bulb (tennis ball size) and cut into segments. Steam or roast.
Leeks. The tops and roots should be trimmed off small leeks, and then grilled or steamed whole. Large leeks should be trimmed and cut through lengthwise, and thoroughly cleaned under tap to remove all soil. Cut into segments and steam, stir fry for 10 min, or add to stews and soup.
Marrow. Best while still small. Peel the Marrow, remove seeds and pith, cube and fry with olive oil and ginger.
Onions. Peel and cut into slices or segments, prior to frying, stir frying, steaming, or roasting whole, or add to soups.
Parsnips. Scrub well and cut into large segments for roasting for 30 min. Can also be steamed for 15 min.
Peas (Mange-Tout & Snap Peas). Top and tail young pods, and steam or stir fry for 5 min. Add some fresh mint for final minute of cooking.
Peppers (Sweet) Cut long-ways and remove seeds. Slice into medium pieces and add to fry-ups and stews, and cook until soft.
Peppers (Hot). You are on your own! Remove seeds and add flesh to fry-ups and stews. Wash hands very thoroughly after handling peppers, and never touch face or eyes.
Potatoes. The quickest and best method is to microwave them in a covered container. Absolutely wonderful for “floury” potatoes. Scrub them and remove any blemishes, but do not peel as the vitamins are just under the skin. Cut into large egg-sized pieces and microwave for some 6-8 min or until cooked, depending on the quantity of potatoes, and the rating of the microwave.
Large potatoes can be micro waved until cooked, or baked for 45 min, and then filled with your choice of filling, such as grated cheese, tuna, or baked beans.
For roast potatoes, scrub or peel and cut into large egg-sized pieces. Boil for 5 min, drain, shake the potatoes until edges are crumbly, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of plain flour or dry semolina. Add to hot fat in a roasting dish and roast for 45 min until cooked.
New potatoes. Scrub to remove soft outer skin, and steam or microwave till soft. Add fresh mint for last minute of cooking time.
Runner Beans. Only use while young. Top and tail and remove any stringy bits. Cut into segments and steam for 5-10 min, or stir-fry till soft. If beans are old, extract the individual beans and steam for 10 min.
Salsify. Scrub the long white root and peel. Cut into long segments and steam for 10 min, or roast for 30 min.
Scorzonera. Scrub the long black root and peel. Cut into long segments and steam for 10 min or roast for 30 min.
Shallots. Remove outer layers and cut into slices or segments for steaming or stir-frying for 5-10 min, or leave whole for roasting for 20 min.
Spinach. Wilt the leaves whole, either by steam or stir-fry, for 2 min.
Summer Squash. Only use young squashes < 15 cm, cut into slices and stir-fry.
Swede. Tasty winter vegetable to create “tatties and neaps” to accompany your Haggis.
Slice off skin of the Swede and cut into medium pieces. Steam for 15 min or microwave for 5 min. Mash with a good grind of pepper. To cook your Haggis, remove skin, cut into slices and microwave until fat runs. Delicious. Serve with Mango chutney.
Sweet corn. Grow your own and cook A.S.A.P. to retain the natural sweetness. Strip the stalk and green sheath and the threads from the cob. Steam for 15 min or pressure cook for 5 min. Drizzle with Olive Oil. Better than anything you can buy.
Tomato. Best eaten raw, or lightly cooked as an accompaniment, by any method.
Turnip. The summer vegetable that is best eaten while tennis ball sized. Scrub and steam or roast for 15 min.
Winter Squash. Wash and break off stalk, but do not try to peel, as skin is very tough. Cut into 4 segments, scrape out seeds with a spoon, and place skin side down, in an open micro-wave dish. Microwave for 10-15 min until soft. The cooked flesh can then be scraped off the skin with a spoon. Alternatively, prepare as before and spray segments with vegetable oil, before roasting for 30 min or until soft. Prepared in these ways to concentrate the natural sweetness, it is one of the best vegetables, and easy to grow all over the country. Strange that it is seldom seen in shops. Sweeter and nuttier tasting than Butternut Squashes with a softer texture.
Steamed seasonal mixed vegetables. Prepare whatever vegetables you have, into similar sized pieces, and start cooking the hardest vegetables first, then the others in order. Steam them without the basket with 2 cm of water, for 20 min or until soft, and aim to have very little water left at the end. This is a natural sauce. Herbs such as bay leaf, oregano, mint, can be used as added flavouring.
For stir frying smaller pieces of vegetables, add them to the pan in the order of hardest to softest, until they are tender.
For roasted vegetables, leave them in larger pieces, sprayed with vegetable oil in a roasting tin, for 30-45 min, turning to get them browned all over. Only economic if you are already roasting other food.
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