There can be so many things involved with cooking vegetables. Nobody enjoys eating mushy vegetables right!? So how long we cook them for is very important. But this isn’t important purely for how it looks or tastes, we also don’t want to lose all those important micronutrients that can be destroyed during the cooking process. How we cook them is also important for retaining those nutrients.
In this post, I am going to give you a few ways on how to cook them so you can enjoy the flavour as well as the benefits of the vegetables.
Methods of cookery
There are many vegetables, so it stands to reason there are also many ways to cook them. I am going to cover just a few ways in this post, which are my “go-to” ways. How you cook them, can change the flavour and texture of the vegetables. So it may come down to personal preference on how you cook them. But as mentioned above, how you cook them can also affect the loss of nutrients, which is something we want to try and avoid.
Chucking them in a pan of water and boiling them to death is a way that has been done for many years. It is also one of the primary ways to lose the most vitamins and minerals. You only need to look at the colour of the water after cooking to know that something has escaped from the vegetable. This isn’t a method that I use or recommend, but if you insist on using this method, then keep that water. Use the vegetable water in stocks, gravies or even to water your house/garden plants and put those lost nutrients to good use.
This is a great way to cook your vegetables. You can retain a lot of the nutrients (as long as you don’t overcook) and keep a lot of the natural flavour. You can buy steamer pans cheap enough, that will do the job. But if you don’t fancy parting with your hard-earned cash, then fear not. I have a little tip that works just fine and only requires a saucepan with a lid.
- Chop up your vegetables, place in a pan with maybe a centimetre of water in.
- Put on the lid and put on a medium heat. The tiny amount of water in the bottom of the pan will create enough steam to cook the vegetables. But because the vegetables aren’t completely covered by the water, you will not lose all those vital nutrients.
Below is a link to a steamer pan set that doesn’t cost the earth and will allow you to cook multiple vegetables at once. I use one similar (although mine is a 5 tier). I have had mine for years and it is still going strong. Click on the image to purchase one similar.
I absolutely love roasting vegetables. This method can totally change the flavour of a vegetable. Natural sugars can caramelise bringing out a sweetness that you may not have noticed before. It is also a good way to cook, as you can simply put into a roasting tray, throw into the oven and forget about for a little while, allowing you to get on with something else. The other great thing is that you can incorporate other flavours. Use flavoured oils, spices, herbs that can enhance the natural flavour of the vegetable. The only specialist equipment you need is a tray………oh and an oven, this always helps!
Grilling can be a good way to cook also. As with roasting, it is an indirect heat, so you can add spices, herbs etc to the vegetable to enhance flavour before cooking. Another benefit is that it can be a time-saver, as grilling is usually a very quick method. This can also be a disadvantage as you need to be vigilant and don’t stray too far from the grill. What is a nice golden colour one second, can quickly become a charcoaled mess the next.
All about the timing
Whatever method you are using, if you are cooking multiple different types of vegetables at one time, it is all about timing. As with cooking most dishes, you need to decide what will take the longest to cook and get that on first. Then which vegetable is next, working all the way up to which vegetable takes the least amount of time, this will be the one you put on last. Don’t throw them all on at the same time. Some will be overcooked, some undercooked and some just right.
Vegetables in recipes
When it comes to using vegetables in recipes, cooking times, as mentioned above are very important. If you were cooking a delicious vegetable chilli and wanted to cook the sauce for a long while to really bring out the flavours, adding the vegetables at the start would not be a great idea. Why not try pan-frying the vegetables first, removing them from the pan, then start the sauce. Once the sauce is almost done, re-introduce the vegetables back to the pan, allowing them to cook. Then you can serve exactly when the vegetables are perfect. A favourite method of mine is to start the sauce in the pan and put all my vegetables in the oven to roast. I can take out the vegetables when they are ready, leave on the side until the sauce is ready. Then like I previously mentioned, put the vegetables into the sauce, mix and serve. These methods prevent any overcooking of the vegetables and guarantees a more enjoyable meal.
Also, let us not forget about frozen vegetables. These can quite often be a better source of nutrients than fresh vegetables. Because they are picked and frozen rapidly, this decreases the chance of the lost nutrients. There is a great range of frozen vegetables now, including grilled and roasted vegetables. This also minimises time spent in the kitchen preparing ingredients, so can be another fantastic time saver. I will always make sure I have a couple of bags of something in the freezer in case I’m in a pinch.
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