One of the most common reasons, particularly among children, for being reluctant to eat vegetables is that they have been inappropriately cooked or overcooked. Both of these simple mistakes cause the vegetables to lose color, texture and flavor, as well as a great deal of their nutritional value. There are a number of ways in which you can avoid falling in to this trap, depending upon the type of vegetable. Several useful and practical tips are outlined below.
If there is one vegetable that typifies the problem of lost texture and flavor, it may well be the humble Brussels sprout. All too often they are served not only soggy and over-cooked but actually falling apart. The first problem is often caused in the preparation of the sprouts. There is a complete myth that a “cross” should be made in the stem of the sprouts when they are being prepared for poaching. The only purpose this serves is to help the sprouts fall apart during cooking. Instead, simply trim them and remove any loose or dead leaves. Put them in a pot of slightly salted, boiling water and cook only until the sprouts start to soften. A fork is the best way to establish their state but as a guideline, eight to ten minutes – depending upon the size of the sprouts – is a good point of measure.
Brussels sprouts are also delicious flash fried or braised. Prepare them as usual and cut them in half down through the center. Bring a little sunflower oil up to a high heat in a wok or deep frying pan and fry with some roasted and cooled chestnuts and some seasoning over a high heat for three or four minutes.
Broccoli or cauliflower
Cutting vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower too small is the biggest mistake made when cooking these delectable vegetables. Tear off the excess leaves and break the heads by hand in to florets rather than cutting them in to portions. Try to keep them as evenly sized as possible before adding to boiling, salted water for eight to ten minutes, just until they start to soften.
Remember the golden rule: vegetables that grow under the ground should be added to cold water, while vegetables that grow above ground should be added to boiling water.
The number of ways in which it is possible to cook potatoes unfortunately causes all types of confusion. Potatoes can be mashed, roasted or baked but the confusion which can arise is considerable.
If roasting potatoes, it is better to use peeled, starchy potatoes, peeled and cut to even size. Put them in a pot of cold, salted water and simmer only until they just start break down. Drain through a colander, return to the empty pot and allow them to steam away for five minutes to get rid of the excess moisture. This is essential. Cover and allow to cool. When cool, they can be added to hot fat on the stove or in the oven to crisp up and complete cooking.
If mashing potatoes, the same principal applies. Only when they have been allowed to steam should a little bit of butter be added and the potatoes mashed. Otherwise, the moisture in the potatoes will make for soggy mash.
Vegetables under a roast
If you are preparing a roast in the oven, a great way to cook the accompanying veg is under the roast. Prepare veg like potatoes, parsnips and carrots in large chunks and lay the roast on them for the designated cooking time for the roast. Chicken, for example, is 20 minutes per pound and 20 over. Vegetables cooked in this way will take on the delicious flavors of the meat and be deliciously flavorsome and enjoyable.
The biggest cause of vegetables being tasteless and devoid of flavor is by overcooking or inappropriately cooking them that they are overdone. Instead, explore methods of cooking that the vegetables are served either slightly underdone, or even raw, that they may be enjoyed to the very best of their abilities. In this way, they will taste better, they will be more nutritious and they will appeal more to all members of the family of every age group.