Fred:”Well, you see, there’s this red thing sitting in my fridge.”
George: “Oh yeah. What is it?”
Fred: “I’m not sure. It’s red and round with spikey green hair. It’s got a cut across the middle and it looks like teeth are coming out and falling onto the fridge shelf.”
George: “What?! Okay, you better show me what this thing is.”
Fred: “Be careful! It’s really scary!”
“It’s a tomato!!”
|Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Have you ever had a conversation with a friend like the one above? I hope not, but hopefully you’ll allow me a little creative license.
Seriously though do vegetables scare you?
Maybe it’s not the spiked hair (the vine) or the teeth (tomato seeds in this little scene) but more like you’re unsure of what to do with them.
When I first began cooking for myself I knew I should eat vegetables, but I had no idea what to do other than buy iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and carrot. These were put in a burger or on the side of my plate. And they tasted terrible by themselves but piled together they weren’t much better. Occasionally I’d add some tinned beetroot or pineapple chunks. There wasn’t much variety, but then again I did have frozen broccoli and cauliflower steamed in the microwave in winter.
I got bored of this pretty quickly so I’d buy other vegetables, but I used to put them in the fridge and watch them during the week. They looked too good to eat and were so brightly coloured that didn’t do anything with them but watch. And of course I ended up throwing them out because they were limp or going mouldy by the next time I went grocery shopping.
Vegetables are not as scary as you think. Once you have a little bit of knowledge you can do a lot with them. In fact, most traditional cultures have meals that are vegetable based with only a small amount of meat. These are much nicer recipes to try as a new cook than trying to make a meat dish with some sort of vegetable substitute – trust me, I’ve been there and don’t really recommend tofu bolognaise.
What you need to do is some simple research:
- Check out a few cookbooks for ideas. Go for the chapters labelled sides or the light lunches and salads chapters.
- Vegetarian cookbooks are even better.
- Look for cookbooks on Indian and African or Middle Eastern cuisines. They use vegetables in plenty of great ways as main meals, not just as sides.
- Start with a few basic recipes and grow your knowledge from there.
- Go to a local farmers market or the supermarket and pick a vegetable you like the look of then take it home and Google what it is and how to use it. You could try this every week for two months and you’ll have plenty of new ways to use vegetables in no time.
- Ask friends or family for recipes or find a recipe to a dish you loved as a kid but don’t know how to make.
Starting with the basics
Basic recipes for vegetables include salads, stir-fries and roasted vegetables.
|Roast pumpkin, cherry tomatoes,
zucchini, lettuce and feta salad
|Mango, rocket, tomato,
corn and carrot salad
Forget the iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and grated carrot of my youth and forget your preconceived ideas about salads because a lot has changed in the salad world in the last 10 years or so. There are so many things you can call a salad these days that it hardly matters what you put in one. Add grains to make it filling, or add seared meat or fish to make it substantial. Learn a couple of easy home salad dressing recipes from lemon juice or vinegar and oil and you’re set. Check out my post on work lunches, mix and match salads and textured salads for more ideas.
|Roasted pumpkin, avocado and feta salad with mixed salad leaves|
If you want an easy stir-fry check out my post The Past Month in Pictures – March. There’s a link in there for great home made stir-fry sauces that will taste a million times better than any store bought sauce. Otherwise, cut vegetables into thin slices and cook on a high heat until tender (which means cooked but still crunchy and colourful – not dead and lost all its colour). Throw in as much sweet chilli sauce and honey as you like and you’ve still got a stir-fry.
|Here’s an easy dinner of roasted veg,
polenta and haloumi.
Roasted vegetables are great for the colder months and are so simple to make. You really can’t do anything wrong with roast veg (unless you forget about them and burn them!). Cut up parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, beetroot, zucchini, eggplant, squash, capsicums or turnips into similar size pieces then throw a few splashes of oil over them, add a pinch or two of salt and pepper and any dried herbs or spices. Mix it all with your hand so everything is covered and throw it on a baking tray into the oven at 180-200 degrees Celsius. It’ll take anywhere from 15-45 mins depending on the veg you chose (hard ones take longer to cook obviously) and how big or small you cut them.
Recipe ideas to get you started
And if you’re still not sure what to do, try one of these simple recipes:
1. Vegetable soup: try this link from the BBC for lots of easy to make soups.
2. Kerryann’s Chilli con veggie: from Jamie Oliver’s website.
3. Vegetable Skewers: You can use any vegetables you have really, and combined with this sauce they take vegetables to the next level.
4. Vegetable chips: these are simple to make and make a great homemade alternative to store bought potato chips.
5. Vegetable sides: On this page from Martha Stewart there are 91 vegetable recipes for things you can do with vegetables to compliment a meat dish. There’s plenty to choose from and you’re sure to find something easy and that you want to try.
So, are you still scared of vegetables??