A fresh look at our five a day
We all know that vegetables are supposed to make up a significant proportion of our daily intake of food, and play an important role in general health and diabetes management.
We’re regularly reminded of the virtues of our target five-a-day – however, they can be easily overlooked during our often hectic lives.
These dishes should be appetising and exciting, motivating us to eat even more veggies, and letting our bodies benefit from the vitamins and minerals.
Many of us stick to what we know – hardy carrots, trusty peas, a quick side salad. But, when tasked with allocating half of our dinner plates to wholesome greens and a nutritious rainbow of other veg, it’s worth taking time to put some extra thought into it
Cooking with veg
Veg needn't be boring... There are a multitude of various ways to cook and prepare flavoursome veg, and most do not require fancy, specialist kitchen equipment either...
Enjoying vegetables in their raw, natural state is often overlooked, and can be a great way to retain the maximum amount of nutrients.
Preparing crudités or a salad doesn’t have to be boring – you can toss them in delicious dressings, make raw soups in a blender, turn courgettes or squash into noodles, or use a variety of herbs and spices to pack your dish full of flavour.
Why not try: Tabbouleh
To keep produce bright, tender and nutritious, steaming can be a fantastic option. Veggies aren’t submerged in water or oil, and it’s perfect for more delicate types such as greens or asparagus.
After steaming to your liking, sprinkle veg with herbs, fresh lemon or balsamic vinegar.
Why not try: Minced beef and vegetable filo pie
Popular for most types of Asian cuisine, stir frying involves stirring or tossing ingredients constantly over a high heat in a wok or similar pan.
A fast way to serve up dinner for the whole family, it leaves veg bright and crisp-tender.
Prepare all of the veg beforehand as you won’t have time to do this once you’ve started frying. Adding a sauce gives extra flavour but check the label for salt, added sugar and saturated fat. Making your own can provide a healthier alternative.
Why not try: Vietnamese crunchy peanut salad
Producing a rich, smoky and intense flavour, veggies that are grilled caramelise to become sweet and crisp.
Whether you’re grilling in the oven or outdoors on a barbecue, almost every veg can be cooked in this way – marinade first for at least 30 minutes and remember to flip them when grill marks form for best results.
Why not try: Tomato, olive, asparagus and bean salad
When roasted, the natural sugars of veggies are released to create a sweet, savoury intense flavour that’s just delicious. A very easy way cooking method, it doesn’t require you to watch over the dish whilst it roasts and veggies can be prepared in any shape or size you prefer.
Veggies are full of flavour and need very little oil to caramelise - save calories and use less. Marinating them in herbs and spices can help to make the most of the veg. Our top picks for roasting include onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and squash, but any will work well.
Why not try: Smoky roast veg with sesame yogurt
The secret to boiling is ensuring that veg spends as little time as necessary in the boiling water – the right amount of time will produce crisp, bright veg, too much will leave them colourless and mushy.
Cooking them for just a few minutes is known as blanching. All sorts of veg are suitable choices for boiling, including cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and green beans.
Why not try: Rainbow salad
One of the quickest ways of cooking veg, microwaves are in most of our kitchens and offer a great solution if you need to put dinner on the table.
Simply cut veg to roughly the same size to ensure they cook evenly (or place larger veg around the outside of the microwaveable dish if they are different sizes) sprinkle with water and cover with a lid. Most will cook in 1.5 – 3.5 minutes.
Why not try: Cauliflower pilaf
Braising or stewing
Stewing will produce soft, tender and flavoursome veg, as produce is cooked slowly over a low heat for up to several hours.
Stews and casseroles can be a brilliant dish if you’re busy as you can walk away and get other bits and pieces done as it simmers away in the background.
Hearty root veg such as squash, beans and celery work exceptionally well and veggies can be braised in water, broth or any flavourful liquid.
Why not try: Butternut and borlotti bean stew
More vegetable recipes
We’ve gathered a selection of our top veg picks, featuring broad beans, asparagus, spring onions, mushrooms, butternuts and lots more healthy, tasty produce.
So, why not max out the veg in your dinner tonight and try something new?
- Vegetable and chickpea tagine
- Stuffed baby peppers
- Spiced red cabbage
- Spinach and rice soup
- Stir-fried kale with chilli, ginger and garlic
- Slow-roasted garlic and herb tomatoes
- Quinoa-stuffed butternut squash
- Mushroom risotto
- Parmesan parsnips
- Curried spinach with red onion and garlic
- Carrot kugel
- Beans in red wine
Buying veg in markets
- Quantities – if you buy in bulk, you’re more likely to get a great deal. However, the beauty of market shopping is that you’re also able to buy as little as you need, which can be really handy if you’re cooking for one.
- Variety – there may well be a greater variety of unusual veg at a market. Take advantage and try making it a habit to come home with something you’ve never tried.– there may well be a greater variety of unusual veg at a market. Take advantage and try making it a habit to come home with something you’ve never tried.
- Shop early for a wider selection, shop later to bag a bargain (the same often applies to bad weather!). For the season’s first strawberries or pick of the produce, arrive early. Buying veg within the last hour can mean you get a steep discount, as stallholders don’t want to return with stock if they can help it.
- If several stalls are selling the same veg, compare the prices and quality. Make sure you’re getting the best value for money, and you can always try your hand at haggling.
- Most people are attracted to the bright, vibrant and uniform example of produce on offer. Check if the stallholder has any odd-looking varieties that aren’t on show as these may be cheaper and will taste just as great.
- Want to know more about the veg you’re buying? Just ask – find out how the food was grown, how to cook it and what veg will be available in the coming weeks so you can plan ahead.
- Most of us are used to bringing our own bags, and stallholders will thank you for it. The majority of markets only accept cash, and having close or exact change will make the purchase simpler and quicker.