I recently came across a method for cooking organic vegetables that keeps all of their flavour and doesn’t take any longer to do!
It’s arrived, your weekly organic foodbox delivery and, as usual, it’s loaded with top quality organic vegetables that are full of flavour. So, wouldn’t it be a shame to cook those vegetables in such a way as to lose some or all of that superb organic vegetable taste?
It’s surprising, however, how many people just stick to the old ways of boiling or steaming their vegetables and end up with soggy results that have had all or most of their flavour leeched from them by the cooking process. In fact, in many cases the cooking liquor itself has more flavour than the vegetables themselves. If you can, always steam rather than boil as this is a much kinder process for the veg and doesn’t have anywhere near as much of a damaging effect on the flavour or texture.
As a big fan and “Friend” of Kew Gardens in London I was delighted to receive a copy of Raymond Blanc’s “Kew on a Plate” book recently which describes his association with the botanic gardens and in particular with their heritage vegetables program.
I’m also a huge fan of Raymond Blanc so this is a perfect combination for me. I was recently very inspired following a visit to his celebrated “Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons” in Oxfordshire where, apart from having one of the best meals I’ve ever had, I was lucky enough to be able to stroll around his two-acre kitchen garden where he grows around 90 different types of vegetable and 70 varieties of herb. This wonderful restaurant has two Michelin Stars and the dining experience is commensurate with that great achievement.
There is much in this lovely book to praise and I may very well do so in the near future but for the purpose of this article I’m sticking with Raymond’s very generous decision to share his preferred method of cooking vegetables in order to not only preserve, but actually enhance, their flavour.
Raymond calls this method of cooking vegetables, his “emulsion” method and, as he points out, it preserves much more of the flavour, colour and texture of the vegetables than simply boiling them. The secret is to slice or otherwise prepare the veg as thinly as possible as this helps them to cook quicker. The veg should then be put into a heavy pan with a knob of butter and a small amount of water – the amount required will vary according to how much veg you are cooking, the size of the pan and the type of veg and some take longer than others but start with 2-3 tablespoons of water and add more if necessary. Then, just apply heat, quite a high heat, and cook for anywhere between 2-5 minutes depending on the veg. Raymond suggests around 1 minute for spinach, 4-5 minutes for carrots and 5 minutes or so for beans. There’s an element of personal interpretation here as, like me, you will probably want to combine several veg together, (try organic carrots, courgettes and a little onion) and vary the cooking time according to taste. Salt and pepper can be added – but not too much salt!
Regardless of which vegetables I cook using this method I nearly always add a little onion and often a little garlic as well as this improves the flavour dramatically.
The results are wonderful. The butter and the water take on the flavour of the veg, (or is it the other way round) asnd seem to coat them with a kind of flavoured film. This is a technique that will truly do justice to your organic veg box contents and I am grateful to Raymond for sharing it in the book.