Who doesn’t love fresh vegetables? Well actually, many people don’t, and I think it’s simply a case of having been forced as children to eat bland, over-boiled, unseasoned vegetables that were part of British cuisine for so long. I certainly remember school lunches being dominated by them, whereas I was privileged to be brought up by a vegetarian mother in an Indian household, where beautiful, flavoursome, spiced vegetables were the star attraction during meals.
Nowadays, we have been influenced by amazing global cuisines here in the UK, and learned wonderful methods of cooking vegetables that makes them far more appetising and delicious than before. The addition of spices, herbs, and other ingredients, as well as the different ways of cooking them gives them a whole new identity. I notice in my work that many people struggle to incorporate vegetables into their cooking, and also people tell me their children don’t like vegetables. They ask me about ways in which to disguise vegetables by pureeing them ,or adding them to pasta sauces or whatever, so they can “get some goodness” into their children without them knowing what they are eating. I really don’t feel that this is the way to teach children about food, as not knowing what they are eating means they miss the sheer pleasure of the texture, taste, and aroma of foods in their pure state. If we introduce different vegetables to them when they are young, they will see them for the lovely foods they are; cooking them in different ways is another way to make people both young and old, more adventurous with foods. I love to serve sauteed vegetables as delicious, simple sides to go with main meals, such as Ludi’s Chicken and I’m a huge fan of using either lemon, or orange zest and their juices as well as something slightly sweet to balance the sometimes bitter flavour of many green vegetables. So, if you want vegetables with a difference, here are two of my favourite concoctions- courgettes and kale, sauteed, flavoured, and seasoned, I believe, to perfection. Make them for your children, or better still, get them to help you to make them. They’ll feel an affinity with them, and a pride in having prepared them too.
Sauteed courgettes to serve 4 as a side dish:
4-6 medium courgettes (ideally a mixture of green and yellow) cut into thick, 2 inch sticks
A fat clove of garlic, thinly sliced
Half tsp jaggery or date syrup
Sea salt to taste
5 mint leaves, chopped
A tsp grated lemon zest and a good squeeze of juice
A tbsp olive oil+ a tsp ghee
Heat the oil and ghee in a frying pan and add the garlic, followed by the courgettes. Stir well to incorporate all the ingredients, and saute for five minutes on a high heat. Turn the heat down to medium, keep stirring the courgettes from time to time, and once they start to soften and brown, add the jaggery/date syrup, salt, lemon zest and juice. Just before they are ready, throw in the mint leaves.
Sauteed kale to serve 4 as a side dish:
A few handfuls of kale, washed, shredded, thick stems discarded
A fat clove garlic, thinly sliced
A tsp grated orange zest and a a good squeeze of juice
Half tsp dried chilli flakes
A tbsp olive oil + a tsp ghee
Heat the oil and ghee in a frying pan. Now add the garlic, and stir for a minute before adding the kale. Make sure it is uniformly coated in oil and ghee, and saute for a few minutes until it has started to cook down. Now add the orange zest, salt, and chilli flakes. Mix them in well, and finish with a good squeeze of the orange juice.
In the winter, you can use shredded cabbage, or halved sprouts instead of courgettes. You will need to steam the sprouts for 5 or 6 minutes before sauteeing. Omit the mint for both these, and perhaps use chilli flakes. Basically, you can mix and match my ingredients to find your flavours of choice, or add your own twist.