Steamed vegetables are a great way to boost the plant content of your meal while preserving as many of the nutrients as possible, but steamed veggies can also be a little bit boring and bland at times. There is no harm in adding some little extras to add crunch,texture, spice or freshness to your steamed vegetables to make them a more enjoyable part of your meal.
Happily Kathryn and Lucy from An Honest Kitchen share my philosophy on this and have written this great guest post about how to make steamed vegetables less boring. The post is an extract from the latest issue of An Honest Kitchen (you’ve heard me talking about AHK before, the inspiration behind this canellini bean, leek, fennel and noodle soup) and the issue is full of excellent tips for making over regular meals to get them healthier and more veggie-packed. The recipes are delicious, something I can attest to as one of their covert team of recipe testers. Anyway, over to Kathryn and Lucy
Bored with Steamed Vegetables? How to Give Them a Makeover
We all have meals we love, the ones we look forward to, crave even — comfort meals. But so often these favourite dinners are neither healthy nor easy to prepare.They might be packed full of cream, fat, cheese, carbs and stodge, or they take ages to cook and involve multiple processes.
One of the major problems is they usually contain nowhere near enough vegetables.
While you can fit more vegetables into the meal you’re cooking, it’s often easier to just serve dinner with a big pile of steamed vegetables. However, after a couple of days of plain steamed veg, you may find yourself looking around for ways to add some extra oomph to your plate, new flavours to keep things interesting.
We don’t hesitate to add a few goodies to steamed vegetables because anything you add will make the vegetables a more appetising prospect, and at An Honest Kitchen, we want you to really, really love eating your vegetables. Herbs, cheese, oils, condiments and nuts can all add flavour, texture and interest and as long as your vegetables aren’t swimming in fat and salt these toppings and flavours won’t detract from the goodness of your meal.
Firstly, you don’t need a steamer
There’s no need to go out and spend a lot of money on a steamer. Bamboo steamers work really well and are available from most Asian grocers for just a few dollars. Alternatively, if you have a colander or sieve, you can use that. Simply fill a pan with enough water so that the level sits beneath your steaming device and balance the colander or sieve on top. Bring the water to the boil. Add your vegetables to the colander, reduce the heat under the pan so the water is at a lively simmer and cover with a saucepan lid or plate. This will keep enough of the steam inside to cook your veg.
The amount of time you steam vegetables for will depend on the type and how big the pieces are. As a very rough guide, most vegies will steam in 3 – 7 minutes, however, keep an eye on your vegetables while they’re cooking and take them out when they’ve softened but are still brightly coloured. Grey, over-cooked vegetables are pretty unappetising.
10 ways to add flavour to steamed vegetables
1. Sometimes a simple squeeze of lemon or lime juice, together with a sprinkling of salt and black pepper is enough. Simple, yet fresh flavours.
2. Toss through a couple of teaspoons of pesto or harissa.
3. Salad dressings work really well on steamed vegetables. A small amount of olive oil, vinegar and mustard, whisked together and then tossed through your hot vegetables can make all the difference.
4. Chop together some sundried tomatoes, lemon zest and parsley. Add a small amount of olive oil and then toss your vegetables in this mixture.
5. Scatter over some toasted nuts or pepitas.
6. Mix together a small amount of butter, with some black pepper and fresh chives. Keep this in the fridge and dot a teaspoonful onto your steamed vegetables.
7. Steamed vegetables are lovely topped with a dollop of hummous and an extra squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
8. Chop up fresh avocado, coriander and chilli and stir through some lime juice. The avocado melts slightly as it comes into contact with the vegetables and forms a kind of sauce.
9. Make a pangrittata: breadcrumbs mixed with crushed garlic, black pepper, dried oregano and whatever leftover fresh herbs you might have. Cook this in some olive oil in a frying pan, until golden brown. A spoonful of pangrittata over steamed vegetables adds flavour and texture.
10. A quick tahini and garlic sauce is delicious over steamed vegetables. Crush a clove of garlic, mix with a tablespoon of tahini and then whisk in enough water to make it a drizzling consistency.
You don’t have to use a lot of any of these ingredients and a small amount of anything is not going to break the nutritional budget. There’s no reason that good food can’t taste delicious and there’s no reason not to have small amounts of the flavours you love the most.
Kathryn & Lucy
For more ideas on making over the meals you love take a look at our publication An Honest Kitchen: Makeovers. An Honest Kitchen is a regular publication all about real food that’s good for you. Each issue is full of simple recipes, practical cooking information and healthy eating advice. Our latest edition, Makeovers, in which we revamp popular meals is available in e-format from 11 June.