As part of a well-balanced and healthy diet, incorporating fruits and vegetables into each dish is a must. However, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to ‘boiled-to-the-bone-broccoli’ or bags of frozen veggie mix.
Let’s get to the basics. What is a fundamental piece of advice when working with fruits and vegetables?
Ideally you should always be using a paring knife because it’s short, and the sharp blade enables better control and handling. You want to slice through the skin of the fruit or vegetable as opposed to breaking through it with a blunt knife, to have the least amount of damage.
The more you expose vegetables to light, air and heat, the more nutrients they lose. So you should only slice and prepare ingredients shortly before you need to use them.
We know there are different ways to cook ingredients, but which vegetables suit which method?
Sometimes the best way to enjoy a vegetable is in its raw state. The nutrients are untouched from harmful cooking methods and your body will gain the most from them. However, other cooking processes include:
- Boiling – A hot pot with water is all you need to prep harder vegetables like potatoes, carrots and beetroot.
- Roasting – Probably the easiest way to prepare ingredients, because you can mix your proteins and vegetables together. It’s ideal for soft and hard veg like red onion, zucchini and butternut.
- Sautéing – Adds flavour but keeps the crunch in veggies like asparagus, mushrooms, peppers and green beans.
- Steaming – A healthier method, as the produce retains its nutritional content. Suited for softer ingredients like cauliflower, broccoli and baby corn.
So we know that cooked fruit isn’t for everyone, but what cooking method do you recommend and what is your go-to recipe, using summer ingredients?
It would have to be peach upside down cake. It comprises grilling fresh peaches and setting them onto a moist lemon cake. Then, you pour butterscotch sauce over the peaches and serve with a generous scoop of good quality vanilla ice-cream.
What about choosing the right vegetables to pair with your proteins?
As a chef, it’s best to compliment flavours and textures. So, for an ingredient like beef that is heavy, I would incorporate softer textures and deeper flavours like roasted tomatoes; pan seared mushrooms and rich fondant potatoes. As for lighter proteins such as chicken or fish, it can easily be paired with a fragrant salad, roasted veg or something saucier like creamed spinach.
When it comes to cooking, letting your imagination run wild is imperative. And, with the necessary foundational knowledge that you can gain from Capsicum Culinary School, the cooking world can be your oyster.