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How to Cook Vegetables Properly for Sunday Dinner

I used to help in our family restaurant. I love good food and enjoy thinking up creative ways to cook and use leftovers to avoid food waste.

A beginner's guide to cooking veggies

A beginner's guide to cooking veggies

How to Cook Vegetables Properly

When I was newly married and in the first home of my own, I hadn't a clue how to cook anything except boiled eggs and toast. My mother-in-law took me under her wing and, with great patience, taught me how to cook meals suitable for her darling boy. She cooked in our family restaurant and made things look easy; she made simple food with flare.

Mindful of how many people find cooking something of a mystery, I thought it would be helpful to show how to cook simple vegetables, which form the basis of many meals. Once you know the basics, you will have the confidence to move on and maybe try more complicated meals, but this article is for beginners in the world of cookery.

Vegetables in This Article

  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Parsnips and Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Swede
  • Gem Squash
Onions frying

Onions frying

Onion

Onions are a very useful vegetable for adding flavour to stews and soups or for roasting meat.

Peel the onion by stripping off the parchment-like outer leaves with a knife; then, if using onion in a stew or soup or simply as fried onions, cut the onion in half, chop it into pieces, or slice it. Then put a tablespoonful of cooking oil (I always use olive oil) in a frying pan, and gently fry the onion until it is golden brown—about five minutes, then use it to add to the other stew or soup ingredients.

Fried onion: If using it simply as fried onion, for instance, with a barbeque, you might like to cook it on a slightly higher heat so that it gets a bit crispy—but make sure you stir it, or it will stick to the pan and burn.

Roast onion: Keep the peeled onion whole, or if very large, cut it in half. Put it on a baking tray, cover it with about a teaspoonful of cooking oil and a little salt, and cook it in the oven on medium heat for about 45 minutes to one hour, turning it over once and basting it with oil. Usually, it will be cooked in with roast potatoes and meat, as it imparts flavouring to the cooking oil as it cooks.

Potatoes, carrots and parsnips

Potatoes, carrots and parsnips

Potatoes, Parsnips and Carrots

The simplest method for all three of these root vegetables is to peel them, cut them up, cover them with water, add salt to taste and boil for twenty minutes and drain and serve.

How Big Should They Be Cut?

  • Potato: about the size of a golf ball
  • Parsnips: two or three pieces
  • Carrots: several long strips or large or small slices
Roast potatoes and parsnips

Roast potatoes and parsnips

More About Potatoes

  • Mashed potatoes: After boiling, drain off the water, add a quarter of a cupful of milk to the potatoes in the pan, heat and add a knob of butter and mash with a fork or masher. If the consistency looks a little dry, add more milk.
  • Roast potatoes (or roast parsnips): Peel and cut to the size of a golf ball, boil them in salted water for fifteen minutes, put a tablespoon of cooking oil in a baking tray, then put the potatoes or parsnips in, turning them over, so they are coated lightly with oil. Then put on the top shelf of the oven and regulo 6 for about 30 minutes, until brown. It helps if you turn them over once during cooking but not essential.
  • Baked potatoes: Wash and scrub whole large potatoes, and put them in the oven regulo 6 for about 40 minutes. If you don't like the skins too tough, wrap them in silver metal foil for about 30 minutes, and just undo the foil for the last 10 minutes to dry off the steam.
Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a fairly bland vegetable when cooked; it's better when prepared as cauliflower cheese.

Boiled Cauliflower: Wash, and cut the cauliflower into large florets, cutting off any blemishes. The leaves can be used, too, discarding any thick stalks.

  1. Boil for 15 minutes, adding a sprinkling of salt to taste.
  2. Drain and serve.
  3. It is sometimes served with a plain white sauce over it.
  4. Do not overcook because cauliflower goes soft, falls to pieces and smells disgusting when cooked too long,
Cauliflower boiling

Cauliflower boiling

Quick and Easy Cauliflower Cheese

This is a very tasty dish, which can either be served on its own as a nutritious vegetarian meal or as an accompaniment to meat.

Cheese sauce for cauliflower

Cheese sauce for cauliflower

The Cheese Sauce

The ingredients and instructions of how to make the cheese sauce can be found in How to Make Cauliflower Cheese, so I won't re-state it in detail here.

Suffice it to say you cook the cauliflower as above, for 10 to 15 minutes, and whilst it is cooking, make a white sauce using cornflour, following the instructions on the box; then stir in some grated cheese to the mixture.

Then pour the white sauce over the drained cauliflower and add a sprinkling of grated cheese on the top because cheese tastes and looks lovely when it has browned on top.

Put it in the oven at Regulo 6 for about 20 minutes or until just turning brown.

Cauliflower with cheese sauce

Cauliflower with cheese sauce

And have a look at my special French Le Creuset red metal baking dish. I've had it for years, and it is very serviceable and hard-wearing. I love it because, although it's a bit heavy, it's ornamental enough to be taken straight from the oven to the dinner table whilst hot—but I do have to have a heat-proof mat to save it from burning the table.

Cauliflower cheese bowned and ready to eat

Cauliflower cheese bowned and ready to eat

Broccoli

Broccoli

Broccoli

My mother used to pronounce it "berocolli."

Wash the broccoli, cut it into florets, and drop it into boiling water. Add salt to taste. Boil for ten minutes if you like it slightly crunchy and fifteen minutes if you like it a bit soft. Do not overcook, or it will go soft and squashy and fall apart.

Drain and serve.

Broccoli should not be eaten if it has been stored too long and has turned yellow.

Cabbage, swede and gem squash

Cabbage, swede and gem squash

Cabbage, Swede and Gem Squash

Cabbage

There are several varieties of cabbage—some with dark leaves and some with lighter leaves, some with solid centres, and some more open.

Pull off as many cabbage leaves as you need, cut away any thick stems, then wash the cabbage leaves, cut or tear them into smaller pieces, and put them in a pan of boiling water, salted to taste. Boil for 15 minutes, making sure the leaves are fully covered with water so that they don't dry out. Then drain and serve.

Some people like their cabbage cooked until it's very soft and a bit soggy, in which case, just boil for 20 minutes instead of 15. Pale cabbage takes slightly less time to cook than dark cabbage,

Swede

Cut a piece of as much swede as you need, peel it with a potato peeler or sharp knife, and then cut it into small pieces—about 1" to 2" cubes. You need to cut it up small because swede is a very hard vegetable and would take a long time to cook if not cut. Boil in salted water for 20 minutes, then mash with butter and serve.

Gem Squash or Other Kinds of Squash

Boil the squash in water for 20 minutes without peeling it, then cut the squash in half, add a dollop of butter, pepper and salt, and serve.

A Vegetable stall in London

A Vegetable stall in London

Health experts advise us to eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day. What's your daily intake of vegetables?

Ready for More? Try Cooking With Aubergine

  • Easy Stuffed Eggplant or Aubergine
    This is a quick and easy vegetarian recipe, and it tastes delicious, with melted cheese oozing over a blend of vegetables, baked in the oven
Baked aubergine (eggplant)

Baked aubergine (eggplant)