Lately I have been worried if, as a family, we are eating enough vegetables.
Fruit is easy! Apples, tangerines and bananas disappear by the crateload at home. With vegetables I need to be more vigilant. Yes, we buy a variety of veg every Monday afternoon when we do our weekly shop, but, come Sunday, in the last couple of weeks there might have been a forgotten courgette in the fridge or an uneaten salad languishing with it.
So, I’ve devised my own ten super easy tricks to bulk up our family meals with veg and make sure we don’t fall short of our 5-a-day. Just bear in mind that I am not a nutritionist, just a mum trying to do her best.
1. Add chopped mushrooms or thinly sliced peppers to scrambled eggs. I just heat a spoonful of olive oil in a pan, add the vegetables, saute them for a couple of minutes just to soften them a bit and then add the eggs and scramble as normal.
2. Add cubed aubergine to a sauce bolognese. Just put the aubergine cubes in after you have browned the meat, give them a few minutes to saute in the meat juices and then add your tomato sauce as usual.
3. Still on the topic of aubergines. Get a large aubergine, cut it in half, criss cross with a sharp knife the fleshy face of each half, rub some olive oil into them and put them in a hot oven for about 45 min. 225 degrees usually works for me.
4. This one usually works well if you have a food processor as doing it by hand would kill all the joy of eating it. So, get half a kilo of carrots, peel them quickly and then grate them. Put them in a bowl. Add salt and drizzle on top with the juice of one lemon. Now, make sure that your hands are clean. Put your hand in the bowl and start squeezing the carrots with your fingers. Do it, until they visibly reduce their volume. Serve it as a standalone salad or an accompaniment to meals.
5. Thinly slice some Savoy cabbage. Put a knob of butter in a pan and pile the cabbage strips on top. Put the cover on and wilt the cabbage. It will become bright green and it will slump to the bottom of the pan. Don’t let it burn.
6. Make jewelled rice. Get all the vegetables that you have in the fridge: peppers, courgettes, carrots, peas, even butternut squash. Cut a portion off each one of them then cut them in little cubes. Put some rice in a pan, add your vegetables and cover with water. Boil until the rice is fluffy and then serve as a garnish with your main meal.
7. Strictly speaking potatoes are not a vegetable but starch. So, to add some vegetable goodness to them, boil carrots and potatoes together and then mash them with a little bit of milk or even soft cheese.
8. Again, biologically speaking, beans are not a vegetable, but they do count towards one of your 5-a-day. So, get a tin of beans, rinse them well, then warm them in a pan for three or four minutes (don’t add any oil) and after that mash them with two spoonfuls of pesto for a lovely Italian-smelling dip.
9. Just double up. If you are making pasta or another meal that doesn’t call for precise measurements of its ingredients, then put double the amount of vegetables in it.
10. Sometimes it’s a question of simply eating raw vegetables on the go. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. Just wash a few cherry tomatoes or slice a cucumber into batons, put them in a bowl and have a little snack.