Every single person I work with mentions wanting to eat more vegetables when we look at their wish list. Although we all have our own definition of healthy eating my (casually anecdotal) research shows that finding ways to eat more fresh, plant based produce features in that definition across the board.
So what’s the best way to start? If you’ve been dieting and restricting what you eat for a while, chances are that veg is pretty unappealing. Whatever diet or healthy eating lifestyle you chose to follow I bet you were told to eat loads of it. Veg is on the free foods list – load up!
Vegetables are zero points so go ahead and eat as much as you like! I spent years forcing myself to eat dry, bendy carrot sticks that I’d make in advance and keep in a glass in my fridge in case I got the munchies. I spent many, many meals shovelling platefuls of limp watery salad leaves into my mouth trying to fill the hole in my stomach that was shaped like cake. I ate mounds of boiled, bland greens wishing I could dive head first into a mountain of creamy mashed potato. Vegetables in my experience often came liberally seasoned with misery and despair…and very little else.
By the time I stopped dieting I was through with veg. Done. Finito. So I went through a period of not eating much of it at all. Then something weird happened. I started to notice that I was craving fresh flavours and the junk food I’d so enthusiastically and officially let back into my life (and was kinda living off) wasn’t delivering on those. I began tentatively adding a few vegetables to my meals. I went out shopping and took a good look at what was available and picked out the most appealing. Then I got busy in the kitchen.
It’s amazing what taking vegetables out of the diet mentality can do. When I can pair my veg with fat and other tasty ingredients they suddenly go from being a necessary evil to the most delightful dinners. When I allowed myself to eat vegetables in any way I fancied I started eating a whole lot more…but even more crucially I really enjoyed it. That makes for satisfying eating and when I’m satisfied I don’t eat as much junk. So in a way, the diets had it right all along: eating more veg is a good way to fill up and eat less of the stuff you’d rather not be eating. Except I’m not sure the following three recipes would make it on to the approved list at Weight Watchers or Slimming World as they do rely on olive oil to bring them to another level and the 1tsp a day allowance just won’t cut it really…
The following recipes are an easy, straightforward but super tasty way of making vegetables exciting. And what’s amazing is there’s no complex and lengthy cooking processes or ingredient lists. All we’re doing is adding a bit of olive oil and a few other bits and pieces. It makes such a difference and there’s so many ways to mix those ingredients together and get completely different results! Have a go and enjoy!
This recipe comes from the Puglia region in Italy where vegetables take centre stage at most meals. I love this way of eating carrots: they are sweet and savoury at the same time. And very moreish. Perfect with a slice of oozing cheese and a hunk of bread or as a side to roast meat or fish.
- carrots, peeled but left whole
- 1 tbsp olive oil per carrot
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano (or a little less if fresh)
- 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar per carrot
Boil a large pot of water or get out your steamer if you have one. Cook the carrots until you can easily pierce with the tip of a knife. As soon as they are drained and still hot put in a dish and douse with the vinegar, olive oil, oregano and a sprinkle of salt which you’ve whisked together beforehand. Then give it a good stir to coat the carrots and cover with a plate or clingfilm. Wait at least 10 minutes for the carrots to absorb the flavours and then cut into thick slices and serve. The longer you wait the better the flavour. Good cold too.
Grilled Leeks Vinaigrette
This is one of mum’s regulars I ate growing up as a child. Then I started dieting and my mum’s vinaigrette was relegated to the “forbidden foods” list and leeks became something I put in free soups – sad. When I rediscovered veg I went back to some of my childhood favourites and leeks started looking good again… My mum used normal sized leeks and steamed them…and I do that sometimes. But grilling or roasting them gives this a really lovely smokey flavour and the baby leeks are always tender and juicy which can sometimes not be the case with older leeks. These go really well with a slice of ham or grilled halloumi and pair up really nicely with a soft boiled egg.
- baby leeks
- 3-4 tbsp good quality olive oil
- 1 tsp dijon or other french mustard
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp good red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp finely chopped parlsey
- salt and pepper
Start with the vinaigrette. Finely chop the shallot and put it in a small bowl (or even better a glass jar with a lid) with the vinegar and a sprinkle of salt. Set aside. This pickles the shallot and does away with that raw, oniony aftertaste you might otherwise get.
Get a griddle pan nice and hot or turn the oven grill on. Brush the leeks with olive oil, season with a bit of salt and pepper and cook them, turning them occasionally, until they are slightly charred and caramelised on the outside and soft on the inside.
While the leeks are cooking, add the rest of the vinaigrette ingredients to the bowl or jar and shake or whisk vigorously until the oil emulsifies and you get a creamy looking dressing. taste and adjust, you may need more oil or more salt.
As soon as the leeks are ready, and while they are still hot, drizzle with the dressing and then leave to sink in for a few minutes before eating.
Store leftover vinaigrette in a sealed glass jar and shake before use. Makes any green leaves sing.
Olive oil poached tomatoes
I love poaching tomatoes in olive oil, it brings out sweetness and they keep for ages in a jar in the fridge which means I can add them to salads, sandwiches, frittatas, pasta and bruschettas and instantly make my meal more interesting. They are also really good with chicken goujons and fish fingers. It’s a great way to make slightly sour, poly tunnel tomatoes a bit tastier and zingy. The tomatoey oil they are stored in is just as yummy and works really well in salad dressings and drizzled over fish so there’s no waste either.
- baby tomatoes, cut in half
- good quality olive oil
- garlic – squished with the back of a knife
- dried oregano or fresh basil
- salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 150C (fan). Put your tomatoes cut side down in a roasting dish where they fit snugly without overlapping. Scatter as much crushed garlic as you like amongst the tomatoes and sprinkle generously with dried oregano or a handful of torn basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover in olive oil so that the tomatoes are completely submerged. Stick the tomatoes in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking every now and again to make sure they aren’t burning. If they are starting to go crispy, turn the heat down in the oven. The longer they cook, the sweeter and more intense they will taste. Let them cool completely before storing in the fridge in a sealed jar.