Transforming Vegetables to Get the YUM factor!

We’re all being encouraged to eat more vegetables and less meat. But how do you rethink this in a household where ‘meat and two veg’ is the guiding principle for dinner? Well that’s how we used to plan the meals in our house!

When you first start trying to eat more vegetarian meals, it can be hard to come up with ideas that you think will be appealing to the rest of the family.

So where does that leave you? If I’m planning a meal based around vegetables, I firstly think of the protein that might accompany it. It was always red meat, chicken or fish of some sort. So if you want to eat more vegetarian based meals, here are some other protein foods that can accompany your vegetables. Cheese such as halloumi, feta or tofu are delicious additions. Or what about trying some lentils or chick peas. I also consider what grains I could use – rice and quinoa are obvious choices, but you can also change things up with freekeh or pearl barley.

But most importantly I think of the ‘yum’ factor. This will be different for everyone but let’s start with thinking about texture. If you’re serving something that’s quite soft, the ‘yum’ factor may be about adding a little crunch.

So on top of a creamy vegetable soup, you might like to add some crispy sage leaves or a toasted slice of a baguette.

A slow-cooked tray of tomatoes can be transformed with a topping of Parmesan. Or a platter of steamed greens could be made more exciting by tossing through some roasted hazelnuts.

Then there’s sauces – something that lifts the flavour of roasted or steamed vegetables. I often like to use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand – usually parsley or basil, and blitz a generous handful in a food processor with some olive oil, lemon juice, and salt & pepper. Perhaps some garlic if you want a punchier flavour. Drizzle this over roasted parsnip. Finish the dish off with some grilled halloumi and there’s a substantial dinner right there.

Another favourite of mine is a quick tahini sauce. I mix a couple of tablespoons of hulled tahini in 3/4 cup of water with minced garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Easy and delicious.

And finally, a word of advice- don’t overcook your vegetables. Beans, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus and snow peas, are all infinitely better cooked with a little bit of crunch.

Some combinations you might like to try:

• Slow roasted tomatoes with whole wheat couscous, topped with crispy Parmesan wafers.

• Roasted parsnips (cooked until they get nice caramelised edges), tossed with a loose herby sauce, on a bed of pearl barley.

• Large chunks of zucchini, roasted for 15 minutes, tossed with creamy goat’s cheese feta and toasted hazelnuts.

• Steamed broccolini and beans, tossed with a tablespoon of currants and a generous handful of slivered almonds.

• Slow-cooked capsicums and onions, tossed while still warm with olive oil, topped with labne and served with crusty bread.

So there we have it, some simple and quick ideas that you can add to your dinner plans that will increase the vegetable based meals in your life.