We all know they're good for us and most of us should probably be eating more of them but do you really know how to cook vegetables properly? While you might just assume that you can chuck them all into a pan of boiling water and pop back 20 minutes later to dish them up there are actually many more ways to cook your veggies, in order to make the most of their flavour and also to maximise the vitamin content.
If you don't own a steamer you can make do with a sieve over a saucepan. However, steamers are very good value for money and if everyone in your household contributes a few pounds, you can buy a basic model. They're extremely versatile and can also be used to cook fish and meat. If you keep the steamer on the work surface all the time, you're more likely to remember to use it and you should try to get into the habit of steaming any vegetables that you would normally boil. When you boil veg, a lot of the nutrients will be lost in the water, whereas steaming locks them all in. Steamers vary so you should check the instructions and cooking times for the ingredients you're cooking. Just add each vegetable in turn so that everything is ready to serve at the same time.
While many people view microwaves as the enemy in the kitchen, they do serve a purpose and are actually pretty handy when it comes to cooking vegetables. The main thing is to make sure you use a microwave-safe container to cook with. Cut the vegetables into equal-sized pieces so that they are all cooked through at the same time and then place them in the dish with just a little water. Cover the dish (if using clingfilm, pierce it a couple of times to allow the steam to escape) and cook according to your microwave model and specification. You should let the vegetables - and indeed any other food you cook in the microwave - stand for a minute or two before you eat it as the food will continue to cook after taking it out and you could burn yourself.
It's not just potatoes that taste great when roasted. Try roasting parsnips, sweet potato and butternut squash in the same way. You can par-boil for a couple of minutes first, if you like, then drizzle with a little oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the oven and the size of the vegetables. Another great idea is to roughly chop 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 red pepper and 1 courgette, toss in a little oil and roast for about 15-20 minutes. Serve with couscous and a dollop of crème fraîche - delicious!
If you must boil your veg then don't completely drown them in water. They can cook in a relatively small amount of water and obviously the less you use the better, in terms of keeping those vitamins intact. If you're only using a minimal amount, you should cover the pan so that the water doesn't evaporate too much and burn the bottom of it. Once the vegetables are cooked try to incorporate the cooking water into a sauce or stock. Obviously, this isn't always feasible but it works particularly well if you're cooking a roast dinner as you can use this liquid for the gravy.