I don’t want to come over all “drinking two litres of water a day will improve your wellbeing” because we’re all familiar with the many things we could be doing for our beloved Wellbeing, whoever she is, and whenever we’re supposed to find the time for her.
But here I go anyway.
I recently took out a mortgage and so now my life is over. I’ve found that I’m able to drastically improve the quality of the end of my life by doing one quite radical thing: actually eating all of the vegetables I buy.
The benefits of taking this important step are clear:
1) Zero expenditure on damp spinach with which to feed the bin.
2) A clean and orderly crisper drawer, devoid of rot and sludge.
3) Positive environmental impact.
4) Regularly experiencing the sensation of being inside a shop and knowing what to buy.
4) Eating vegetables is, so I hear, very good for Wellbeing.
The concept of “fridge foraging” is a popular one on Instagram, but like many things on Instagram, it’s insufferable. I’ve previously seen a fresh jar of lemon verbena harissa appear in one of these, which really seemed to miss the point. Personally, right now, I have a swede and some yoghurt.
But you can work with a swede and some yoghurt. Or even some pedestrian red chilli-based harissa (so passé). And who in the self-care era doesn’t love a clean slate? Go forth, empty your fridge so you can fill it again – be the vegetable fiend you want to see in the world.
Embrace small plates
Letting go of the instinct that your dinner needs to make perfect sense really helps. So what if you douse a cauliflower in tahini dressing and eat it with some Italian braised celery on the side? Mix your cuisines! Introduce tabbouleh to tagliatelle! Pull these dinners together using: bread and butter, a dollop of garlic yoghurt, a fried egg, an avocado.
Clarissa roasts it all
If Yotam Ottolenghi has taught us anything it’s that if you roast any vegetable and toss it with between two and 20 further ingredients, you can call it a salad. This butternut squash salad with red onion, tahini and za’atar is SO Yotam. In this recipe, Anna Jones roasts some unglamorous roots (carrots, beetroot, butternut squash) and then dresses them with a peppy roast garlic pesto. And then, of course, you can chuck in a grain: this farro salad recipe uses up turnips, swedes and leeks.
Things on toast
This approach will truly make a meal of anything. These lemony courgettes on toast are long-time faves of mine. Bon Appetit are very good at dreaming up modern bruschettas; their “new avocado toast” incorporates thinly sliced cucumbers, and this ricotta, kale and mushroom toast is a great autumn-winter feast. Stand by for a Goop link! This pea and ricotta toast is one to keep on file. And Diana Henry’s roasted tomato, hummus and spinach on toast recipe is harissa-optional – phew!
You need a pasta sauce that works with any greens: Rachel Roddy’s got your back, of course – she suggests this ricotta-based sauce works with spinach, radish leaves, leafy sprouting broccoli, chard, rocket, watercress or sorrel. Also, this piece about making pesto out of just about anything should’ve broken the internet by now – it’s monumentally handy.
In a pickle
It seems like a big commitment but the benefits of pickling keep on coming. Not only do you use the vegetables up in the first instance, you also lay the foundations for some good rice bowls in your future. If you haven’t pickled before, all you need is vinegar, some spice and 10 minutes to make a brine. This guide to quick pickles will help.
Fritter it away
It’s the ultimate transformation: from sad vegetable to golden fried patty. I absolutely love a fritter. Courgette fritters and sweetcorn fritters are classics. But don’t underestimate the crisp, dippable power of leek fritters, broccoli fritters or beetroot fritters. All good with some lemony, garlicky yoghurt.
Consult the experts
To be able to turn to an index and look up the vegetable you want to eliminate makes all the difference. River Cottage Everyday Veg is encyclopaedic like that, with dishes like squash and fennel lasagne, courgette tea loaf, and cauliflower pakoras listed under helpful chapters like “hearty salads”, “raw assemblies” and “veg on the go”.
Last year, some runner beans from an uncle’s garden threatened to undo me – they’d been knocking about for a while and I’d convinced myself they’d be tough. I simply consulted the book of the millennium, Meera Sodha’s Fresh India, and turned them into a delicious runner bean subji (taking her advice to remove the fibrous strings). There isn’t a vegetable that woman can’t spruce.
MEERA SODHA'S HOT GREEN BEAN, CASHEW + COCONUT SALAD
(haree phalee salad)
Serves 4 as a side
- 40g desiccated or fresh grated coconut
- 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black mustard seeds 4 banana shallots, sliced 150g unsalted cashews
- 700g green beans, topped and tailed
- 11⁄2 teaspoons tamarind paste 1 cayenne or slim red chilli 3⁄4 teaspoon salt
- Put a large pan of water on to boil.
- Next, put a frying pan over a low to medium heat and, when hot, add the coconut. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes until toasted and golden, keeping a (very) watchful eye on it so that it doesn’t burn, then tip on to a plate and leave to one side.
- Put the oil into the same pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add the shallots and fry for around 8 minutes, until they are soft and browning. Add the cashews, fry until golden, then take off the heat.
- Meanwhile, put the beans into the pan of boiling water and cook for 4 minutes, or until tender (not too chewy but still nice and crisp to bite into), then drain and leave to dry.
- Put the shallots and cashews back over a high heat and add the beans, tamarind, chilli and salt. Once everything is sizzling, toss through most of the coconut. Check for seasoning, then take off the heat and serve immediately, scattering the rest of the coconut over the top.
Meera Sodha's book Fresh India, 130 Quick, Easy and Delicious Recipes For Every Day is out now, published by Penguin.
This is part of our special New Year series called Small Change, Big Difference – small things you can do in 2018 (and not big unrealistic resolutions you can't keep). To read more in the series, click here