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Vegetables
Tips on how to use fruit and vegetables

Select a letter below if you are looking for a particular fruit or vegetable, or just scroll through the list.

A C G H L M O P T

Apples
If you’re not peeling them, then wash them thoroughly. If you peel them and are serving them raw, e.g. in a fruit salad, or on muesli, squeeze some lemon juice over them to stop them going brown.

Asparagus
Is expensive out of season, but a real treat in season. Don’t overcook it though. It only needs to be gently simmered or steamed for about ten minutes, or it becomes droopy! Serve with melted butter and black pepper for a starter or as an accompaniment to a meal.

Avacado
Buy them a few days in advance, or make sure it gives slightly as you press it – then its ripe for that day. To remove the stone, slice in half from top to bottom, twist and separate, then gently pierce the stone with a sharp knife (watch your fingers – it is slippery) and lever it out. Needs to be dipped in lemon juice unless you’re using it immediately – or it will go brown. A great addition to salad, or as a starter served with vinaigrette and black pepper, or with prawns with mayonnaise, with a quarter of lemon.

Cabbage
Trim off outer leaves. Tear or shred other leaves and wash thoroughly in cold water. Bring to the boil in just enough water to cover it with a little salt added, then simmer for about 10 minutes, or longer if you like it soggy! Serve with a little butter and black pepper.

Carrots
Peel, chop a little off the top and bottom, then slice, chop, or cut into batons. Serve raw in salads, or as cruditees for dips. To cook - bring to the boil in just enough water to cover it, with a little salt added, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Simmer for a little longer if you want to mash them, drain off the water, add a little butter and pepper and mash.

Cauliflower
Remove brown outer leaves; leave any good green ones in place. Remove the base of the stalk. Either break or cut into small ‘trees’. Can be served raw for dips, or to cook – bring to the boil in enough salted water to cover the cauliflower, simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain well. Serve as it is as an accompaniment, or add cheese sauce, and brown it in the oven. This makes a great leftover snack with toast.

Chillies
Remove stalk and cut chillies in half down their length. Remove seeds and discard unless you want more heat in your food, then finely chop the rind and use as per the recipe. WASH YOUR HANDS after you’ve done this, DON’T RUB YOUR EYES, and in particular men don’t nip off for a quick pee – unless you’ve washed your hands - agony!

Corn on the cob
Remove outer leaves and ‘threads’. Cut off stem, boil in lightly salted water for about 10 minutes. Serve with butter and black pepper as a starter or as an accompaniment to barbecues in the summer.

Courgette
A mini-marrow best used when it is between 10 and 15 centimetres long. They don't need to be peeled, but just top and tail, then wipe over with a damp cloth. Best fried in a little olive oil, but can be a little bland on their own. Add peppers, or tomatoes or aubergines or make ratatouille.

Garlic
Keep a bulb of garlic in stock, and peel off a clove as you need it. Chop off the top and bottom, then peel, and either press or chop finely depending on how you want to use it. You can add raw chopped garlic with parsley to a dressing of olive oil and wine vinegar for an extra bite to your salads.
Don’t forget to chew fresh parsley after you’ve eaten garlic to ease the effects of your breath the next day!

Herbs
Fresh herbs can be snipped with scissors over a bowl before use to maximise taste. Try adding fresh parsley to an omelette as it cooks – delicious flavour. Add chopped fresh herbs immediately before serving a dish e.g. fresh basil onto an Italian meat sauce, fresh coriander onto a Thai dish, fresh parsley or other herbs to a salad.

Leeks
Full of sand and dirt, so chop of the tops and the bottom roots, chop, put in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Bring to the boil in lightly salted water; simmer for about 10 minutes until tender. Can be served with a cheese sauce for a snack, or as an accompaniment.

Lemons
Zest is the outer yellow part of the lemon; pith is the white bit surrounding the fruit. To get more juice from a lemon, place in hot water for a few minutes before you halve it and squeeze it.

Limes
As lemons, and can be substituted for lemons in recipes, but produce a slightly stronger flavour. Limes are delicious squeezed over cucumber with salt for a simple salad dish. The lime is an important ingredient in Thai cooking where it produces a distinctive flavour.

Lettuce
Cut off the base of the stalk and remove any slightly brown leaves. Tear the leaves into a colander and wash well in cold water. Allow the leaves to dry a bit before using in a salad, otherwise the dressing won’t stick to it. Only add any dressing immediately before you serve it. Add fresh chopped herbs to your salad for a more exotic flavour.

Mushrooms
Wipe with a piece of kitchen paper or clean damp cloth. Don’t wash them as they absorb water easily and may affect the outcome of your recipe.

Onions
Cut off the top and bottom, remove skin. Leave to stand for a few minutes and then chop or slice depending on what you require. Red onions are delicious sliced into a salad. Add a little gently fried onion to a cheese sauce for added flavour. French onion soup is a must! Spring Onions (also known as scallions) are used for salads and Chinese Stir-Fry dishes.

Peppers
Wash, cut in half, remove stalk and seeds, then chop or slice. Red, orange, or yellow can be eaten raw in salads, but the green is usually better cooked as part of a Chinese Stir-Fry, and can even be added to an Italian-style meat sauce.

Potatoes
Peel potatoes before chopping and bringing to the boil in lightly salted water. Cook for about 20 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Serve. Or mash with a little milk and butter. Baking potatoes are usually good for making mashed potatoes – and will reheat the next day without affecting the taste. Baked potatoes need to be pierced with a fork or sharp tip of a knife before putting into a pre-heated oven (180C Gas Mark 4) for about an hour – again depending on the size. If you’re in a rush, pierce the potato skin – then put it in the microwave for about 8 minutes – check if it is cooked, size is important!! A good combination is to put a pierced potato in the microwave first for about 5 minutes, then put it in a hot oven to crisp up the skin for about 20 minutes. To serve a baked potato make a cross with a knife, squeeze sides of the potato to expose some of the fluffy potato, add butter and parsley if you have it.

Tomatoes
Wash and quarter or slice for salads. If it appeals to you, you could make a quick tomato and onion salad. Sprinkle finely chopped onion onto a plate of sliced tomato and dress with vinaigrette, salt and pepper and herbs. If you need to peel tomatoes for a recipe, then dip them in boiling water for a minute, then peel them in cold water. This will make it easier for the skin to come off.