Sometimes, on a Monday night in January, the doctor will order you to have a plate of vegetables for supper. The trick – as ever, well at least in my book – is to avoid worthiness at all costs, not least because ‘worthy’ so often goes hand in hand with feeling deprived. This Monday night supper was made mainly from veg I had kicking around in the fridge – plus some sprouts that I actually left the house specifically to buy, which may sound queer, I grant you, BUT since I discovered the transformative powers of roasting sprouts, I have ushered them into my life with gusto, and you should too. The broccoli was just steamed, and you could leave it at that. I prefer, however, to chop it up with salt and pepper and some lovely, delicious butter (the hardest part of no toast and butter for six years? No butter!). The courgettes, I thinly sliced and fried with olive oil and garlic. And the squash is the closest things to potatoes that my life these days allows but is still delicious every time I eat it (which is to say, many times per month). I served it with haricoumous (like hummus, made with posh beans). Then to unite them all, I shaved some parmesan on top. A good example of a meal that is meat and carb free, but leaves you missing neither, not even for a nano-second. Just what the doctor ordered.
Am I alone in being slightly bereft to find out that a couple of local supermarkets seem to have stopped selling sprouts just because Christmas is over? Probably. But just in case you are a sprout lover too, and have a lovely Turkish veg shop nearby, like I do, then here goes:
Sprouts (as many as you like), trimmed and cut in half
salt, pepper, oil
This is so simple, but roasting really does turn sprouts from being slightly punishing, into a pleasure. Just arrange the half sprouts in a roasting tin. Splash some oil and salt and pepper, using your hands to make sure each sprout has been anointed with oil. Roast at about 180 degrees for about 40 minutes. They are done when the outer layers are coming away and a bit char grilled and crispy, and the insides are soft, which probably removes at least half of any nutritional value – but half is better than none, right?
Pan fried courgettes
I know a lot of people object to the watery mealiness of courgettes, and I can see their point but this is a good way to take courgettes down a different path. I slice them as thinly as possible – if you have a grater with a slicing side, that’s probably the easiest way to do it. Then pan fry, with some garlic and oil, until they are super soft.
Courgettes (I allow one medium courgette per person as a side dish), thinly sliced.
salt, pepper, oil, garlic.
This is so simple it barely needs instructions: just bung the courgettes in a pan (I favour a wok saucepan) with some oil. After about five minutes add the garlic, either crushed or sliced (amount wise, very much to taste; I think I probably use more than the average punter) and pepper. Cook until the slices have sort of melted together – at least 20 minutes, sometimes more. Don’t salt until the end (to avoid creating too much liquid).
I think I first had this, or something like this, at Bistroteque and then came home quite fixated upon trying it out myself. The chilli powder really adds another, caramelised, dimension to squash (something which I had barely eaten, before following this diet, but which I have learned to really love). A note on chilli powders, however, which is that they seriously vary in power and this doesn’t taste as nice when the chilli powder is too strong. I have tried a few and the best is definitely Sainsbury’s mild chilli powder, which is so mild as to be barely chilli-ish at all, but which works exactly the magic you are after. The main obstacle with this is the preparation of the squash, which is a faff BUT I can’t emphasise enough the happiness and speed that results from the right peeler (Lakeland do the best squash peeler I have ever found, and it’s under a fiver: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/15805/Vegetable-Peeler)
One large squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into smallish chunks
oil, salt, pepper, mild chilli powder
Once you have chopped the squash, the work is over, and all you do is arrange it in a roasting tin, splash on some oil, salt and pepper and liberal shakes of mild chilli powder (if it is Sainburys; if it is another brand you almost certainly should be positively miserly). Roast for 45 mins to an hour at 180 degrees until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.