Eating more vegetables will help us live longer, age better and fight the risk of degenerative disease in later life. That much we know. But there’s always a risk that eating piles of veg can be a bit, well, boring. There’s a limit to how much steamed kale/cabbage/spinach I can eat. But there’s also a limit to how much time I have to prepare complex dishes. So my favourite way to make myself eat more veg is to sauté them. The wonderful U.S. food magazine, Bon Appetit, refers to the veg sauté as ‘a lynchpin dinner technique’ – I didn’t know I needed a lynchpin dinner technique until I read that, but now I’m glad I’ve got one.
But isn’t sauté just a posh word for frying, you say? Yes it is. But I use coconut oil for extra brain boosting (read our post on coconut oil here) AND keep the fat content lower by adding water. So I start with a tablespoon of oil, get it nice and hot then add my veggies. When the oil has been absorbed I add a splash or two of water to keep everything moving. It’s a good compromise between hard-core, oil-free ‘water saute’ techniques and using loads of fat. It’s a traditional Chinese technique that I was lucky enough to learn during a cookery lesson on holiday in China. But, interestingly, research recently revealed this is so much more than just a way to keep oil content – and calories – down. Adding a little water reduces oil temperature, and that can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. It works like this: overheating during cooking causes oils, especially olive oil, to break down – producing toxic chemicals called lipid peroxides. When we eat these nasties, they react with proteins and our DNA in a way that may increase cancer and heart disease risk.
So my ‘lynchpin dinner technique’ gives me plenty of phtyo-(plant) nutrients, and the flavour-enhancing properties of sautéing, without the risks that come from overheating oils. Win win. I use this dish as a side to fish or meat, as a main meal when topped with an egg, stirred through grains or as a bruschetta topping. It’s endlessly versatile and there are endless variations. We get an organic veg delivery each week (thank you, Farmaround) and I’ll use whatever is in there. Turmeric and ginger bring a lot to the party too, health-wise, but feel free to substitute. So use the ‘recipe’ below as guidance rather than scripture.
‘LYNCHPIN’ VEGETABLE SAUTE
1 tbs coconut oil
150g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 small or 1 large leeks, cleaned and sliced
½ red pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 handfuls of greens, washed and chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp dried oregano or thyme
Salt and pepper
Toasted walnuts, pumpkin seeds or pinenuts
Keep a small jug of water beside the hob as you cook. Heat a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the oil and turn the temperature down to medium. Add the mushrooms and leeks and cook until they start to soften – about five minutes. Add water if they start to stick. Add the garlic, herbs and spices and cook for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the veg and a good splash of water. Keep stirring and cooking for a minute or two, then put on a lid and cook for another couple of minutes. Give it all a final stir, season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the nuts or seeds.