woensdag 11 november 2009

Eat your greens and pressure cooking!

You are what you eat.
While I cannot stress the importance of healthy and varied eating you must find a balance that suits everyone. Compromise rather than force-feeding may result in harmony around the dining table but it may well lead to 'pressure cooking' in the kitchen...
I was brought up on fruit and vegetables. I am a country girl and we were practically self sufficient. In my area you lived off the land and what we didn't grow in the garden we bought at local farms or on the market. And as long as I remember my grandparents have always kept chickens. Everything was plentiful, fruit, vegetable, dairy and meat.
I grew up on vegetables like swede, turnip, parsnip, (it's great that they are becoming popular here now although to be honest I didn't actually appreciate them at the time) carrot and cabbage. What is more we were expected to finish our plates whether we liked it or not! We were always served huge portions and thinking back it was rather unkind what was expected of us.
My Dutch husbands eyes were opened as he was introduced to English vegetables he had never seen before, especially the root vegetables! Today he often rather cruelly comments about the size of English produce. Peas the size of sprouts and spouts the size of cabbages...

Thinking back, I don't think being force-fed vegetables has actually done me any harm, on the contrary I am always looking out to try new vegetables and create different ways of preparing them. However I did decide to take a rather a different approach with my own children. I introduced them at an early age to many different vegetables but always very small portions and I think it has worked. I was open for compromise, vegetables they loathed were 'banned' from the menu. Each member of the family was allowed to 'blacklist' one particular vegetable. For hubby (yeah-men are almost like children and need to be treated as such!): Chicory. Eldest son: Beetroot. Youngest son: varying over the years between Zuurkool (Sauerkraut), aubergine and courgette. (I think he is always trying to outwit me by confusion- but I am on to him ha-ha)

It certainly seems to have worked because my boys expect a balanced meal. On the occasions when we have eaten quick meals of convenience (YES- guilty as charged!) they have often asked: “but where are the vegetables?” But quite possibly this was down to an unfortunately event when I discovered to my horror the 'forgotten' pan of vegetables on the stove when the meal was finished! "Cold broccoli anyone?" I think we have all been there...oops!
Nevertheless I do feel guilty if I try to get by with not providing the daily vegetable requirements and I don't get away with it- it never goes unnoticed. Should I see it as kind of punishment for being too strict? What goes around comes around- and often bites you on the butt! Another example is being literally dragged out of bed by nagging teenagers.....when I've been sleepily watching a film in my bed gradually dozing off- Mum, Have you cleaned your teeth?...GET UP, GO AND CLEAN YOUR TEETH! Now... ha-ha
I know I have achieved success because not only do they eat most vegetables, they now have their favourite types and way of preparation. We not only ‘chip’ potatoes but also pumpkin, celeriac and sweet potatoes.
One of the all time favourites is spinach with pasta sauce, another stir fry, even cabbage but in particular Paksoi. or Pak Choi as it is known in English. I am ashamed to admit I actually had to google to see what it is in English my mother tongue!
I cook it is many different ways but one that has stuck is very simple,
Pak Choi with caraway seed.
pak choi
1 small (red)onion, chopped
few tsp. sugar
large knob butter
caraway seeds, heaped tsp
salt and pepper
Optional: vinegar and cornflour, chili flakes
Firstly I caramelize some sugar. I use a dry saucepan, and add a few teaspoons of sugar, heat gently and watch in amazement how it will turn liquid. Keep stirring (do not leave!) until all the sugar is dissolved and it has a nice brown colour. Cool slightly then add a large knob of butter (I love butter- I never use margarine, though I suppose you could). When melted add one finely chopped onion, and cooked for a few minutes, then add one heaped teasp. of caraway seeds a good pinch of salt and pepper (and chili flakes if desired), the white pieces (sliced) of the pak choi. Stir fry for just a few minutes. Lastly I add the roughly chopped green tops and stir until wilted. Serve.
This is based on a Viennese Pak Choi (Weense Paksoi) recipe. You could thicken the sauce by making a paste with a little cornflour and some vinegar (I used organic cider vinegar)add it at the end and bring to the boil. Enjoy!

We also thoroughly enjoy our salads. We actually grow a little home produce, herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, lemon balm, celery, coriander with less success, rocket, aubergine, tomato, bell peppers, fruits. I have also grown pumpkins in previous years.

So no pressure cooker in sight, (I don't even have one anymore) the referral in the title is because we ate salmon steaks today...
Because I have been rather too lenient and don't force feed I have made a rod for my own back. My boys have always refused to eat fish and unlike vegetables which are necessary for good health, fish doesn't fall into that category so I have never made an issue of it, encouraged yes- without success. I am left with a choice: forfeit fish myself or make double meals: so I prepare meat for them. So yesterday it was a juggle with the many pans! A juggle on the stove and a juggle in the dishwasher! Hopefully time will change because yesterday they were willing to taste one mouthful of salmon.
We also ate boiled potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk. Fruit salad for dessert, and a swimming pool cocktail for good measure. I had some left over coconut milk. (my excuse)
It sure was chaos in the kitchen or 'pressure cooking' but more important we not only ate our greens but we actually enjoyed them!

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