“Don’t murder your veggies!” is a cry often sounded by many natural health experts, nutritionists and raw food advocates. Apparently, heat and the cooking process destroys many of the enzymes and vitamins in vegetables, reducing their nutritional value.
Therefore, the experts often recommend eating a diet high in raw foods. However, a raw food diet may not be for everyone, so the next best option is to lightly steam our vegetables. Steaming ensures that vegetables aren’t overcooked and allows the vegetables to retain most of their nutrients.
However, I used to find steaming a cumbersome process. For one, waiting for the pot of water to boil would take ages. I also had trouble getting vegetables to cook evenly inside a steaming insert. Often the vegetables at the base closest to the steam would turn out overcooked, while those at the top remained raw.
Then one day, Mum phoned me rather excitedly, telling me about this amazing steaming method she’d learnt from a Chinese language cooking show on TV. “It’s so efficient!” she told me. “And it takes less than five minutes!”
Less than five minutes? Of course I had to try it out. And when I did, I understood why Mum was so excited. The results were astounding. Not only were hard-to-cook vegetables like broccoli done in minutes, they were perfectly steamed with no loss of taste.
It’s also an extremely quick and easy method which has encouraged me to steam vegetables more often. The secret is to actually ‘boil’ the vegetables with a small amount of water inside a pot with a tight lid. This creates plenty of steam and generates a pressure-cooker effect that cooks the vegetables quickly while sealing in the flavour and natural juices.
So without further ado, here’s the step-by-step method to steaming vegetables in five minutes or less.
Wash vegetables and cut into bite-size pieces.
Place vegetables into a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add about 1/2 cup of water, or just enough water to fill the saucepan to a depth of 1 inch (3 cm).
Cover saucepan and bring the water to a boil. When steam begins to escape from the lid’s vents and sides, begin timing. Leafy green vegetables will be cooked in about 3 minutes, firm vegetables like root vegetables and brassicas will take about 5 minutes. During the cooking process, toss the vegetables inside the covered saucepan to ensure even cooking.
After the recommended cooking time, remove lid and check the vegetables. If more cooking is required, replace the lid and continue cooking. Replenish the water if needed.
Remove lid, drain and serve. Add your favourite seasoning, if desired.
WARNING: Never leave the stove unattended while cooking with this method. Since only a minimal amount of water is used, the pot will boil dry very, very quickly. Therefore, you absolutely MUST watch the pot like a hawk from start to finish.
Of course, cooking times will vary depending on the vegetable and quantity cooked. Firm root vegetables like carrots, potatoes etc will require additional water (about 3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup) and take a bit longer to cook. Additionally, I’ve found that this method can be used with a sauté pan when steaming in large quantities.
OK, I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but I can’t stress this enough: keep a close eye on the pot while cooking! Besides the obvious safety considerations, it’s very easy to overcook with this method so don’t leave the pot on the stove for too long.
So there you go, beautifully steamed vegetables ready in a flash!