What to do with vegetables?
I HAVE never thought of braising vegetables. I like my vegetables crunchy and therefore always stir-fry or roast them. The thought of slow-cooking vegetables for an hour or more was unimaginable. Perhaps it could work with potatoes, yams or carrots but surely anything else would just end up unappetisingly mushy, right?
Needless to say, this month’s task posed a challenge for me. Despite reading numerous articles and recipes for braising vegetables I had many doubts. My curiosity, however, was piqued when I saw a recipe for vegetables braised in olive oil. The oil is flavoured with lemon, garlic, chilli flakes, sun-dried tomatoes (you can do this yourself by roasting halved cherry tomatoes under low heat – 120°C – for about an hour) and anchovies; I replaced the anchovies with Marmite to make the dish vegetarian.
I deviated from the recipe by putting all my favourite vegetables into the braising pot – broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, potatoes and carrots. I expected the broccoli and cauliflower to end up mushy and discoloured but was pleasantly surprised to find them tender but still retaining their structure (and a little crunch too).
Braising, I realise, is radically different from boiling. Braising uses gentle heat to coax out flavour (from the vegetables and the braising liquid). It’s genius!
Will I try it again? Most definitely. Despite the length of time on the heat, the freshness of the vegetables is not compromised. They remain succulent and plump, and the flavours are bright and accented with the lemon and tomatoes that went in to season the oil. To top it all off, the aroma as the vegetables are braising is just intoxicating.
Vegetables Braised In Olive Oil
1 cup olive oil
1 lemon, sliced and de-seeded
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp Marmite
4 sprigs rosemary
6-8 sundried tomatoes, sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
300g broccoli, cut into large florets
300g cauliflower, cut into large florets
6 small potatoes, washed and halved
1 carrot, halved and cut into 2-inch pieces
8-10 brussel sprouts, ends trimmed
8-10 mushrooms, halved or quartered (I used shiitake)
2 tsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to season
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan to finish
In a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot, add the olive oil, chilli flakes, tomatoes, garlic, onion, rosemary, lemon and Marmite. Keep the heat on low to medium and allow the flavours of the ingredients to infuse into the oil.
Once the garlic and lemon slices start to brown, add the potatoes and carrots into the oil and leave to cook, uncovered for about 7 minutes.
Add the rest of the vegetables and stir to make sure they are all coated with the oil. They will only be partially submerged.
Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Leave to braise for about 30 minutes without stirring, after which time the vegetables should have softened and browned somewhat.
After 30 minutes, stir the vegetables to make sure those at the top get their chance to braise in the oil too. Keep the pot on low heat for another 15 minutes or so, stirring every now and then to make sure the vegetales are cooked evenly.
Once you are satisfied with the tenderness of your vegetables, season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped parsley and remove the pot from the heat.
Dish the vegetables and some of the seasoned braising oil onto a serving platter and shave some Parmesan over the top.
Recipe and photo By S. INDRAMALARsource and Four simple steps to a great braiseRecipe: Braising Vegetables in Olive Oil adds a dimension that roasting and stir-frying doesn't provide,