In view of the courgette mountain we are building up at Aspen House, I thought a quick glance at the Kenya Settlers’ Cookery Book would not go amiss. After all, you never know where you are going to find that gem of a recipe.
Silly me! There aren’t going to be any recipes for courgettes in there. At the time the book was published, these little green torpedoes were still known as zucchini and grown and eaten only in Italy.
However, in the vegetable section, there is a whole raft of handy hints for the cooking of vegetables. Marrows for example – peel, dice and boil for 20 minutes. How about peas? Also 20 minutes. Crikey! The last time I cooked peas, when they were in season back in the early part of summer, I just blanched them for about a minute. Where else am I going wrong?
I checked out a few more.
Cauliflower – 30 minutes; Brussels sprouts – 30 minutes. Wow! Well, that explains a lot about the complete revulsion shown by most people of a certain age (including Sal’s mum) for anything in the brassica line.
Moving on to the more challenging root vegetables, the advice is that potatoes should be boiled for 40 minutes. Forty minutes!? At least you wouldn’t need to use a masher. The suggested time for beetroot is two hours (gulp!).
Within the general commentary, there is a recommendation that bicarbonate of soda is added to the water to preserve the colour of green vegetables. Uh? How about just not overcooking them in the first place – wouldn’t that preserve the colour? Well, it works for me anyway.
There is also a caveat about the soda. It says (and I quote . . .) ‘When a meal is delayed, vegetables cooked with soda are apt to turn a nasty colour. To prevent this, pour off the soda water and add fresh boiling water, and leave on the side of the stove. Strain when required.’ When required? What, an hour later, when the guests finally arrive? And there’s me trying to cook everything just before I serve it. I can see I shall have to review my kitchen craft.
And finally, one last tip. Young vegetables have ‘tender fibres’ so, as a general rule, cook for only 20 to 30 minutes.