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Learn How to Cook Vegetables

Updated on November 3, 2014
Gloriousconfusion profile image

Before I became a London solicitor, I used to help in our family restaurant. I love good food, enjoy creative cooking, and hate food waste.

How to cook vegetables properly

When I was newly married and in the first home of my own, I hadn't a clue how to cook anything at all except boiled eggs and toast. My Mother-in-Law took me under her wing, and, with great patience, taught me how to cook meals suitable for her darling boy, She cooked in the family restaurant, and made things look easy, simple food done with flare.

Mindful of how many people find cooking something of a mystery, I thought it would be helpful to show how to cook simple vegetables, which form the basis of many meals. Once you know the basics, you will have the confidence to move on and maybe try more complicated meals, but this article is for beginners in the world of cookery.

Onion - A useful vegetable for adding flavour to stews and soups, or for roasting with meat

Peel the onion by stripping off the parchment-like outer leaves with a knife, then If using onion in a stew or soup, or simply as fried onions, cut the onion in half, and chop it into pieces, or slice it. Then put a tablespoonful of cooking oil (I always use olive oil) in a frying pan, and gently fry the onion until it is golden brown - about five minutes, then use it to add ro the other stew or soup ingredients.

If using simply as fried onion, for instance with a barbeque, you might like to cook it on a slightly higher heat, so that it gets a bit crispy, but make sure you stir it, or it will stick to the pan and burn.

For Roast Onion, keep the peeled onion whole, or if very large, cut it in half. Put it on a baking tray, cover it with about a teaspoonful of cooking oil and a little salt, and cook it in the oven on a medium heat for about 45 minutes to one hour, turning it over once, and basting it with oil. Usually it will be cooked in with roast potatoes and meat, as it imparts flavouring to the cooking oil as it cooks.

Potatoes, Parsnips and Carrots - The most common root vegetables

The simplest method for all three of these root vegetables is to peel them, cut them up, cover them with water, add salt to taste and boil for twenty minutes, , drain and serve.

How big should they be cut?

Potato: about the size of a golf ball, Parsnips: two or three pieces;

Carrots: several long strips, or large or small slices .

More about Potatoes:

Mashed potatoes - after boiling drain off the water, add quarter of a cupful of milk to the potatoes in the pan, heat and add a knob of butter and mash with a fork or masher. If the consistency looks a little dry, add more milk.


Roast potatoes (or roast parsnips): Peel and cut to the size of a golf ball, boil them in salted water for fifteen minutes, put a tablespoon of cooking oil in a baking tray, then put the potatoes or parsnips in, turning them over so they are coated lightly with oil. Then put on top shelf of oven, regulo 6 for about 30 minutes, until brown. It helps if you turn the over once during cooking but not essential.

Baked potatoes: Wash and scrub whole large potatoes, and put them in the oven regulo 6 for about 40 minutes. If you don't like the skins too tough, wrap them in silver metal foil for about 30 minutes, and just undo the foil for the last 10 minutes to dry off the steam.

Calphalon Nylon Utensils Potato Masher
Calphalon Nylon Utensils Potato Masher

Easy to clean, effective, cheap and dishwasher safe


This is a Nice Potato Masher - There are various other choices, but I like this one

You could get away with just using a fork for mashing, but if you are fond of mash, this is a very handy tool


Cauliflower - A fairly bland vegetable when cooked - better as cauliflower cheese

Wash, and cut the cauliflower into large florets, cutting off any blemishes. The leaves can be used too, discarding any thick stalks.

Boil for fifteen minutes, adding a sprinkling of salt to taste.

Drain and serve.

It is sometimes served with a plain white sauce over it.

Do not overcook because cauliflower goes soft, falls to pieces and smells disgusting when cooked too long,

Cauliflower Cheese - Quick and Easy to Make

This is a very tasty dish, which can either be served on its own, as a nutritious vegetarian meal, or as a vegetable to accompany meat.

The ingredients and instructions of how to make the cheese sauce are in my web page How to Make Cauliflower Cheese,

so I won't re-state it in detail here.

Sufficient to say you cook the cauliflower as above, for 10 - 15 minutes, and whilst it is cooking, make a white sauce using cornflour, following the instructions on the box; then stir in some grated cheese to the mixture.

Then pour the white sauce over the drained cauliflower and add a sprinkling of grated cheese on the top, because cheese tastes and looks lovely when it has browned on top.

Put it in the oven at Regulo 6 for about 20 minutes, or until just turning brown.

When finished, it should look like the cauliflower cheese on the right.

And have a look at my special French Le Creuset red metal baking dish. I've had it for years, and it is very serviceable and hard-wearing. I love it because, although it's a bit heavy, it's ornamental enough to be taken straight from the oven to the dinner table whilst hot - but I do have to have a heat-proof mat to save it burning the table.

Here's a Tip - Don't Overcook Greens

Greens retain their vitamins more

when they are only cooked for a short period,

so eat them as under-cooked as possible -

you'll learn how short a time you can

tolerate by trial and error.

The taste and texture changes with cooking,

so just experiment for yourself

Broccoli - My mother used to pronounce it Berocolli

Wash the Broccoli, cut it into florets, and drop into boiling water. Add salt to taste. Boil for ten minutes if you like it slightly crunchy, and fifteen minutes if you like it a bit soft. Do not overcook, or it will go soft and squashy and fall apart.

Drain and serve.

Broccoli should not be eaten if it has been stored too long and has turned yellow.

Cabbage, Swede, Gem Squash

There are several varieties of cabbage - some with dark leaves and some with lighter leaves, some with solid centres, and some more open


Pull off as many cabbage leaves as you need, cut away any thick stems, then wash the cabbage leaves, cut or tear them into smaller pieces, and put them in a pan of boiling water, salted to taste. Boil for fifteen minutes, making sure the leaves are fully covered with water, so that they don't dry out. Then drain and serve.

Some people like their cabbage cooked very soft and a bit soggy, in which case, just boil for twenty minutes instead of fifteen. Pale cabbage takes slightly less time to cook than dark cabbage,


Cut a piece of as much swede as you need, peel it with a potato peeler or sharp knife, and then cut it into small pieces - about 1"- 2" cubes . You need to cut it up small because Swede is a very hard vegetable, and would take a long time to cook if not cut.Boil in salted water for twenty minutes, then mash with butter and serve

Gem Squash

Or any other kind of squash

Boil the squash in water for twenty minutes without peeling it, then cut the squash in half, add a dollop of butter, pepper and salt, and serve.

London Fruit Stall
London Fruit Stall

Take This Poll about Vegetables - See How You Measure Up Against Other Pollsters

Health experts advise us to eat at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. What's your daily intake of vegetables?

Do you eat five units of fruit or vegetable a day?

See results

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    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Erin Mellor: I didn't know you could eat raw broccoli, although I like raw carrot.

      I think I'd feel a bit cheated if I was given raw vegetables with my roast dinner, it sort of calls for roast or hot vegetables and gravy.....imagine gravy on raw vegetables!

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      My secret tip is to serve broccoli and carrot raw and claim it's for the health benefits, rather than my idleness.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      @KimGiancaterino: I thought hubble bubble was another name for a Hookah, used in Turkey and other countries for smoking. I have just looked it up and it is also a variation of bubble and squeak, but with the addition of things like baked beans and tomato sauce.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      @MaggiePowell: Yes, that's nice. I haven't got a barbeque, but eat grilled vegetables at other people's barbeques. I chuck loads of vegetables into everything, like curried chicken and stew.

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 4 years ago

      In the summertime I love throwing veggies like squash or peppers on the bar b que grill. YUM.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      We were watching an old Miss Marple movie, and there was a reference to hubble bubble. This is the first I've heard of bubble and squeak, but I guessed correctly on your quiz. If you have a good hubble bubble recipe, please share. We have several Le Creuset baking dishes in all four colors. They look brand new even after years of use.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Frischy: I've never heard of a distinction between summer and winter squash. So much food in the UK is imported because it is not seasonal in England that it's always summer somewhere! Just try it and see!

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Is your technique for cooking squash for summer or winter squash. I have such trouble cutting up winter squash. I would love to have a simpler way. If this works for winter squash, I am definitely trying it!

    • Monika Weise profile image

      Monika Weise 4 years ago from Indianapolis, IN USA

      Thanks for all the great suggestions on cooking vegetables!

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 4 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      Great lens for beginners. Most people tend to overcook veggies. I steam all my vegetable - less likely to overcook them that way and they keep more of their nutrition.

    • Pinasheart profile image

      Pinasheart 4 years ago

      I learned some new stuff from this! thanks! im always looking for new veggie recipes.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @marsha32: Just cut into fairly small pieces and then boil them for twenty minutes. Personally I am not keen on turnips on their own, but they are lovely in a stew

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @AmandaTWaH: That's great - good luck

    • AmandaTWaH profile image

      AmandaTWaH 5 years ago

      I'm definitely not new to the kitchen. I've been cooking for the family since I'm a teen but this year my fiance's grandma asked me to cook Christmas dinner and I want everything to be perfect. This helps a lot!

    • AmandaTWaH profile image

      AmandaTWaH 5 years ago

      I'm definitely not new to the kitchen. I've been cooking for the family since I'm a teen but this year my fiance's grandma asked me to cook Christmas dinner and I want everything to be perfect. This helps a lot!

    • profile image

      marsha32 5 years ago

      Do you have any advice for turnips? A man at church keeps giving them to us. So far my daughter just eats them raw.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the great tips on how to properly cook vegetables.

    • mrsclaus411 profile image

      mrsclaus411 5 years ago

      Great lens.

    • NeverTooLate2012 profile image

      NeverTooLate2012 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens! Some things I knew, some are new.

    • profile image

      Prudent-Man 6 years ago

      I have decided to cut back on the meat and cheese food groups and eat more fruit and veggies. This lens gave some variety to add to the menu.