Meat Free Monday

Instead of a recipe for you today, I would like to share some ideas with you to make your 5 a day intake more interesting. The following article, written by Rozanne Stevens, comes from the Irish Independent.

The latest statistics from Bord Bia show that as a nation only 35pc of us are getting our recommended five-a-day.

What most people don’t realise is that this figure is really the minimum amount of fresh fruit and vegetables we need to be consuming to maintain good health.

So I enlisted the help of Marc Michel, Ireland’s first certified organic fruit and vegetable farmer and a cordon bleu chef, on how to make vegetables more interesting.

Marc himself is a real testament to a healthy diet. His farm is in Kilpedder, Co Wicklow, and you can drop in and buy a huge variety of fruits and vegetables there — some of which I’ve never even heard of!

But I thought I would focus on the ‘ordinary’ fruit and vegetables that have food hero status due to their exceptional nutritional and disease-fighting benefits.

Instead of the five-a-day mantra, I recommend that people have one cup of orange and yellow fruit or vegetables, one cup of red and purple and one cup of greens. This will give you approximately six servings and is a far more fun way to think of food.

So for the orange and yellows you could have carrots and sweet potato, the red and purple would be tomatoes and all the berries and green is an easy one. You’ll soon see that your plate looks more attractive and you’ll happily be eating more fruit and vegetables.

I have compiled a list of my top 10 fruits and vegetables that have incredible nutritional properties and are readily available in Ireland.

1. Cabbage

Slice it up and stir-fry in a little olive oil and a knob of butter.

Season well with Chinese Five Spices, salt and pepper.

2. Broccoli

Steam broccoli to retain nutrients. Season with a little butter and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Alternatively stir-fry with red onion, chilli, garlic and ginger.

Add some soy sauce and oyster sauce for a spicy, savoury dish.

3. Carrots

Steam the carrots and then squeeze over an orange and use the zest. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh coriander and toasted, flaked almonds.

4. Tomatoes

Halve the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with some fresh or dried thyme. Bake for two-and-a-half hours at 150 C.

5. Berries

Squeeze over the juice of an orange and use the zest too. Instead of sprinkling with sugar use agave syrup.

6. Mushrooms

Slice. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Cook on a high heat, adding crushed garlic, soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cook until well browned and season with black pepper.

7. Spinach

Use baby leaf spinach as a salad leaf instead of lettuce.

Or I throw it into dishes at the last minute and let the heat of the food wilt it down.

Favourites would be curries, tagines and with scrambled egg.

8. Beetroot

Peel the beetroot (gloves are a good idea) and cube. Coat well with oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and tuck in some fresh rosemary. Roast at 180 C until tender.

Serve with goats’ cheese, walnuts, watercress and baby spinach as a salad.

9. Rhubarb

Chop up one bunch into inch-long pieces. Throw into a pot and squeeze over two or three tablespoons of honey or agave syrup, and add a few slices of peeled ginger. Cover and simmer for five minutes.

For a further three minutes, add in two cups of sliced strawberries.

Serve this compote with Greek yogurt, muesli or meringue.

10. Watercress

For a salad, combine watercress, fresh watermelon balls, finely sliced red onion, crumbled feta cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Drizzle over raspberry vinegar and rapeseed oil.