Water is fast becoming one of the major challenges for our society, whether it’s access to drinking water, water pollution or the difficulties already facing many countries in sourcing water. Water will become a considerably scarcer resource because of population growth, developments in food consumption patterns as well as climate change, due in particular to the ever-increasing demand for energy.
If by 2030, there is still enough drinkable water on the planet to satisfy all our human needs, the real problem will be how this water is distributed. Certain experts even maintain that “blue gold” will soon become one of the main sources of conflict between nations.
Besides the fear of running out of drinking water, farming is one sector which most requires water and as the world’s population grows this is a problem which can only get worse. In short, there are plenty of reasons why it’s absolutely urgent that we stop wasting water by taking whatever action we can, whether small or large, in our daily lives.
To mention just one way we can help, I’d like to recommend cooking your vegetables without water. This can really cut back on water consumption and your food will also be far healthier. You need to be aware that the nutrients in vegetables face two enemies: water and heat. Cooking food at low temperatures is a healthy alternative which requires just a little time, but no water and no fat. The principle is simple and the benefits real because the vitamins in the food are preserved along with its taste properties. Ideally, vegetables are best cooked in their skin and only cut up once cooked.
Cooking in water
This is the method used least often in the restaurant, in fact I could go as far as to say we never use it. Vegetables cooked in a pan of boiling water lose their water-soluble vitamins and minerals. So as not to completely waste this nutritional goodness, you’ll need to recycle the leftover water by using it, for example, in soups, to cook pasta or as a stock for risotto.
Cooking with a pressure cooker
This method cooks vegetables without water or added fat. Since the cooker has a lid, the vegetable cooks in its own water and absorbs it. So that the vegetables remain tasty and crunchy, the temperature should never be greater than 90 °C. You can also add fish or meat which will cook in the steam from the vegetables, and I guarantee you that the results can be magical.
Cooking with steam
Using a steamer, the vegetables are raised above the water which ensures that they retain all their nutrients. As there is just one layer, there is no food placed underneath onto which unwanted fat or toxic residue could fall. The steam should be gentle and never hotter than 90–100 °C.
Cooking in the oven
If you always cook your vegetables under 140°C (my recommendation), they’ll usually be ready after an hour. With root vegetables for example, we find that they cook best with some protection i.e. in a clay container, covered in cooking salt or simply wrapped in foil. This is very easy to do and the vegetables cook in their own moisture.
Cooking with a wok
The food is seared over a very high heat and cooks without fat or using only a tiny amount. This way the food retains its nutritional benefits and can remain nice and crunchy. Ideally, you should cook your ingredients for just a couple of minutes at 180 °C. There’s no water while the food cooks, so no goodness is lost.
For me, low-temperature cooking is always best
The principle behind low-temperature cooking is to heat the ingredients either in the oven or over a gentle heat in a thick-walled utensil covered with a lid. As the container is sealed, the steam created becomes condensed so that it falls back down drop by drop and creates a sophisticated jus.
Many people have heard of this concept, however, there are still not that many using it. And yet its benefits are truly amazing. This cooking method preserves the qualities of the food product, its structure, its flavour, its minerals, its vitamins – i.e. all its nutritional benefits. What we’re talking about here is gentle, slow cooking – either cooking at low temperature or braising. This is a simple way to cook, but at the same time gourmet food can be produced using technical subtleties.
Paradoxically, in a world where speed is of the essence, slow cooking offers the incredible advantage of bringing out flavours in a way that isn’t possible with other cooking methods (steam, traditional or BBQ). Slow cooking really does ensure that you can taste all the flavours in your food and that the maximum amount of minerals and vitamins are preserved. You should always bear in mind that cooking at high temperatures destroys vitamins.
Low-temperature cooking is an exceptional way to cook food so that you can enjoy it to the full. While your palate is enraptured, you’ll be also getting the best possible nutritional intake.
• You can keep putting cold water on top of the lid to encourage condensation and obtain more jus.
• You don’t need to add water to vegetables already naturally high in water (tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, etc.). However, potatoes for example will need at least enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. You can also use wine or stock.
• You should also be aware, depending on the ingredients being used, that it may take several hours for them to be cooked to perfection. To cook at low-temperatures with panache, your food must be heated only to the temperature recommended for the method being used. To cook vegetables you’ll need on average half an hour at 60°C using a top-quality utensil. Within 30 minutes, potatoes, carrots, and turnips will be beautifully cooked. And remember that you’ll need to work out the cooking time based on the vegetable which will take the longest to cook through.
• Use ice cube trays to freeze any leftover cooking juices and you’ll have a great supply of stock to use later in sauces or to flavour rice and pasta, for example.
Recipe of the month
White asparagus and oven-roasted rhubarb with tangy jus and buckwheat gomasio
My Nutritional Advice
Red radishes are high in vitamins C and B9, fibre, potassium and magnesium, which the immune system and the nervous system need to operate smoothly. Radishes help to reduce tiredness and they protect cells against oxidative stress.
Sorrel offers the health benefit of being high in vitamins C and E, and provitamin A – antioxidants which contribute to sound cardiovascular health, to preventing cancers and to helping food get properly absorbed, which makes sorrel an ideal side vegetable to encourage easy digestibility.
My wild pickings
Nettles offer an exceptional and cost-free way of “improving health” just as they are! So let’s restore nettles to their rightful place as they’re packed with nutrients, trace elements, magnesium, selenium, iron and mineral salts as well as vitamins. Nettles are rich in minerals and have an alkaline effect in our system.