Leafy greens make up a huge part of my homemade meals. Even then, I must have consumed more green stuff than a cow at the end of testing the recipes for this article.
But I’m not complaining. Packed with the alphabet of vitamins and minerals, leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables such as spinach, bak choy, kailan and cabbage are good for all-round wellness.
For everyday dining, the dishes I prepare with these vegetables are quickly put together, which usually means a stir-fry with garlic and soy sauce or a tossed salad with whatever dressing I have languishing in the back of the fridge.
But it doesn’t take that much more effort to add greens to our diet. Try this:
Juice it: Use ingredients such as kale, green apple, pineapple, parsley, mint, cucumber, celery, ginger and lemon juice.
An electric juicer will make light work of pulverising all the fruit and vegetables and keep the pulp from the juice, but a strong blender and a piece of muslin will do the trick as well – with manual squeezing involved. Drink immediately or place in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two days. Shake well before drinking.
Go herby: When it comes to adding greens to our diet, experts tell us to think beyond the vegetables we are familiar with. Research has shown that fresh green herbs are just as nutritious as leafy greens and shouldn’t be considered only as food seasonings or garnishes. A good example of a herb taking centre stage in a dish is tabbouleh. This Levantine vegetarian salad is dominated by finely chopped parsley.
Making pastes from herbs and greens in advance makes food preparation faster. Use the herb blends as condiments, to make dips and to flavour soups. They even make good tumis for fried rice.
Sneak it in. Make a loaf cake with lashings of shredded zucchini so even snacks get an injection of greens.
FRIED GARLIC CHIVE CAKES
The garlic chives can be replaced with royale chives or more popularly known as green dragon vegetable, which has a milder garlic flavour.
The fried cakes can be used like kueh kak, a dish of steamed rice cakes stir-fried with prawns, eggs, beansprouts and chives. With these chive cakes, the vegetable is already built in.
200g garlic chives
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce)
tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
100g rice flour
90g tapioca flour
10g glutinous rice flour
Dipping sauce (combined)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 tsp pounded fresh chillies/chilli paste
Wash the chives well and cut into 1cm lengths. Place chives in a colander and mix in sugar, salt and baking soda. Leave for 15 minutes, then squeeze the chives between your palms to remove as much liquid as possible without bruising the chives. Place in a bowl with fish sauce, sesame oil and pepper. Mix until combined.
In a saucepan, combine water, flours and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir until smooth. Place pot over low heat and cook the mixture, stirring constantly until it thickens into a soft batter. This will happen quickly so don’t leave the pot unattended. Remove from heat and stir in the chives until well combined.
Grease an 18cm round cake tin with oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Spoon the chive batter into the tin and smooth the top.
Pre-heat a steamer with boiling water. Steam the chive cake until fully cooked, 20-30 minutes. Remove tin from steamer and leave chive cake to cool in tin.
Invert tin onto a cutting board to remove chive cake. Peel off the parchment paper. Oil a sharp knife and cut the cake into bite-sized pieces.
To fry the chive cakes, heat 2mm of oil in a frying pan. Place the cakes in a single layer in the pan. Do not crowd as the pieces will stick together.
Fry on both sides until brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve warm with the dipping sauce.
GREEN MAC ‘N’ CHEESE
250g baby spinach
50g fresh basil
90g grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves
875ml full-cream milk
2½ tbsp plain flour
170g grated Emmental cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
400g elbow macaroni
Blend the spinach, basil, parmesan and garlic together into a chunky purée. Add 125ml milk and blend until smooth.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; add the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the Emmental, salt and pepper and cook until the cheese has melted.
Cook the macaroni in salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and transfer to cheese sauce along with the spinach purée and stir well to coat. Serve the mac ‘n’ cheese with more grated cheese and chopped herbs.
For crumb-topped mac ‘n’ cheese, spread the pasta in a large baking dish and top with 100g each of grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Broil until the top is crisp, golden brown and bubbly, 5 to 7 minutes.
Two herby sauces that will add flavour to any dish.
This is a take on chimichurri, an uncooked sauce with predominantly parsley and garlic flavours. Any fresh soft-stemmed herb can be used, for example, parsley, coriander, green onion and Thai basil. The chopping can be a pain, but the flavour is all worth it. Use the sauce as a marinade or condiment with grilled meat, fish or fried eggs, or fry rice with it.
1 1/2 cup combination of fresh herbs, de-stemmed and finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic
1-2 green chillies
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup mild olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a lid. Shake well to emulsify the vinegar and oil. Serve immediately. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Shake well before using.
Typically a side dish for thosai or idli, this sauce is also good as a dip and in sandwiches.
2 cups coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 green chilli
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of asafoetida
1 cup fresh grated coconut
1 tbsp lemon juice
Place all the ingredients except the coconut and lemon juice in a blender and purée until smooth. Add a little water if necessary.
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the coconut and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.
ZUCCHINI NUT BREAD
140g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground allspice or cinnamon
¼ tsp fine salt
180g caster sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
2 tsp lemon juice
60g shelled sunflower seeds, toasted
Pre-heat oven at 180˚C. Grease and base line a 20cm by 10cm loaf tin with baking parchment.
Coarsely shred zucchini. Place in a clean tea towel and squeeze until very dry.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, spice and salt together in a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine sugar, eggs, oil, yoghurt and lemon juice. Gently fold into the dry ingredients together with the zucchini and seeds. Do not overmix.
Spoon into the prepared pan, level the top and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Cool in tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove cake from tin, remove baking parchment and cool a further 1 hour.