This family of greens has been grown and consumed in great quantities throughout Asia for centuries. They are all very high in iron, particularly those with dark green leaves.
The range of greens goes way beyond bok choy of course as cooks develop a better understanding of how to prepare and cook the different varieties. Delicious ingredients such as wong bok, gai laan and choy sum are all worth adding to the weekly shopping list. Buying
When buying Asian greens you will get a far better selection by searching out an Asian market stall or shop. Generally smaller greens are sold in bundles - make sure they are not bruised or wilted. Larger cabbages are often sold cut in half - make sure there is no discolouration and the leaves are intact.Storing
Place greens in a small plastic bag and refrigerate, or wrap in a damp tea towel and store in the crisper section. Many of these greens are delicate and are best eaten on the day of purchase.Preparing
Asian greens need to be washed well to remove any grit. Pull leaves away from the stem and rinse well in cold water and either shake dry or spin in a salad spinner. With large greens, such as wonga bok, rinse well under running water flushing out dirt. If you are planning to cut into smaller pieces, do so first, then wash thoroughly. Serving
All Asian greens are suited to stir-frying, usually with a base flavour of crushed ginger, grated ginger chopped chilli and a splash of peanut oil. Smaller leaves such as bok choy and tat soi are well suited to salads. Make Asian flavoured coleslaw by mixing chopped Chinese cabbage with spring onions and carrots, and toss a dressing of fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and peanut oil.
Most people are introduced to beetroot in a sandwich where its vinegary pickled juice dominates everything else and purple juice leaks down your front. With an introduction like that it’s no wonder that some people do not like them. But beetroot, as a vegetable in its own right, without the lashings of vinegar, is most appealing. Boiled, roasted and pickled well, it brings a burst of richness and colour to any dish.
New varieties of baby beetroots have done much to lift its image. These small round yellow and pink beetroots which come into season in late summer extended the beetroots season. The introduction of beetroot leaves to salads has added more colour and brought to our awareness the edibility of the leaves.Buying
When buying beetroot look for firm well-coloured vegetables with leaves still attached to show freshness.Storing
Store large beetroots at room temperature for 3–4 days. Refrigerate baby beetroots for up 5 days. Prepare beetroots by removing leaves, setting aside the small tender leaves if you wish to eat them in a salad. Leave 2–3cm of stems attached, if you cut them too close to the vegetable this will cause the beetroot to ‘bleed’ excessively during cooking. Preparing
Beetroots can be boiled, steamed or roasted. Place whole beetroots in a saucepan, cover with water and cook over a gentle heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on size until tender. To roast beetroots, cut into wedges, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in preheated oven (180C–350F) for 1-1 1/2 hours until tender. Beetroots could be par-boiled first to cut down on roasting time.Serving
Add roasted beetroot wedges to a salad of bitter green leaves with rare roast duck breast slices, or make a beautiful salad with boiled baby beetroots, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
Rhubarb is considered an old fashioned fruit and is not used as much as it was in the past. This is a great pity, as rhubarb adds a lovely rich tang wherever it is used. Typically it is stewed with sugar and a little spice. As far as we’re concerned life just wouldn’t be the same without a few warming bowls of rhubarb crumble or stewed rhubarb with custard.
Because rhubarb cooks quickly we sometimes slice it thinly and add it directly to steamed puddings or into the pastry base of tarts before the filling is added. It also makes excellent jam, especially when combined with apples and is works well when added to chutney and relishes. Buying
Look for firm stalks and avoid limp or flabby ones as these are likely to be quite old. The deeper the colour the sweeter the rhubarb will be. Green stalks are fine to eat, but lack sweetness so you may need to add more sugar during cooking.Storing
Rhubarb doesn’t keep well at room temperature. It is best purchased and then cooked as soon as possible. Rhubarb requires a quick wash to remove dirt, and the leaves must be removed and discarded. Chop rhubarb into similar size pieces.Preparing
Take care when cooking rhubarb not to add too much water as this will make it very runny. The water clinging to the rhubarb when it is washed is usually sufficient to cook it. Once in the pot, cover with a lid and steam gently, rather than boil. Serving
Cooks can also stew rhubarb with a little orange juice, chopped orange zest, grated ginger and honey to serve with roast duck or roast pork. Use rhubarb as you would quince to flavour Middle Eastern tajines.
It’s hard to imagine cooking without lemons. They are used in everything from lemon tea cake and salad dressings to lemon tarts, lemon curd and served to fresh up fried foods. We can’t get through a week without them. There are several varieties of lemons to choose from, though usually only one is available at a time. Eureka, Lisbon and Meyer are some of the more popular ones. Meyer is by far the hardest variety to come by, but you should get hold of some, their extra zesty flavour makes them ideal for lemon tarts and cakes. Buying
Choose fruit that is heavy for its size, is firm and gives off a great aroma. Avoid fruit with any brown patches, mouldy patches or that looks dry and shrivelled. Storing
Store lemons at room temperature in a well ventilated spot. Take care that one bad fruit doesn’t touch others and spoil the lot. They’ll keep for 2 weeks at least, but are best consumed within 3–4 days of purchase. Preparing
Besides the all-important juice, the zest of citrus fruit is also important in cooking. The easiest way to remove zest from citrus fruit is with a zester. Microplanes graters are also excellent. Both are available from kitchenware stores.
In most recipes which use citrus they will state an amount of citrus juice. This is because of seasonal variations that will change the amount of juice each lemon produces. On average one lemon will produce 40ml of juice.
Marinate fish fillets in coconut milk, lime juice and chilli, then steam or grill. Serve fresh cut wedges of lemon with grilled fish or chicken schnitzel. Stuff chicken cavity with lemon halves and aromatic herbs then roast as usual. This will season it from the inside out. Dig out a recipe for an old-fashioned lemon delicious pudding.