FP36 – Vegetables Question 1 How we define the broad category of vegetables? Mildly flavoured vegetables with a high water content, e.g. celery, spinach, green peas, green beans, carrots and gem squash. Strongly flavoured vegetables with a high water content, e.g. the cabbage family, turnips and onions. Starchy vegetables with a fairly high water content, e.g. sweet potatoes and potatoes; and Dry, starchy vegetables, which may include other starches, such as pasta and rice. Question 2 What quality points should be looked for when purchasing vegetables? Refer to section on quality: Fresh vegetables should be: Crisp and firm in texture and to the feel. Free from any defects: bruises, decay, or damage. Fresh in appearance with a bright colour. Not wilted or shrivelled up. Question 3 How do we prevent the loss of nutrients when cooking vegetables? To prevent loss of nutrients these rules should be followed: 1. Use vegetables as soon as possible after picking. Store for the minimum time under the best conditions. 2. Avoid bruising the vegetables. Use a really sharp knife when cutting vegetables. A blunt knife bruises the tissues. 3. Whenever possible serve the vegetables raw. 4. Wash as necessary but do not soak for any longer than necessary to remove dirt. 5. Shred green vegetables. Cut up other vegetables in small pieces. This will cut down the time needed for cooking. 6. Use as little boiling water as possible. Keep the cooking time to the minimum. 7. Drain the vegetables and serve immediately. Foods kept hot or reheated lose most of their vitamin content. 8. The cooking water will contain dissolved vitamins and mineral salts. Save this and use it as soon as possible for soup, gravy or sauces. Question 4 How do we prevent each of the different vegetables colour groups from discolouring during cooking? Green vegetables. These vegetables get their colour from the green pigment chlorophyll. Heat makes chlorophyll fade. Overcooked green vegetables lose their bright colour and turn a dull, brownish green. Cook green vegetables only until tender but still a bright green. Yellow, vegetables. Carotene, a source of vitamin A, gives the characteristic colour to yellow and orange vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and winter squash. Heat does not destroy carotene. However, if you overcook the vegetable, the cellular structure breaks down. Carotene escapes into the cooking water and is lost. You can see this happening because the cooking water turns a pale yellow or orange. White vegetables. What makes white vegetables, such as cauliflower and cabbage, darken during cooking? They contain flavones - pigments that are soluble in water. If the vegetables are overcooked, they turn yellow or dark grey from the action of the flavones in the water. Red vegetables. In hard-water areas, cooking can change the colour of red vegetables, such as red cabbage, to purple or purplish green. How can you prevent this undesirable colour change? Add a small amount of acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, to the cooking water. Tomatoes retain their colour when cooking because nature has provided them with acid. Question 5 How do we assess the quality of cooked vegetables? The following features are studied when the quality of cooked vegetables are assessed: Colour: The colour of cooked vegetables should resemble the colour of raw vegetables as closely as possible. The colour of green vegetables is especially important and must be bright green and not dull brownish or olive green. Flavour: The flavour of the raw vegetables should be recognisable. If herbs and spices are used, they should improve the flavour of the product and never spoil or dominate the product's natural taste. No unpleasant odours should prevail. Texture: Vegetables, which grow above the ground, should preferably have a crisp texture. Vegetables such as potatoes, beetroot, sweet potatoes and pumpkin can be soft-and smooth but should never be mushy. Vegetables should neither be tough or woody. Appearance on the plate: Vegetables must be uniform and arranged attractively without looking over-handled. They should not be broken up or swimming in cooking liquid. Imaginative and interesting garnishes are always indicated. When vegetables that require different cooking times are combined, they should be cooked separately to ensure that each type is prepared to its own specific standard for quality before they are combined. When vegetables that are fairly acid is combined with green vegetables they may discolour them therefore acid vegetables should be added just before serving or should not be combined with certain green vegetables. Taste: Like the flavour, the taste should correspond with the natural taste of the raw product where applicable. The product should be so tasty that it won't be necessary to add additional spices in order to improve the taste. This does not mean that no flavouring should be used, but rather that it should be used to improve the natural taste, or to give a specific character to the cooked product. Sauces and flavourings should be piquant and used carefully. Seasonings should be appropriate and must never be too strong.
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