Ever wished you could eat more veg without actually eating vegetables? You’re really not alone. I, personally, love vegetables and I’ll happily eat a meat-free meal at any time. But not everyone feels the same way, so I’ve started to hide vegetables when I cook for others.
Whether they’re literally undetectable in a meal or just doused in so much goodness (AKA, cheese, bacon, sugar, caramel, etc.) that you’ll eat it anyway, I’ve found quite a few ways to sneak extra veggies in.
Before I share my secrets, I have a few disclaimers:
From cheesy keftedes to morish beetroot brownies, these recipes will help you get your five-a-day, clear down the veg in your fridge, and give you something to do during lockdown 3.0 (or whatever number we’re up to when you read this).
Hide Vegetables in Pasta Sauce
I can get soooo much veg into a pasta sauce it’s unbelievable.
In my classic lasagne, a recipe that I’ve refined over my lifetime so far, I can fit in a large carrot, two sticks of celery and a medium courgette besides the beef mince. Add in the tinned tomatoes and onion – suddenly we’ve hit five different vegetables in one meal.
The key to hide vegetables in pasta sauce is to cook it low and slow. I simmer my five veg bolognaise for over an hour to intensify the meat and tomato flavours and let the veggies fade away into the background. A glass of red wine simmered with the meat doesn’t hurt either.
Pasta sauces are definitely the way forward for adding more veg to your plate. Coating something in rich tomato sauce then adding everyone’s favourite carb is sure to be a winner.
Other vegetable pasta sauce ideas:
If you get to the end of your pasta recipe and you can still taste too much of the vegetables, I recommend you tip it all into a large baking tray and top with cheese. Put it under the grill until golden and bubbly. Cheese fixes everything.
Another solution is to blend your tomato pasta sauce until smooth (remove the veg texture) and add an extra tablespoon of concentrated tomato puree to boost the tomato flavour without adding another tin.
The Grater is Your Friend
Ever seen Marco Pierre White chopping veg?
Yeah. I can’t do that.
But I can grate veg like my life depends on it. Use the small holes to finely grate down your vegetables and fry them with the onion. The water that will pour from the grated veg will stop the onion from sticking, and it also allows you to really soften and mulch down the vegetables until they simply become part of the sauce and totally undetectable.
You’ll be surprised by how much of the veg disappears in volume just by softening and frying out the water at the start.
Traditional keftedes (kef-teh-dez) are these discs or balls made with meat and then deep-fried, I believe. But I’ve found some healthier options including three brilliant vegetable keftedes recipes in Georgina Hayden’s Taverna.
It’s basically vegetables finely chopped or grated, mixed with flour, egg, cheese and herbs, then shallow fried as fritters. The result is a mix between a pancake and a hashbrown. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Choose the right cheese and it’s deliciously melty too.
I won’t share all of Georgina’s secrets in this article (buy her Cypriot cookbook for that, it’s amazing) but her three basic flavour combos are:
Will kids like these straight off the bat? Probably not. Rather than hide vegetables, these recipes just compliment them with so much crispy, cheesy flavour that you really don’t mind the veg at all.
Consider adding a few of these to a fry up with the hashbrowns and see what happens.
Other Vegetable Patty Type Recipes
Similarly, I’ve also had some success stuffing extra veg into veggie burgers. My favourite veggie burgers are made with beans or pulses. Black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, etc. But you can definitely hide vegetables in here too, with your handy grater.
Mushrooms when finely chopped will give you a great meat texture (technically not a veg, but they usually fall under the same “ew, gross” umbrella). Grated carrot is great here too. You could even throw in a handful of peas or sweetcorn for texture.
Jack Monroe’s best-selling A Girl Called Jack recipe book has some great veggie burger type recipes. The carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger, dubbed “the 9p burger”, is my favourite. Jack’s chickpea, carrot and coriander falafels come in a close next.
Another good one is Nadiya Hussain’s baked bean falafels, from her Time to Eat book – also online at BBC Good Food. She has a handful of quirky veg dishes in the book too, including a kiwi salad I haven’t worked up the courage to try yet.
Vegetables in… Desserts?
Think of carrot cake – that’s a brilliant way to use up all those carrots. If you buy rainbow carrots you’ll get a crazy coloured cake too!
Another big trend in recent years has been courgette cake. I’ve not had much success with it in a cake yet. The texture is a little odd, but I’ve been told that if you add enough chocolate you really can’t taste the courgette.
Courgette and lemon bread is another recipe to hide vegetables that you can try from Jack Monroe’s book (link in the section above). This pairs really nicely with Whittard Afternoon Tea.
As for brownies, I have made legendary beetroot brownies using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s online recipe. I reduced the beetroot quantity by 50g and increased the chocolate quantity by about 100g. This reduces the earthy beetroot flavour sufficiently, but you can also drizzle melted chocolate on top if you want to mask it further. Or add nuts and marshmallows to make it more rocky road.
The final recipe I want to leave you with is a bit crazy. I haven’t tried it myself, but the endless reviews for it online suggest it’s pretty good! Avocado chocolate mousse is vegan, healthy and apparently doesn’t taste like avocado at all. Chocolate covered Katie’s blog recipe is a good one to start with.
Do you have a cool trick to hide vegetables on your plate? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Immortal Wordsmith for monthly articles in your inbox!