Steaming is one of the simplest – and healthiest – cooking methods out there, allowing the natural flavours of ingredients to shine without the need for fats and oils. Discover why more and more chefs are using steam to cook dishes, and take a look at three recipes that showcase the versatility of this underrated technique.
The dishes we cook at home almost always require at least a few different cooking techniques. Frying, boiling, baking and roasting tend to be the most common, all of which can be used to cook pretty much any ingredient – each with their own pros and cons. However, one method of cooking that’s sometimes overlooked is in fact one of the easiest and most flavourful: steaming.
Steaming ingredients keeps them in their natural state better than frying or roasting ever could. Although heating fats or oils and then cooking ingredients in them creates browning, which is where we get all those rich, addictive flavour notes from, sometimes we want something fresher and lighter in taste.
Take potatoes, for example – here’s no denying roast potatoes are delicious, but steamed new potatoes are equally as tasty, boasting a much more pronounced potato flavour that’s not masked by unhealthy fats. Brits love a good fish and chips, but when steamed, fish is fantastic– one of the reasons why cooking en papillote (inside a snug parcel with aromatics) is so popular. And instead of roasting green vegetables, steam them instead to retain their nutrients, natural flavour and fresh texture, all of which can be lost when using fiercer cooking methods..
It’s a technique which is much more popular in the East than the West (just think of the steamed dumplings of China or the rice dishes of Japan) but it seems top chefs and home cooks are starting to realise that this healthy way of cooking can unlock flavours that other methods can’t.
To demonstrate this, we’ve teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Martin Wishart, who has created three simple, healthy recipes that showcase how versatile steaming can be. Whether it’s fish, vegetables or even tofu, these dishes are absolutely bursting with flavour and put steamed ingredients front and centre.
Take a look at how any home cook armed with a stovetop steamer can pave the way to healthy, pure flavours
Tofu is an incredible ingredient that’s sometimes disregarded by cooks for being bland. However, it’s actually very adept at taking on other flavours and, when cooked properly, has a beautiful texture that’s perfect for adding vegan protein to a dish. In this recipe, the tofu is flavoured with shallots, garlic, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for thirty minutes, before being steamed to retain its wobbly, soft texture. The crunchy peanut dressing, nutty quinoa and raw vegetables and fruits add contrasting textures and fresh flavours to the finished dish.
Steaming is always associated with virtuous, light dishes, but this recipe proves it can create hearty, filling and satisfying plates of food that are perfect for the colder months. Flavouring minced beef with garlic, sage and thyme and combining it with rice results in the perfect filling for beautiful savoy cabbage leaves, which are then steamed until cooked through, doused in a simple tomato sauce and baked until golden-brown.
Fish is one of those ingredients that really benefits from being steamed, as the method retains its fresh, natural flavour and texture better than any other. It’s also incredibly easy and means you’re less likely to overcook fillets, which are notoriously difficult to get right in the frying pan. Here, fillets of sea bream are combined with fragrant jasmine rice and an aromatic coconut sauce for a wonderful Thai-inspired dish. Perfect when you’re after a lighter, healthier meal that’s full of fresh, bright flavours.
Want to try your hand at steaming for dinner tonight? Watch our video with Great British Chef Martin Wishart to see how easy this healthy cooking technique is: