What's with this paranoia about microwave ovens? I know people who won't have one in the house, let alone cook anything in one. Presumably this aversion stems from a terror that the microwaves will seep from the machine and fry the brain and/or frazzle the pets. Or perhaps the belief that microwaving somehow damages food on a molecular level, or creates toxins or carcinogens when plastic's involved, just runs very deep. Celebrity chefs are among the worst culprits when it comes to microwave-phobia. 'A MICROWAVE OVEN?' I've heard Gordon Ramsay roar on his show Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Ok, I can understand him getting vicious about some lazy yobbo zapping everything in the microwave, but I just don't understand the general prejudice. There are certain foodstuffs that turn out better - or at least just as good - when microwaved that they do subjected to any other type of cooking. Look, it's not a long list, I concede, but if you're a home cook toiling at the rockface of family catering, the microwave really is your best friend.
Here is my list of eminently microwavable foods:
Broccoli and asparagus (method below). The tender-crisp crunch, flavour and brilliant colour of properly microwaved broccoli and asparagus beats boiling, steaming and grilling hands-down. Carrots, peas, courgettes, mielies (corn cobs), cauliflower and leeks are good done this way too.
Chocolate Chocolate melts extremely quickly and beautifully in a microwave. Why sweat with a bowl suspended over boiling water? Tips for melting and tempering chocolate in a microwave from Godiva.com.
White sauce There's less stirring involved when you make a white/bechamel sauce in a sturdy glass bowl in the microwave, and the jug is definitely easier to clean afterwards. Don't be alarmed if lumpy clumps appear at the bottom of the jug during the process: give the mixture a good whisk to disperse the lumps and carry on microwaving it. Recipe here.
Popcorn Popcorn dry-microwaved in a paper bag is so quick and easy - and you don't get burned and unpopped bits. See my blog post with instructions here.
Microwaved Broccoli or Asparagus
Put the broccoli or asparagus in a glass or ceramic bowl or dish. Add 1 tablepoon butter (or olive oil, but butter is better). Cover with a lid, or with a piece of greaseproof paper. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and toss the vegetables well so that they are thoroughly coated. The remaining cooking time will depend on the quantity of veggies and the size of the bowl: the best method is to continue cooking the vegetables in one minute bursts, checking for doneness after each minute.
When the veggies are just tender (ie, you can push a sharp knife tip through the thickest part of the stem without feeling any springy resistence) remove the dish from the microwave and set aside for 30 seconds. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice or whatever.