Thursday 25 October 2012

All steamed up

Photograph from the Bush Gourmand Blog spot salmon recipe

One of the greatest potential uses of the Thermomix is steaming. Replacing yet another appliance, and potentially doing a few jobs at once; making chicken broth or a curry in the bottom while steaming veggies in the varoma. It's certainly a brilliant feature to make the most of for your time and your health. But we have some questions. What's the big deal with steaming? How is it healthier? And what are some practical tips to make steaming in the Thermomix easy and yummy? I hope you find some answers to these questions here, and also leave your own wisdom. There is an enormous list of people's favourite Varoma recipes - with thanks to Leonie from ThermoFun for collating and posting in her Docs on her page.

What is the big 'healthy' deal with steaming? Why is it recommended?

Simply, because it is the best way of preparing food for our body to absorb the best nutrients, and to avoid 'bad byproducts' of cooking. Basically, all cooking of food causes both positive and negative structural changes. It is a fallacy to suggest that cooked = poison to our bodies. In fact, there are a number of nutrients in food that our bodies only utilise when they have been altered by cooking. For a more detailed look at this, click here to read 'disease proof's' review. 

But, of course, there are a number of negative effects as well. The biggest press is rightfully given to the carcinogenic by-products of high heat cooking oils in particular. There is also a loss of some nutrients. It's a bit of a balancing act, but in many cases, the best utilisation of essential nutrients and minimal negative by-products will be achieved by brief steaming. For a really detailed breakdown of the chemical changes and by-products from all types of cooking, read the European Food Industry's complete review here. It is very interesting to look at the table, and see the tiny list of changes for steaming compared to other methods. 

But the really significant factor about steaming is the link to research showing it is the best way of preparing food to absorb the nutrients that fight cancer. Recent research examining the benefits of cruciferous vegetables, (e.g. the cancer preventing benefits of kale and broccoli and others) has concluded that several minutes of steaming will result in the maximum benefit for our bodies. 

Consider this as well (with Thanks to Nora the French Foodie!) It's also a bonus that Thermomix allows to control the temperature while cooking so we know that most nutrients are retained while cooking (as opposed to basic steamer that go on the stove where you could be cooking your veg to their death without knowing)... I always wash my veggies in the Varoma (which I use as a colander) before steaming. The extra water helps the steaming and they cook better I find... 

I agree! And I love that the liquid at the bottom of the steamed vegetables can be kept for a soup or turned into a sauce with a few nuts!

Impressive huh? But how can we make it easier?

Tips for steaming with your thermomix.

A great go-to guide is provided from Cookipedia with steaming times.

Allow at least 35 minutes for your first run of steaming with the thermomix. The recipe may say 20 minutes for a hard vegetable, but some varieties are harder and therefore take longer. Persevere, because it will only take a few tries before you get a feel for it. Here's what some forum users had to say:  
"I always put my potatoes in the basket, then carrots, pumpkin etc in varoma bottom and peas, corn, beans, silverbeet etc in top of varoma. I add 900g cold water to the bowl and set 35min varoma temp speed 1. And they always cook perfectly. I actually don't bother turning the speed up as I find this is spot on."

And from Katherine, mother of 5 in WA:
"We have veggies just about every night in some shape or form. Steamed majority of the time. They are cheap, healthy and filling .. especially for large families. I often make dishes and serve extra veg on the side just to make sure it will fill them up  

The size of the veg when steaming is the key to it cooking. I FILL my steamer basket, the varoma bowl and tray and I mean fill and have it cook easy.

As Amy said they need to be smallish. I cut potatoes to around 2cm square, throw them in the rice basket with tap water and put it on for about 35 minutes. Then I start adding my other veg in, carrots (in rings), sweet potato, any other root veg we may be having, brussel sprouts, pumpkin, cauli & broccoli, depending on how much other veg I have in the bowl these may end up on the tray along with beans, spinach, corn, and peas.

I make sure steam can get through on all layers and because I have it so full I use speed 4. It took a little while for me to master this when I first got my TMX, but now I know the size of the veg and it is just automatic."

What about yummy recipes?

I love all the inspiration on Nat's Thermomixen in the kitchen blog about steaming. Some brilliant recipes and lots of helpful pictures to help you see how to set things up and place them in the thermomix.

and look, too much talk about health makes me want to eat cake, so please try this one on for steaming size... Chocolate Chestnut Cheesecake or my very own Baked Chocolate Cheesecake steamed in the Varoma. 

Here's a few favourites, with enormous thanks to Leonie from ThermoFun:

ThermoFun -
Varoma Recipes Recommended
Bangers and mash: and what other vegetable you like. Sausages in top tray, vege in bottom tray, potatoes in basket; varoma temp, 35 mins, speed 2

Beef Stew with Buttermilk Dumplings:

Beef Stir Fry: Dani Valent's In the Mix book

Quirky Cooking's "Fried" Rice
Quirky Cooking's Chicken and Cashews, Coconut Satay sauce and coconut rice
Quirky Cooking's Sesame Salmon and Tikka 
Quirky Cooking's Spicy BBQ Chicken

Chicken or Salmon Veloute: Hosts receive this recipe for having a demo.

Chicken, Shitake and Lupchong Hotpot:

Chilli Basil Meat Balls:

Chilli Mussels with Thyme and Tomatoes: Every Day Cookbook 

Curried sausages

Devilled Sausages:

Ginger and Soy Glazed Salmon with Bok Choy and Coconut Rice:

Lemon Cupcakes with Citrus Syrup:

Meatballs Swedish: Meat on the Menu Cookbook

Meatloaf and Red Sauce or Mushroom Sauce: Every Day Cookbook

Roast Chicken: Devil of a Cookbook

Salmon Steaks with Cucumber and Spiced Yoghurt

Salmon Tikka with rice and veg
Indian cookbook (takes 20 minutes) - substitutes well with chicken (the timings would be too long for salmon for me, anyway), and also, make it Thai instead - mix red curry paste and yoghurt 50/50 and coat chicken (or salmon) in it, and make a quick cucumber pickle to go on the side of the chicken, rice and steamed veg - cut a 4-5 length of cucumber, halve it lengthways, scrape out seeds, then shave off ribbons lengthways with a vegetable peeler. Put in a bowl with a splash of rice wine vinegar and a dollop of sweet chilli sauce, and mix together.

Snapper di Josie: Every Day Cookbook (or can use chicken)

Steamed Prawn and Chicken Dumplings:

Teriyaki salmon: Just whiz up some garlic, ginger, soy and a little brown sugar. Marinade your salmon in it for as long as you have (5 mins or 5 hrs) Put salmon in top tray and veg in bottom. Pour excess marinade over veg. Pop brown rice into basket in jug with water to just cover. Cook rice and veg 10mins/Varoma/Sp 2. Top up water if required. Place top tray into Varoma with Salmon and cook 20mins/Varoma/Speed 2

Tomato pasta with Vegetables and Feta: Vegetarian cookbook

Veal pizziola: EDC (NB: this is in the old EDC not the new one). Can substitute with

Vietnamese Chicken Meatball and Noodle Soup

Thermomix Australia's Coquilles St Jacques

Please share your steaming tips and favourite recipes! Can't wait to hear from you...


  1. Thanks for linking my picture, Sophia! Keep up the great work with your blog.

    1. Thank you Bush Gourmand for your wonderful pioneering work in the Thermomix! As you can see, Sophia has employed her mother full time as her secretary. Time for me to crack the blogging whip eh?

  2. This is a very interesting post about the nutritional value of steamed vegetables. It's also a bonus that Thermomix allows to control the temperature while cooking so we know that most nutrients are retained while cooking (as opposed to basic steamer that go on the stove where you could be cooking your veg to their death without knowing)... I always wash my veggies in the Varoma (which I use as a colander) before steaming. The extra water helps the steaming and they cook better I find...

    1. Ooooo - that is brilliant. Now I need to update my blog with this wonderful information!! THank you Nora