I love pasta, rice and, to a lesser extent, mashed potato, but in our household I am trying to reduce our carbohydrate intake.
We both love to cook and can happily spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. We’ve been using cauliflower mash to substitute for potato mash for a few years now, and it works beautifully, particularly when done in the snazzy mini-food processor we bought for $30.
Recently, I found that cauliflower could double for another of our staples, and that was white rice. Surprisingly, it was on a Jamie Oliver cooking show that I first heard about cauliflower rice. Here is my version:
Take about a third of a medium cauli for two people. Make sure it is super white and firm. Take off as much of the stalk as you can. Put it in a food processor and whiz until it becomes like grains of rice. Make sure there are no big bits left, and if there are, take them out. But don’t process so much that it congeals. The grains should be separated.
Tip the grains into a microwave-safe dish with a ventilated lid. Very important: do not add water.
Microwave on high for about five minutes. Oliver says seven minutes, and other recipes I’ve seen say four, but it will depend on how much you are cooking, the power of your microwave oven, and what your taste is. For two people, I cook it for four minutes, then test it.
Now use as you would rice: this is a lovely base for a curry, for example, and you can see in the picture above my cauliflower rice with rogan josh, made for dinner last night.
You can also make cauli rice into a sort of pilau. Fry some diced vegetables, such as chopped onion, capsicum, mushroom, garlic, herbs and spices, in a little oil of your choice until golden, then add cooked cauli-rice, stir to heat and serve.
Briefly, here are the other substitutes I use for high-carbohydrate foods:
As cauli absorbs a lot of moisture when it cooks, it’s better to microwave or steam it, but you can simply boil it if you want to. Make sure the cooked cauli is very tender, but not waterlogged. The food processor on pulse does the best job, and adding a little cream cheese to the mix does wonders. Half a teaspoon or so of powdered chicken stock can also be good.
If you’ve boiled the cauli, it will make quite a sloppy mash, but this can be delightful served on the dinner plate in a little ramekin with a knob of butter for the naughty.
For a fettuccini substitute, use zucchini (courgette). Take a vegetable peeler and shave long strips from the zucchini, avoiding the inner seeds. You’ll probably need one medium zucchini per person. Then blanche quickly in boiling water—it will take only about one minute, or maybe even less. The trick is that it must be al dente but not raw, so experiment with a few pieces first. If overcooked, the strips will break up.
Drain the strips and treat as you would regular pasta, that is add some seasoning and a few drops of olive oil if you like.
Serve topped with your favourite sauce. A light tomato-based sauce works well, with parmesan and parsley on top. Or, fry in olive oil a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs, a garlic clove, some dried or fresh chilli slices, and an optional anchovy fillet or two. Dribble the sauce liberally over the zucchini pasta and serve with a wedge of lemon on the side. Season to taste, of course, but remember, anchovy is very salty.
Bread has such a central place in the western diet, it’s hard to get away from it. This is particularly so at lunchtime, when it seems so easy to grab a couple of pieces of lovely sourdough or a crunchy roll and fill with ham, cheese, tuna, or whatever else is on hand.
For a brilliant alternative, I take one egg per person, break and mix well together in a small bowl. Season and add a little water, no more than a teaspoon for every two eggs, and mix again.
Take a small non-stick fry pan—mine is 14cm across at the base—and spray lightly with oil, turning to medium heat. You should need to use the oil only once during the cooking time.
You fry the egg wraps exactly as if you were cooking crepes: spoon in a small amount of egg and then quickly tilt the pan so the egg covers the entire base. If you’ve overestimated, tip the excess back into the bowl. If you’ve underestimated, add a little more. But this must be done within a few seconds! The wrap will take 30 seconds or less: it’s ready when the edges start to peel away from the pan. You should easily be able to nudge the wrap from the pan and on to a waiting plate.
Continue until all the egg is left. You will probably have three wraps per person, depending on the size of the eggs.
The wraps can be served with hot or cold fillings. Simply treat the way you would a bread wrap, and fill with whatever you want. We like smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers, for example. These can be easily transported to work or school for a portable lunch.
Happy eating, and I’d love to know your suggestions for other substitutes.
Caron – These are really interesting ideas for carb-cutting. And it sounds as though they’re not difficult to do either. Thanks for the suggestions.
Thanks, Margot. They are easy, and very nice to eat—not weird like some substitutes.In fact, probably I should call them alternatives rather than substitutes.
Caron, I like cannellini beans, pearl couscous, parsnip and sweet potato as alternatives to rice and potato.
Here are my (easy) favourites:
Cannellini beans (for 2): Saute tin of beans gently in a saucepan with crushed garlic, lemon zest, tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup ground almonds, ground pepper. Keep stirring & they start to mash up. When they’re a nice consistency (maybe 15mins), add parsley & salt to taste & serve hot.
Pearl couscous (basic recipe): Saute onion, crushed garlic in olive oil, add one cup couscous & stir to coat. Add one cup veg or chicken stock, bring to boil, put on a tight lid, cook on very low heat 8-10mins. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When done, add a handful of chopped mixed fresh herbs. (This recipe is completely flexible with the adding of tiny diced vegetables such as capsicum, carrot, corn kernels, spring onions, mushrooms etc so you end up with red, orange, yellow and green – pretty!).
Favourite parsnip: Peel & gently simmer 500g parsnips, cut into even pieces, till soft (10-15mins). Drain, return to saucepan on low heat for a minute to evaporate all moisture. Push them to one side of the saucepan; on the other side fry off some chilli powder, cumin and cinnamon for 2 mins. Add 1/4 cup cream, dob of butter, mix gently and leave on low heat, stirring often, until it all mashes up nicely (10-15mins). Add salt, pepper to taste.
Easiest sweet potato: Put equal-sized chunks of peeled sweet potato in a bowl with half a cup of water and 1/4 of a lemon or zest, microwave till just tender, not mushy. Drain. Drizzle EV olive oil on a breadboard. Tip sweet potato onto the oil & throw on top a splash of EV olive oil, crumbled feta, chopped red chilli, chopped coriander, fresh ground pepper. Use a potato masher to gently crunch/split the sweet potato chunks without totally mashing them, smooshing through the flavour additions. The red (chilli), white (feta) and green (herb) look gorgeous through the orange of the sweet potato.
Amazing! Thank you so much for those recipes. I love the sound of all and will definitely try them.
Outstanding!! Some great ideas here…will have to try them as soon as I have a cauli and zucchini…
And a friend of mine recommends lightly frying the zucchini strips in olive or coconut oil, rather than blanching.
I have five zucchini plants this year flowering now…last years they produced (and produced and produced into May) so hopefully plenty of stock to experiment with…the coconut oil strips especially appeal…
Zucchini is probably my favourite vegetable. I called them courgettes until moving to Australia. I love eating the flowers, too. Also love zucchini sliced, fried in olive oil with salt and put through the aforementioned naughty pasta.
I once made what I told my boys were mashed potatoes, but it was cauliflower puree. They were none the wiser:). Thanks for sharing! Delicious.
That’s funny—and smart! Thanks for visiting.