Cutting carbs has once again become the flavour of the month in dieting. My hypothesis is that, at least in part, much of the success people have removing foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes from their diet comes more from an overall reduction in calories consumed than it does with some evil imbalance of macronutrients. For those of us who can’t bear the thought of having stir-fry without the rice or veggie-mince without a steaming side of mashed potato, maybe our good friend the cauliflower can help us out…
My mother has, in the past, recounted to me the story of two people. Each one had been affected by their experiences during a war.
One was forced to eat beetroot and hardly anything else for years when they were stuck on farming property during some conflict. This experience affected them so negatively, that for the rest of their life seeing a beetroot would trigger a sense of dread in them, causing them to flee the offending vegetable. I can hardly believe this, being a lover of beetroot myself, but war is terrible and I suppose it does terrible things to a person.
The other was a POW. During his imprisonment, he was fed a diet consisting almost exclusively of rice. But did rice become his mortal enemy to be avoided at all costs until the end of his life? No! In fact, he continued to include a big bowl of rice in his diet nearly every day, surmising that ‘if it kept me alive for so long in that hell, surely there must be something good about this stuff’.
Now, from a philosophical standpoint, I think these two stories probably have a lot to say about the human condition, and a person’s individual experience of existing and ‘being alive’. But for the sake of eventually getting to the point here, I want to introduce the element of ‘calorie density’.
Here I’ve drawn up a table of the calories contained per 100g of a few different (relevant) foods.
|Calories per 100g||
(Information available through wikipedia.com)
So, as we can see, a big bowl of rice is going to give you more than double the calories of an equal weight of beetroot. In a war or famine situation, this is going to be a massive advantage, since reaching your calorie needs is actually going to be difficult in these situations (I know how hard it is for us fat first-world bastards to envision this, but it’s true!).
In fact, humble old rice is a staple food source for almost half of humanity according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). I have also included potatoes in the table, another important staple in many parts of the world.
I know, if you’ve read to this point, you’re starting to think ‘why does this matter to me?’. Well in waltzes our friend the cauliflower. Isn’t he handsome?
Cauliflower is pretty damn healthy for a ‘white food’. Everything you’ve been told about eating as many colours as possible can momentarily take a back seat while you have a little munch on this vitamin C packed cruciferous friend.
A Google search for ‘cauliflower rice’ is going to introduce you to a whole new world of recipes. Some of them are raw salad type concoctions (this recipe for Spanish rice is a favourite of mine). Other are lightly cooked to produce a different texture. Herein I can give you the technique Mum has devised for producing a plain cauliflower rice to be served with curries and stir-frys.
- Chop a head cauliflower florets as small as you wish for your pieces of rice to be. This is your choice. You can make tiny florets or smaller pieces; however you prefer.
- Pop your chopped up cauliflower in a pan with a lid.
- Add about half a cup of water and put the lid on.
- Let it steam in there, stirring occasionally until tender.
- Here’s the trick! Sprinkle on 1-2 teaspoons of powdered cardamom (or to taste). This seems to balance out any odd flavour that might come from the cauliflower.
How about your mashed potatoes? A nice creamy mash is the traditional accompaniment to a multitude of delicious meals. Well, here’s cauliflower to the rescue again, my carb/calorie cutting friends. Now, I am an absolute potato fanatic; all shapes and forms is my motto. I am pan-potato! And this purée masquerading as the real deal has totally got me fooled. A must try if only to experience the magic.
Here’s a very basic version. Feel free to jazz it up with your usual herbs and spices to suit your particular needs.
- Chop up a head of cauliflower, removing most of the stems (a little can be left on) and steam it until tender.
- Chuck that steamy hot cauliflower into a food processor and add about a tablespoon of butter substitute (we use the trusty old Nuttelex) along with any other additions you wish to add (ie garlic, parsley).
- Blend that baby until it reaches your desired smoothness.
- Eat. Enjoy. Use it to fool your friends! (File under: very lame April fools jokes)
The finished product may be slightly ‘sloppier’ than you generally have your potatoes. Mum has advised me that you can put the purée into a saucepan on low heat to evaporate some of the water off, or to reheat for serving.
I’ll add a picture of our cauliflower mash as soon as we next eat some. Promise 😉
Go start the revolution!
Ok, maybe substituting cauliflower in your cooking isn’t exactly revolutionary, or even that clever. At the end of the day, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with plain old rice and potatoes. They’re actually quite healthy in and of themselves. But hey, maybe cauliflower was cheap this week, you’ve become a fan of it’s healthy, possible cancer fighting properties, or you just felt like something different, so go forth and bon appétit!