Whether you’re already a low-carber, want to get started, or just low-carb-curious – a big welcome to my new weekly(ish!) feature, offering you fab-tasting low-carb swaps for loads of your favourite high-carb foods.
I’ll be sharing with you recipes, and tips for off-the-shelf products, that I’ve tried and think really work. They’ve made following a low-carb way of eating just that little bit easier, when I’ve had an overwhelming urge for something high-carb that would otherwise have thrown me off track.
Sometimes I want the comforting, velvety, pillowiness of mashed potato, or the sweet decadence of chocolate cake. And sometimes I’ll have them, enjoy, and move on. Or feel guilty. One or the other.
But when I’m really on a low-carb mission, and I don’t want to ruin it, I don’t want to make it too tough on myself either. This is where these low-carb substitutes have really sorted me out.
Many of the swaps I’ll give you are not just lower in carbs – for helping to control weight and blood sugar – but are better for you nutritionally in other ways too. I’ll give you the numbers to show how many carbs you’re saving (and calories and other nutrients if you’re counting them), plus info about other ways in which the swaps rank better in health terms than the originals.
That certainly applies to this week’s recipe for a side-dish of roasted cauliflower couscous (for which I took inspiration from Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet book). It’s a great swap for couscous (obvs), but also for rice or pasta. It looks the part and has the bite that couscous does, and I find that it performs the ‘soaking-up-sauce’ function of all those high-carb hitters really well.
As I write this, it’s a scorching hot Friday afternoon at the start of a UK Bank Holiday weekend. For those of you having a few people round, this cauliflower couscous would also go great served as a warm or cold salad as part of a low-carb BBQ.
I am someone who, as an adult, had to ease myself into liking cauliflower and its family members (and I still prefer it a bit disguised to be honest). But I can tell you that this tastes gorgeous, and ‘uncauliflowery'(!) – so you might even persuade the children to eat it. And as it emerges from the oven you will be hit by the most beautiful, spicy fragrance. Enjoy!
Nutrition count: Roasted Cauliflower Couscous vs. Regular Couscous
Wow, look at what you’re saving with this recipe! This vegan and gluten-free Roasted Cauliflower Couscous is only a quarter of the carbs and two-thirds of the calories of regular couscous, with twice as much fibre and some healthy fat thrown in. Fibre and olive oil can both help keep you fuller for longer. They can also both help your bowel motility (if you want to be posh – or we can just say help you poo, if you don’t). And frankly, you may need all the help you can get with that when first adjusting to a low-carb diet. As an adult you should be having 30g of fibre a day, but most people aren’t. This side-dish gives you 4g, so that’s a pretty good contribution. (And while we’re on the subject of fibre, if you want to increase your intake from a low-base, then please do it gradually, to avoid possible stomach upsets).
|Per 150g serving||Regular Couscous (plain boiled)||Roasted Cauliflower Couscous|
Source: figures calculated using verified information from the MyFitnessPal Database
Other Health Benefits
Cauliflower is a Brassica or cruciferous vegetable, so part of the family that includes kale, broccoli and cabbage, and which all contain plenty of good nutrition.
Cauliflower is a particularly excellent source of Vitamin C – an antioxidant that supports the immune system, and helps to promote healthy skin and efficient wound-healing. In the UK, adults are recommended to need 40mg of Vitamin C a day – 100g of cauliflower contains 48.2mg, so you’re getting a whopping amount in this dish.
It’s rich in B vitamins 5, 6 and 9 (folic acid) too. Folic acid is essential for manufacturing DNA. Combined with Vitamin B6, it supports formation of healthy red blood cells which can carry plenty of oxygen, so helping to give you energy and avoid anaemia. Vitamins B5 and B6 also help boost your energy by playing a part in its release from your food, and its use and storage in the body.
Vitamin C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble, which means that roasting the cauliflower, as in this recipe, is a better way to preserve nutrients than boiling it and allowing those nutrients to leach out into water that you’ll throw away. It also means your body can’t store these vitamins, so you need to consume some every day.
Cauliflower is also a rich source of Vitamin K, needed for blood-clotting; manganese and phosphorus, essential for food break-down; and potassium, which helps control fluid balance and blood pressure.
Finally, all cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, are a source of sulforaphane, an antioxidant polyphenol which has been linked extensively to the suppression of cancer, especially bowel and prostrate cancer. Once again, roasting the cauliflower, as in this recipe (or lightly stir-frying, etc), retains more of these antioxidants than boiling it in water would.
Recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Couscous
30 mins, Serves 4
- 1 medium cauliflower (about 700g weighed with its leaves)
- 1 tsp black pepper (cracked using a pestle and mortar, or use your fattest grinder setting)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Around 1/2 tsp chilli powder, depending on how spicy you fancy it
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- A bunch (around 25g) of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and stems (basil or parsley leaves also work well)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6.
- Prepare the cauliflower: discard the outer leaves, give the cauliflower a wash, and break it into florets.
- Fit the large chopping blade to your food processor and blitz the florets until they have broken down to look like couscous. (This will take a minute or two, during which you’ll probably need to scrape it down from the edges and make sure the bigger florets are catching the blade).
- Add the black pepper, cumin, and chilli powder to the ‘couscous’, and mix well.
- Spread the mixture out on a baking tray and trickle over the olive oil.
- Place in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, and give it a good stir at roughly the 10 minute stage. Keep an eye on it, and you’ll know it’s done when it’s browned at the edges and dried out.
- Once removed from the oven, add salt and more pepper, to taste, stir in the coriander (or whatever herbs you’re using) and dish-up the ‘couscous’ straight away if you want it hot. Or leave it in the baking tray to cool down before serving as a cold salad.
Next day I improvised with the leftovers for lunch while working from home. I used them as the main constituent in what turned out to be just what I wanted as a quick, comforting and satisfying bowl for one. It was tremendously straightforward:
- Spread the cauliflower couscous out so it is about an inch thick in a ceramic dish.
- Sprinkle with a handful of your favourite cheese, grated or crumbled (weigh out 50g if you’re keeping an eye on calories).
- Heat through at 180°C for around 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and started to brown.