Recently, I have found myself noting where ingredients can be switched out for something I may already have in my cupboards or fridge. Too often I have set my heart on cooking a particular recipe that has not only included prep time, cooking time but also the time spent searching supermarket shelves for a particular ingredient. The more I cook, the more I realise that recipes are just guidelines and no one's going to tell you off if you add two more garlic cloves than the recipe asked for or swapped out the butternut squash for a sweet potato you found loitering at the back of the vegetable draw.
This week we tried and tested some ingredient swaps at home. The team swapped one ingredient from their favourite meals with something they already had.
1. Swap pasta sheets for vegetable strips
This is a great way to use any leftover vegetables such as butternut squash or courgettes. If you’re looking for a lower carb alternative to pasta, vegetables make for a healthier alternative to the classic lasagne.
I wouldn't recommend trying to cut your own butternut squash for this – it's too large to fit on a mandolin and even with the sharpest knife it imposes a level of risk to life and limb. Sainsbury's produces them ready made if you are willing to pay a premium to offset the risk!
I had to shield this from my Italian flatmate – he saw the effort I had gone to simmering the ragù for 2 hours and making an exemplary béchamel, only not to make my own fresh egg pasta...
I really did enjoy this labour of love in the end. The squash and courgette slices might not negate the meat and cheese that surround them but they do lighten the dish. They do also add a lot of moisture – in future, I'd use dry aged mozzarella instead of fresh and reduce the ragù so it results in less liquid.
2. Swap potato for celeriac
You should never judge a wonky veg by its shape. Celeriac is the knobbly unsung hero of the vegetable world, and vastly underused. It comes from the celery family, tasting quite similar but with nuttier and sweeter undertones. It makes for the perfect mashed potato stand in – it goes brilliantly on top of fish pies, cottage pie and makes for a great accompaniment to any meat.
KATE SAYSDespite being put off by its appearance, the celeriac was surprisingly easy to prep and a lot less labour intensive than peeling potatoes. I removed all the outer skin with a chef's knife, chopped the flesh into equal sized pieces and then boiled until soft.
3. Swap rice for cauliflower
This was a great way to not only add more veg into my dinner, but was an impressively quick alternative to rice cooking (which I still haven’t mastered the art of). I'm trying to eat a bit healthier this year so swapping some usual carb-heavy meals for a lighter ingredient is something I've been trying to do.
I used it in place of egg-fried rice in a stir-fry but it would also make a great alternative to couscous in salads. One head of cauliflower makes an excessive amount of 'rice' so I portioned out the rest into freezer bags and it will happily keep in my freezer for the next month.