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Tried & Tested: Vegetable Swap

Harriet Worthington01 February 2017

My house is a treasure trove of cookbooks, food magazines and recipes torn hastily from the pages of newspapers. They spill out of every nook and cranny, a smorgasbord of recipes for every occasion.  Well loved, the pages stick together with kitchen remnants; splodges of sauce and cake batter. They tell tales of cooking triumphs and baking disasters, heavily annotated with modifications and notes to my future self.

Recently, I have found myself noting where ingredients can be swapped 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 and 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; it's fine to add two extra garlic cloves to a recipe or to swap the butternut squash for the sweet potato loitering at the back of the vegetable drawer. 

This week we tried and tested some ingredient swaps at home. The team swapped one ingredient from their favourite dish for another they already had to hand. 

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, using vegetable strips makes a lighter but equally delicious version of lasagne.

Lasagne! Made with butternut squash and courgette slices instead of pasta... read all about it on the @cactuskitchens blog coming soon #lasagne #sainsburys #lowcarb #highcheese 🥒🥕🧀

A photo posted by Rosie Jones (@rosiejones_ok) on Jan 29, 2017 at 8:26am PST


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 sauce, only for me not to make my own fresh egg pasta... 

The squash and courgette slices do lighten the dish. They 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 veg by its wonky shape. Celeriac, the knobbly, unsung hero of the vegetable world, is underappreciated and underused. A member of the celery family, it tastes quite similar but with nuttier, sweeter undertones. It is a perfect stand-in for mashed potato, sits comfortably on top of a fish pie or cottage pie and is a great accompaniment to any meat. 

Celeriac mash sponsored mainly by butter #tastierthanitlooks 🤔 Coming soon to the @cactuskitchens blog...

A photo posted by K8reece (@k8reece) on Jan 29, 2017 at 12:22pm PST


Despite 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.  
Once mashed, the texture was not too dissimilar to mashed potatoes and I actually preferred the taste. There was a greater depth of flavour than with mashed potatoes and it was enhanced by the butter and spring onions I added. I'd definitely use celeriac instead of potato again.

3.  Swap rice for cauliflower

This is a lovely, speedy alternative to rice as once the cauliflower florets have
been blitzed down to a fine grain in a food processor (or grated with a box
grater), they can be steamed or cooked rapidly in a little olive oil or butter on
the stove in a matter of minutes.


Not only was this a great way to add more veg to my dinner, but it was an impressively quick alternative to steaming rice (the art of which I have yet to master). 

I used the cauliflower in a stir-fry in place of egg-fried rice but it would also make a great alternative to couscous in salads. One head of cauliflower made more 'rice' than I needed so I portioned out the rest into bags to store in the freezer where it will keep happily for a least a month.