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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 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.

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, 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.   

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 you get with mashed potatoes that were also emphasised 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 great speedy alternative to rice as once the cauliflower florets have
been pulsed down to a fine grain in a food processor (or grated using a box
grater), it can be steamed or quickly cooked in a little olive oil or butter on
the stove in a matter of minutes.


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.