Wednesday, 2 March 2016

9 Alternatives to Potatoes

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There's nothing really wrong with potatoes. They can be quite tasty - I could never resist a nutty, earthy new potato in May. They're comforting, too (buttery mash, anyone?) and contain vitamin C, potassium and fibre - especially if you eat the skin. 

It's just such a shame that potatoes seem to have a negative effect on some people's health. 




Now don't get me wrong. I love potatoes. But they don't love me very much. They seem to stick to my hips as well as cause digestive issues. And although they were recently given the paleo go ahead, they're not recommended at all on the elimination stage of the autoimmune protocol diet. 

The problem comes because potatoes are a nightshade vegetable. I read somewhere that when potatoes were introduced to Britain in the 1500s, they were eyed with caution, because some people thought they were poisonous. Same for tomatoes (funnily enough, they're from the same family). 

Not everyone finds potatoes so problematic, of course. But what if you're looking for a comfort food that has a similar texture and even flavour to white potatoes? What if you've been in your PJs all Sunday and you just want a roasted dinner and a pile of fluffy mash? Whether you're looking for an alternative to spuds for health reasons, or you just fancy a change, here are 9 other vegetables you can cook and eat that somehow satisfy that potato craving. 

Parsnips
Parsnips are probably my favourite starchy veg at the moment. They go with pretty much anything, but especially game, beef and salmon. There's a salmon hash recipe in the book The Healing Kitchen that I fell in love with, because the recipe states to use white sweet potato but to use parsnips if you like. So I used parsnips and it's gorgeous. Parsnips also work roasted, mashed, stir-fried or combined with another vegetable and then mashed to top a Shepherd's Pie. You can also make fries out of them. They're also a good source of fibre, vitamin C and potassium. Check out my recipe for Roasted Salmon and Parsnips with Dill Gremolata

Sweet Potatoes 
I don't do a weekly shop without adding a big bag or two of sweet potatoes to my trolley. They're so versatile. And, although they taste quite sweet, they actually have a lower GI rating than regular white potatoes - to have the least effect on your blood sugar boil them. The GI rating goes up if they're roasted or baked. I most often boil and then mash sweet potatoes, or if I bake them, I snuggle up a few extra ones to cook alongside, so I have instant sweet potato in the fridge to add to my breakfasts. My children love sweet potato fries, cooked in the oven. 100g of sweet potato gives you a whopping 283% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A along with some vitamin B6 and fibre. I love baked sweets with chicken and also mashed up and then served with crispy bacon and a fried egg for breakfast. Lovely. 

White Sweet Potatoes
So white sweet potatoes are a lot like orange-fleshed sweet potatoes but have a sturdier texture and, to me, a sweeter flavour. Alaena, from Grazed and Enthused uses them to make her AIP Stromboli. For some reason I tolerate orange-fleshed sweets better than white ones, but when I have eaten them I love them turned into crispy shoestring fries. All you need are a few ingredients, a pan and a couple of minutes. So good. 

Celeriac
Celeriac is a root vegetable that's a very pale light green/white with gnarly, knobbly little roots coming out of it. It's quite gorgeous to look at. And it's beautiful whizzed into soups, where it gives a starchy, thick texture similar to potato but also a light celery-like flavour too. I also love it mashed, with slow-cooked lamb shank, a la Jamie Oliver. Oh, and if you've never made celeriac chips, you have to. They're crispy on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside. Beautiful. 

Swede
Swede's another starchy root veg that has a slight turnip-like flavour to it. You can cut it up and turn it into fries, or - a personal favourite - boil it and then mash it up with cooked carrots. A serving of swede gives you vitamin C and fibre - try it in these carrot and swede fritters, too, as a hash brown alternative. 

Squash
When my Mum first tried butternut squash, she told me I had to try it too. 'It's like the most buttery, sweet mashed potato you'll ever have', she said to me over the phone. And it was. The great thing is that you can get lots of different types of squash - even spaghetti squash, with its vercimcelli-like strands. Squash can be mashed, roasted, turned into fries or dropped into a curry or breakfast hash. You'll get your dose of vitamin A, C and fibre, too. 

Cauliflower
I once served up a heavily seasoned (bacon, butter and parsley) pile of cauliflower mash to my children to see if they noticed it wasn't potato mash. They sussed that something was different, but still ate it all up. Cauliflower cooks in minutes and is perfect for thickening a soup as well as roasting, boiling or mashing. You can even make a dairy-free cheese sauce with it. Or chop it up into tiny pieces and use it instead of rice. A 100g serving of cauliflower gives you a huge 80% of your daily recommended intake for vitamin C, along with some vitamin B6, too. 

Yucca
Yucca, or cassava, as it's also known, is a white root vegetable with a tough, brown outer skin that you peel off before cooking. You also need to cut the inner 'core' of the root out, too, before you cook it. I've made yucca fries before, and they're very similar to potato in texture and flavour. It's a good source of potassium. Look out for frozen yucca chips in the supermarket, otherwise you can often buy it fresh. Check out Gutsy By Nature's Yucca Fries recipe if you want to give it a try. 

Plantains
I am so, so happy that my local supermarket started selling plantains. Whenever I can get them, I stock up. Keep them in the fridge and they'll stay greener for longer, so you can make tostones out of them, or plantain chips. You can also make oven fries with plantain, which I love seasoned with fresh herbs. And if you have any black plantains, use them to make pancakes or just fry them and dust with cinnamon for a beautiful dessert. Plantains are pretty nutrient dense too, with potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6.  

What other veggies do you like to use instead of potato? Tell me about them in the comments below. 




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