Vegetables A to Z

If people with diabetes should restrict carbohydrate what’s left? Well, pretty obvious isn’t it? Vegetables. Yes, if you’re restricting carbs then you need to fill up on something, but, and it’s a big BUT for some people, they say they don’t like vegetables. My first reaction to that is “How can you not like vegetables?” A carrot tastes nothing like a Brussel sprout, so even if you don’t like sprouts, there must be some veggie you can stand the taste of. So I set out to compile a list of interesting things to do with vegetables. Most I have tried and enjoyed. I hope this will help newly diagnosed people, and also those not so newly diagnosed, but looking for new ideas.

Firstly if you have been used to eating a lot of carbohydrate – and those people born in the 70s and later will be used to that – then substitutes are the place to start. What can take the place of mashed potato/jacket potato/pasta and rice? The things you use as a base for sauce. I have used the substitutes and find them acceptable and actually in some cases I like them more than the originals.

Baked potatoes – substitute Butternut Squash, scrub it, cut off the “bowl” part, scrape out the seeds, brush with olive oil and roast it for about 35 minutes or until tender. Ideal instead of a baked potato since you can top it with the same kind of fillings you would use in a baked potato and it’s only 12g per 100g carb instead of 21g per 100g for a potato plus it is lower GI/GL (you can also eat the skin when it’s cooked which adds to your fibre intake). Even better, in Autumn use one of the lovely little autumn varieties of squash, such as Festival Squash cut in half, seeds scooped out, sprayed with oil and baked in the oven, the texture is filling and the taste is absolutely delicious plus they are only about 2.2g carb per 100g!  Great to pile Chilli or other fillings into.

Mashed potatoes – lots of choices here! Cook cauliflower florets in the microwave with a tiny bit of water until they are soft, (or steam over a pan of water), let them stop steaming and dry out a bit before mashing the cooked flesh with some butter and black pepper. Ensure your cauliflower is really fresh and it will taste quite neutral. Celeriac, cut into approx 2cm cubes and boil until tender then mash – this is virtually zilch carbs – if you like add a large spoonful of garlic and herb cream cheese, or boil a couple of garlic cloves with the celeriac and mash together with butter and black pepper (incidentally Celeriac makes fab low carb chips – just prepare as you would potatoes).

Cauli mash

Carrot and Swede. Boil together until tender and puree with butter – use to top a shepherd’s pie made with lamb mince – delicious! Or just mash coarsely as an accompaniment to stews.

Butter bean mash – one of my favourites – a little higher in carbs than some at 16.8g per 100g but really delicious and they add fibre and protein to your diet. Finely slice an onion and gently fry until browned with some crushed peeled garlic. If you use canned beans drain them and rinse them and then warm them in some water, drain and put into a food processor, or mash them with a little of the liquid you warmed them in. Add the onions/garlic and mash well – actually I cannot see this working with a masher, (I love my food processor which is all of 30 odd years old and still going strong). Add a good handful of chopped herbs to your taste and mix well.

Pasta, what can be used instead of pasta? Try the versions of spiralised courgettes, butternut squash and carrots now available freely in supermarkets. Or, cut a cougette in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and use a common potato peeler to make “ribbons” of courgette which substitute nicely for tagliatelli. Fry in butter and use instead of pasta. You can use courgettes or Aubergines in place of lasagna sheets, just slice about 1cm thick and brush a baking tray with oil, Lay the vegetables on it and brush the tops with oil, place in the oven for about 10 minutes, turning half way until they are soft and then use as Lasagna sheets.

Cauli Rice makes a good substitute for rice. Grate a very fresh cauli (I use the grating disk of a food processor to do this but an ordinary cheap grater will do the same job), and then lightly steam it, or stir fry it with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Goes well with any type of curry or with Chilli. You can also add chopped vegetables to make fried rice, see this recipe for Pilau Rice.

Then again, this is about comfort food and rather than using substitutes for things we’re used to… what about thinking out of the box? I adore Lentils and they’re very comforting and useful as “stodge”. There’s a great recipe for Lentils with Ginger If you find you only have some of the veg in your fridge, then use whatever you have, it’s a very adaptable recipe (Lentils once cooked are around 16g carb per 100g and provide lots of fibre and protein). Celeriac Dauphinoise is another comfort food. It makes an excellent side dish for any type of meat or chicken and can be equally impressive as a vegetarian accompaniment.

Beans are another great resource at between 9 and 16g per 100g cooked. Try making your own baked beans with canned tomatoes and herbs, or a Spanish style bean stew.

Pizza – Before going on to vegetables as vegetables, I just wanted to mention a fantastic low carb pizza base. Experiment with your own toppings.

Crisps – Make your own Vegetable Crisps which work out at 8.7g carb per 74g portion (as opposed to 13.3 per 25g commercial crisp pack).

Snacks and Nibbles – check out our recipe section for both sweet and savoury snacks and nibbles.  These aren’t all strictly made from Vegetables but I thought the link worth including because they show some alternatives to high carb commercial snacks.

So what can you do with vegetables. A few ideas…

Aubergine try Aubergine, sweet potato and chick pea curry or simply griddle it, or use it in Moussaka. Also it’s lovely roast in Mediterranean Veggies. Chop up your Aubergine into largish chunks, add Courgettes, red onions or shallots, Butternut squash, Green, red or yellow peppers, carrots, mushrooms – or any combination your imagination can think up (I don’t like to put tomatoes in because they tend to make the roast veggies too sloppy and watery). Toss in a generous glug of olive oil, add fresh basil leaves and some peeled garlic cloves and roast for approx 40 minutes, in the last 10 minutes you can add sliced goat’s cheese or feta. Aubergine Parmigiano is another lovely recipe, but a bit faffy.

Artichokes use the hearts in salads – or add to the roasted veggies. Jerusalem artichokes are wonderful and I wish I could get my hands on these little knobbly veggies more often. See the recipe for Jerusalem artichokes with pork sausages

Asparagus eat as a veggie lightly steamed or add to salads whilst still warm. It’s delicious with Hollandaise sauce. Or toss it with a few blanched and toasted almonds and a little olive oil, then stir fry.

Beans, green brilliant in any stir fries. Combine with mini corn, Pak Choi and tinned drained water chestnuts, green or red peppers, stir fry in a little Sesame oil and top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Or use the Thai seasoning from the herb/spice section of your supermarket – or simply toss in a little soy sauce.

Broccoli. Steam or microwave lightly, don’t forget to slice up the stalk bit and add to the florets. Cook in cheese sauce in the oven combined with cauliflower or on it’s own. Top with grated Parmesan or Cheddar, or to ring the changes use a blue cheese such as Dolcelatte, Gorgonzola or Stilton.

Brussels Sprouts, there’s the obvious Christmas dish where you toss them with Chestnuts, but try them sliced and fried with sliced mushrooms and onions. Use them as “Bubble and Squeak” with the mashed celeriac. I have done this recipe for Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic and Parmesan and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Butter beans – So very versatile.  pms543 gave this link for a delicious looking Butter Bean and Leek Bake – real comfort food!

Carrots – steam or boil, toss in butter and sprinkle with Caraway seeds, or try Fennel Seeds. Or…. Cook until tender, put into a frying pan with a knob of butter and some chopped Dill, fry until lightly caramellised. Try sprinkling them with cumin, cinnamon and black pepper.

Cabbage – I like to dry fry some Pancetta or diced streaky bacon, chop cabbage and add a thinly sliced leek. Add to the bacon in the pan and toss until cooked through, add a couple of tablespoons full of double or sour cream and black pepper before serving. Or chop cabbage finely, add a grated cooking apple, and a cup of cider, pop in the oven and cook for about 1 hour until tender and the cider has reduced to a sticky glaze. You can also do this with red cabbage but I tend to add a bit of Splenda to red cabbage.

Cauliflower – Everyone knows how to make Cauli cheese, but if you want to be a bit more adventurous try this recipe by Jamie Oliver. I’ve done it for a dinner party and it was very well received. There are lots of lovely recipes for Cauliflower only a google away. I had a half cauli left the other day and I cut it into florets and roasted it in the oven with a chopped up Fennel bulb and a couple of red onions after tossing everything in olive oil and sprinkling with Balsamic vinegar.

Celery I tend to think of as either a salad ingredient or the ingredient of some sort of stew or soup, but I have eaten something similar to this recipe at a friend’s house, she had added some grated Parmesan on the top which gave it a bit of extra punch.

Chicory is something people don’t use a lot, but it’s a very useful addition to salads and I like it cooked too. I cut it in half lengthwise, saute it in a mix of butter and olive oil, just enough to colour the cut side, then pop it into an oven proof dish, insert a sliver of garlic into each piece, drizzle lemon juice over and grate parmesan on top, cook for 20 mins.

Courgettes I have already mentioned, however, try them in a cheese sauce baked in the oven. Or sliced and simply fried with some chopped Tarragon.

Fennel is another veggie that’s nice sliced raw and added to salads. It’s also great roasted, or add it, thinly sliced to the Celeriac Dauphinoise recipe. I’ve also done this recipe which we enjoyed.

Kale isn’t something I have cooked very much. I did have a recipe that involved Goat’s cheese that I did a few times, but I cannot find it. However there are lots of recipes here which is a recipe site I use quite a lot for inspiration.

Kohlrabi you don’t see a lot in Penzance Tesco, but then Penzance Tesco isn’t very sophisticated, we’ve only just got Garlic mayo on sale there, previously we had to visit friends or mother in law in order to purchase this less than new delicacy.  I digress, I would certainly try Kohlrabi if I saw any.  Found a recipe here for the little beasties.  Also the organic veggie box people at Abel and Cole have some recipes.  Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall wrote a somewhat witty piece for the Guardian and his recipe for Kohlrabi Gratin looks yummy.

Leeks I love, any way you like to cook them.  I love them done in cheese sauce, it’s somehow a comfort food, but of course they make wonderful soup (unhappily my favourite Vichysoisse isn’t so diabetically friendly), but they add a great lift to other dishes.   A simple and scrummy recipe is here I’ve never found fresh Oregano but a sprinkle of dried works well.   Another yummy recipe here.

Lettuce isn’t normally thought of as a vegetable, but you can actually cook it.  One of my favourite ways with peas involves lettuce.  We used to do this as a side dish in the Restaurant when we had a hotel.  Well it was a similar recipe that has a fancy French name but was really just braised lettuce and peas.  We did it with a minimal amount of chicken stock so it turned really syrupy and thick before adding the cream.

Mange tout or “Sugar Snap” peas go great in any stir fry.  I first came across them in the Farmers Market in Seattle in the early 8Os and brought some home, they were a great novelty then, but now they’re commonly found everywhere.  I prefer the fatter Sugar Snaps to the Mange Tout variety and I like to add them warm to a salad in summer, along with a few warm green beans and Asparagus spears and maybe one or two tiny warm new potatoes sliced into quarters.  Somehow they make a salad into more of a meal.

Marrow – often served stuffed with meat or other mixtures, but I still like it how my Mum used to serve it, in a bechamel sauce with lots of black pepper.  Unfortunately hubby doesn’t like it, so we don’t often have it.  Apparently if you only boil it until it’s slightly underdone you can then fry it in butter and it tastes really rich.  I haven’t tried that – ummmm now there’s an idea!

Mooli now oddly I did get some of this in Tesco locally, it was reduced (or I wouldn’t have bought it at the original price) so I got it to see what it was.  I then looked up recipes…. and discovered that it was usually used in Indian cooking.  I put it into a veggie curry and it was very nice, but the curry flavour disguised whatever the Mooli tasted of.  I guessed it was one of those things you can use as a filler, but at £1 a go it was a bit expensive for what it was.  I’d love to hear from anyone who knows a better idea for this veg.

Mushrooms – ah now here’s a versatile veggie!  Minced mushrooms (with minced carrots and celery) can bulk out Beef or Lamb mince for a Shepherd’s pie, Bolognaise or Chilli.  I like to quarter closed cup mushrooms, sautee them in a little oil and then add a large tbs of cream cheese with garlic and herbs for a quick garlic mushroom side dish.  The large field mushrooms are great just wiped, sprayed with oil and put onto a baking sheet, top with garlic and herb cheese, or blue cheese and bake 10 mins.  Waaay back in the 9os I invented “Stilton Mushrooms” which were a great hit on our Restaurant menu as a starter.  So much so that some guests wrote to New York Gourmet Magazine and my recipe got published!  I still have the magazine!  Basically, take a 300g punnet of closed cup mushrooms, sautee in oil with 2 large cloves of garlic chopped.  When they are soft add a good dollop of double cream.  Top with crumbled or sliced Stilton (the riper the better and if you can include some of the “skin” of the Stilton all the nicer).  Place in a hottish oven for approx 10 mins and serve with chunks of French bread – second thoughts, the bread may not be so good for diabetics, so eat the sauce with a spoon! Serves 2.

Dried mushrooms can be a great addition to give a gravy, sauce or casserole a lovely rich depth.  Soak them in boiling water for about 15 mins, get them out, give them a squeeze and chop them.  Use the soaking water to add to the stock or sauce.  They are brilliant in a Beef and Mushroom casserole or pie.

Okra – another veg not beloved of Penzance Tesco, but I have used it in veggie curries and so on when I lived in a metropolis that had Asian shops nearby.  I just wouldn’t pay the premium price when it appears in the local Tesco on the odd occasion.

Onions – everyone knows what to do with onions – priceless ingredient in just about every dish going, but rarely thought of as a vegetable in their own right.  I find them wonderful in roasted veggie dishes, particularly red onions, but raw onions can be used in salads (specially the red variety).  Whole onions can be roasted and are really delicious.  Just cut off the root end and peel the onions, set them in an oven proof dish and pour a little water into the bottom of the dish.  Drizzle melted butter and a tbs of balsamic vinegar over each onion and bake for approx 40 mins until really tender.  If you wish, use an apple corer to take the centre of the onion out and fill them with a stuffing made of minced veggies.  I used to use bread-type stuffing but I’m afraid that’s not good for diabetics.  Alternatively stuff them with good quality sausage meat to accompany roast Chicken or Turkey.

Parsnips – now I love Parsnips but unfortunately they are one of the vegetables that’s higher in carbs.  Perhaps best avoided but YMMV.

Peas – Another veg to be handled with caution!  However I find Sugar Snap and Mange tout to be easier on the BGs and both veggies do very well in stir fries, or simply steamed.

Peppers – of any colour are gorgeous roasted with a splash of balsamic vinegar, or as an ingredient for any stir fry, roasted veggie dish or veggie curry.  Stuffed peppers are a great vegetarian dish, or you can use minced meat or sausagemeat to fill them.  I also like red and yellow peppers just raw as a salad ingredient.

Pumpkin – Treat as per Butternut Squash.  Spray with oil and roast, it can then be mashed to make a lovely thick, satisfying mash, specially with roasted garlic.  Pumpkin also makes a wonderful rich creamy soup.  Here’s a recipe that I have used before and the ginger really made it interesting.  I seem to remember I used about 3 times the amount in the recipe.

Shallots – Brilliant in any kind of stew or anywhere you’d use onions, but I love caramellised shallots, however these days sugar is a “no no” therefore when I saw this recipe in this month’s BBC Good Food mag I got quite excited and I shall certainly be trying it out.  Simply peel shallots and leave them whole, heat 3 tbs oil and fry them over a high heat until golden, drain off and throw away the oil.  Add 15g butter, bay leaves and some thyme sprigs, cook another 5 mins before adding 500ml stock.  Cook until shallots are tender and sauce is reduced and sticky.  Enjoy with roast beef!

Spinach – can be very versatile, I like it lightly stir fried with a few raisins and some pine nuts.   For a Florentine fish dish, place 3 or 4 good handfuls of fresh Spinach in an ovenproof dish, lay 2 fish fillets on top (I like Salmon, but Cod or any firm fleshed fish will do just as well), pour over cheese sauce and top with grated cheese.  Bake in a medium oven about 20 mins or until the dish is golden and bubbling.  As a side dish, or even a vegetarian dish try this Sweet Potato and Spinach bake , you could reduce the carbs further by using Celeriac instead of sweet potatoes, or even sliced Butternut Squash.

Spring onions – Most obviously used in salads.  I like them chopped up and mixed with canned Tuna and Mayo.  They’re also brilliant in stir fries and Chinese dishes or Thai Curries.

Swede – As mentioned at the beginning of this article they’re brilliant boiled and mashed with carrot (love mine pureed) but last night I tried the “Creamy Neeps” recipe from Delicious Mag.  As Sedge said “Well it’s really Swede Gratin Dauphinoise isn’t it?”  Yes, actually, but whatever you call it it is absolutely delicious!  There’s half left over for tonight to have with our Roast Beef, yum!  I used one of those logs of Goat’s cheese that LidL sell.  It would be better to say I used it up, since it had languished in the fridge since Xmas and definitely needed using up!

Sweetcorn – I have been caught out by this vegetable more than once.  My advice would be avoid it, even if Sweetcorn Fritters really are gorgeous they aren’t worth the spike you’re going to get.

Tomatoes – Canned tomatoes are useful ingredients in many dishes and actually aren’t too bad at around 3g carb per 100g.  Try these Oven Roasted Tomatoes to accompany meat or fish.

Turnip – see Swede.  On the other hand if you can get baby Turnips they are tender and delicious on their own.  Try boiling them until just tender and then toss in a dressing that you make by roasting a whole garlic bulb for about 20 – 25 minutes, squeeze the garlic out and pound it to a paste, add chopped capers, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some chopped parsley, stir together and pour the dressing over the warm turnips.

Water Chestnuts – I love these added to stir fries cos they give a lovely crunch.  I usually use about half a tin to serve 2 and cut each in half across the middle so as to make 2 thin disks.

That’s it really, but if you have any suggestions please let me know via the forum and I will be pleased to include them and give you a credit.