Only joking. Don’t have a hairy cow .
I absolutely love my starchy carbs. My favourite dinner is meatballs and spaghetti and I love nothing more than fresh bread straight from the bakery slathered in butter. BUT even I know that variety is good, and as someone who loves to cook I am always looking for other things that can go with my meals which are still carriers for flavour, but are also easier to cook and even more versatile.
Twenty extra points for things that are also healthier than bread and pasta too – I am going on holiday soon and am not looking too fab in a bikini right now (can I use the post-baby excuse 11 MONTHS after giving birth…?!
Here are some of my useful carb swaps to make your life/weaning/general happiness just a little more exciting. There are also a few links to online recipes if you are tempted to get some more recipe inspo.
SWAP POTATOES FOR….
I have already written a recipe for the most delicious Roman Gnocchi which provides nursery level comfort on a grand scale. Semolina is ready in literally minutes, can be cooked in milk and doused in butter and cheese and served just as you would mashed potato. Benefit being that it has a much longer shelf life than potatoes and will therefore provide instant comfort at the drop of a hat.
Gluten free and robust, these bad boys are made from buckwheat and are much more filling than their wheat-based counterparts. You cook them in a matter of moments and can dress with sesame oil, soy, or even just butter. Next time you are making roasted chicken try making a soba noodle stir fry rather than potatoes to go with it -it will keep you going all day.
RISOTTO / SHORT GRAIN RICE
Make like a trendy Giuseppe from Milan and make risotto to go with your meat casseroles instead of mash. I often make life easier for myself with risotto by oven baking it – you just add the whole amount of stock required at the start of the cooking process then bung it in oven and forget about it. It won’t be as creamy but sometimes (especially midweek) that can be a good thing.
Short grain rice, particularly sushi rice is so underrated in the UK. Buy a good brand and cook it to the packet instructions TO THE LETTER. All you then need is a splash of vinegar, a bit of shredded chicken and some veg and you have an instant meal to satisfy little and large appetites.
SWAP PASTA FOR……
WHOLEMEAL COUS COUS / GIANT COUS COUS
These sound a bit healthy I agree, but I cannot tell the difference between these and their regular cous cous counterparts. They are packed with fibre and are easy for babies to grip, especially if you add a little oil or melted butter to help little hands bind it all together. Really yummy served cold as an alternative to pasta salad.
Ideally bought as a boil-in-the-bag affair from Eastern European supermarkets, this is a super healthy alternative to pasta which contains nearly as much protein as quinoa but doesn’t taste nearly as boring. It is low GI too so will keep you full. Serve it with a saucy meat dish – it will be a nice change for meatballs or sausage casseroles.
I bloody love farro. Buy the easy cook stuff and you have a delicious nubbly grain which will soak up the flavour of many sauces. I like it with fresh pesto and grilled salmon, or it can also take the place of pasta in a roasted veggie pasta salad. I had this in a deli in Tuscany a few years ago and never looked back. Find it in the whole foods section of the supermarket.
SWAP BREAD FOR….
VIETNAMESE RICE PAPER
Ever had summer rolls in Asian restaurants? These are the papers that hold the filling together. You get a long shelf life with these, and can wrap up lots of things for packed lunches. Prawns, mint leaves, cucumber and avocado are good – or just treat it like sushi and add any fillings you fancy. Don’t forget to add in some satay or hoi sin sauce for dippage (probably best avoided for babies due to salt and sugar content). They are fun to use and you can get the kids involved in making them production-line style, trying different fillings each time. I have only managed to track these down in Asian supermarkets so far, but you can also find them online.
A classic salad staple – and much harder to ruin during cooking than cous cous. I have made a tomato bulgar wheat salad from the Sabrina Ghayour Persiana cookery book for years and it has impressed so many people – make this instead of sandwiches and you will have a very happy lunchtime at work.