THE HINDU

Sravasti Datta, March 28, 2016

Give The Cauliflower Diet A Go

Among the endless low-carb, paleo diets for weight loss is the cauliflower diet, which is healthy and doesn’t compromise on taste, says Radha Thomas.

To make thayir sadham (curd rice), you need to boil cauliflower grains, then add curd and temper with spices. Yes, you read that right.

Cauliflower is the substitute for rice. Flummoxed? Don’t be. Because this unique preparation retains the flavours of the traditional comfort food, but the cauliflower adds an extra zing to it, quite different from the flat taste of rice.

In case you are wondering, we are not at a high-end restaurant indulging in experimental cuisine, but at Radha Thomas’ place in Bangalore, where she talks about her latest book, The Cauliflower Diet. It has recipes substituting rice, flour, cereal and even potato with cauliflower. Among the 42 recipes, which include options for vegans too, there is also pizza base, payasam and sushi made from cauliflower.

The effervescent Radha, a well-known author and jazz vocalist, requests us to sample thayir sadham, and bise bele bath, a traditional hot, lentil-and-rice-based dish from Karnataka. Both dishes are wholesome, crunchy and delicious. The vegetable is so versatile that it can be adapted to every kind of dish. So, for those who want to go on a cauliflower diet, you needn’t give up your regular meals.

“I wanted a substitute for rice, as I was always on the chubby side,” explains Radha, who spent a considerable amount of time creating and ideating these recipes. “The general South Indian diet consists of mostly rice. But cauliflower is very low on carbohydrates. Substitute your daily dose of rice that you’d normally eat with dal, chicken curry and vegetables with some cauliflower rice, and you won’t have to struggle with counting calories, eating less and all the stress normally associated with dieting.”

The diet is beneficial for those suffering from heart disease and diabetes, and it’s effective for those wanting to lose weight. Radha crunches some numbers: “Five hundred grams of cauliflower contains 26.5 gm of total carbohydrates. Of this, 12.5 gm is dietary fibre, leaving you with a net carb content of 14 gm. In contrast, 500 gm of regular rice contains 139.5 gm of total carbs, of which only 2.5 gm is dietary fibre, leaving us with a net carb content of 137 gm.”

On the negatives of cauliflower, she says, “If you overdo it, you can get flatulence. It’s also rich in Vitamin K, which is not good for those on blood thinning medicines.”

Here are some recipes from The Cauliflower Diet by Radha Thomas.

Plain Rice

You’ll need
One head of cauliflower, about 500 gms, broken by hand into florets, including the stem.

How to
Boil some water in a large saucepan, and when the water is bubbling, drop the florets in, so they’re covered. Leave them in for exactly five minutes. Time it or else the cauliflower gets soggy. The florets should be ‘al dente’. The less you cook the cauliflower, the better it tastes. Remove and drain thoroughly in a colander. You can pat the florets dry if you can’t wait for them to drain naturally.

Alternatively, if you have a steamer, you can steam the cauliflower florets. Now put the cauliflower in a food processor and give it a whirl or two, until the florets resemble grains of cooked rice.

If you don’t have a food processor or are just too lazy to clean up all the parts after you’re done, simply grate the cauliflower florets by hand. The taste is the same. Voila, you have rice!

It looks like rice, and once you add something on top, it almost tastes like rice. I say ‘almost’ because there may be a purist or two who say basmati or bust, but cauliflower rice is about as good a rice substitute as you’re ever going to eat.

Serve with
Anything and everything.

Pasi Parupu Adai

Adai is a kind of pancake, not smooth and silky like a crepe, but rough and hearty. It’s a good way to mop up all kinds of gravy.

You’ll need
250 gms cauliflower, broken into rough florets and steamed briefly
1/2 cup yellow pasi parupu (green gram), soaked in water for about half an hour
1 small green chilli, whole
Half a tsp grated ginger
1 onion, chopped finely
A sprig of coriander, chopped up
Oil for frying
Salt to taste

How to
Drain the pasi parupu and toss into a blender.
Add the chilli, the grated ginger and the steamed cauliflower.
Whip it till you see a puree, probably a minute. You’ll need to add a little water to it, to get the dosa consistency, which is similar to any pancake batter.
Add the chopped onions and coriander into the batter. Stir well and add salt, depending on how you like it. Heat oil in a saucepan, and using a ladle, scoop and pour the mixture, making circles with the ladle. Try not to be too heavy-handed. You need to get adais that are crispy on the outside and not too squishy on the inside.

Eat with
Serve with parupu podi, pickles or even a kheema curry. It’s delicious and very satisfying.