The one thing I have learnt from trying to eat wholesome and healthy is not to look for substitutes. If you like cake, eat cake. Don’t try to make a gooey chocolate cake with chocolate frosting using coconut flour or carob as a substitute. You will be disappointed and will still be hankering after a real chocolate cake. Substitutes will always be that – a substitute. But cauliflower rice has been a revelation to me. I have become fairly obsessed with it; it’s one of those legitimate substitutes which sometimes even tastes better than the real deal. My favourite cauliflower rice meal is having it with a creamy butter chicken – the flavours meld so well together. So with a bit of experimenting, I tried to see how far I could take this substitute for rice. I found a winner in cauliflower fried rice. It’s like Chinese-style fried rice, only better. So next time you’re cleaning out the refrigerator, try this dish.
As a fried rice look-alike, this dish can hold its own. The cauliflower is chewy and nubbly in all the right rice-like ways. Bits of egg and tender vegetables also make it a satisfying meal on its own. This still feels like comfort food to me – just comfort food that’s sneaking a few more vegetables into my family’s day. It’s great to see this humble vegetable get some proper attention, rather than just being slathered in a creamy, cheesy white sauce.
Serves 4 hungry people or 6 not so hungry people.
• 1 medium head cauliflower
• Leftover cooked meats such as chicken, steak or sausage (they all work well here)
• 2 large eggs
• Butter to fry
• 1 tablespoon minced ginger
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
• 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
• ½ cup peas, fresh or frozen
• 4 green onions, thinly sliced
• ¼ cup cashews, almonds, or other nut
• 2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut the cauliflower into florets, discarding the tough inner core. Working in batches, pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it breaks down into rice-sized pieces. You should have 5 to 6 cups of cauliflower “rice.” If you don’t own a food processor, grating the cauliflower also works well.
2. Place the pan on a medium-high heat. Add a knob of butter. Whisk the eggs and pour them into the skillet. Quickly scramble the eggs, or make an omelette. Transfer the eggs to a cutting board and chop roughly into pieces if in omelette form.
3. Add another knob of butter to the pan and then add the ginger and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, for about 30 seconds.
4. Stir in the carrots and sauté until crisp and tender, for 2 minutes. Stir the corn, peas, and cauliflower “rice” into the pan, mixing the ingredients thoroughly.
5. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook until the cauliflower is tender, roughly 5 to 8 minutes. Uncover and stir in your chosen cooked meat, eggs, green onions, cashews and 2 tablespoons soy sauce.
6. Season with salt and pepper, and then taste, adding more soy sauce if needed. Serve immediately.
Fatima Bheekoo-Shah is a writer based in Johannesburg. She recently found her muse and spends her day practising her calling.