London - Up until recently, I thought the only use for cauliflower was to slather it in a white sauce, top it with giant handfuls of cheddar cheese, and serve it alongside a roast rib of beef.
But it turns out there is an entire population out there for which cauliflower is actually a virtuous food item, used as a substitute for just about every carb going.
If you take even the faintest interest in healthy eating, then you'll already know about the rise of cauliflower rice, mash, couscous, pizza bases, and flour (cauliflour, if you will). Its versatility is quite a wonder; it seems there's nothing that can't be substituted with cauliflower. They'll be using it to sort the housing crisis next.
But with the first packaged cauliflower rice about to hit our supermarkets, it's becoming less of a dodgy diet fad and more of an acceptable fixture in kitchens across the country. Once something is in Tesco (where Cauli-Rice will be launching), it's gone mainstream.
There are a number of reasons behind its vast popularity: whatever format the cauliflower comes in, be it rice or mash, it will be lower in calories than its original manifestation (25 calories per 100g compared with about 140 calories per 100g of cooked white rice); it will have fewer carbs; and it helps you reach your five a day. Nor will you feel like you're missing out on bulk. Maybe the health nuts are on to something. Those well-known purveyors of guilt-free eating, the Hemsley sisters, often turn to cauliflower to reduce their carb load.