Look, let me get a couple of things of my chest first. I like sweet potato as much as the next paleo-bro but why does everyone behave as if this is the only legit source of carbs out there? Sweet potato is one of my favourite root vegetables but there are countless options out there to keep you interested and your intake of micronutrients well diversified. You hear people go on and on about, ‘Bro I have to smash 5 sweet potatoes a day to hit my carbs’. Ummmm, no you don’t. And another thing, who made the decree that white potatoes are not paleo? It’s almost as if it was written into some mysterious Paleo constitution by founding fathers whose insights have long since been lost and whose historical context is now invalid. There is absolutely nothing wrong with white potatoes. Sure, if you double deep fry them in goose fat you may be missing the point but white potatoes are, despite fervent popular opinion, rich in minerals and vitamins. let’s not discriminate against food based solely on colour, hey? Just because potatoes are white, doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer.
Phew! Now that’s out the way, let’s get into the wonderful world of paleo-friendly carbohydrates. Before I get back to root veg, I want to incentivise you to read all the way through. Because after I polemicise on the divine goodness of other root veg I’m going to introduce you to the most effective and most under-appreciated starch carb of them all: the boiled chestnut. Derided, forgotten and ignored, the chestnut is simply the most versatile choice you have in the paleo arsenal. Stay tuned to find out why!
Ok, so let me re-introduce you to some of my root vegetable pals. Some of these may sound like strange relics from Tudor England, but they are actually foods available to the modern human:
– Butternut Squash
– Jerusalem artichoke
– Turnips / parsnips
I regularly cook and eat squash, swede, jerusalem artichoke and beetroot (not from packets). These foods are incredible: 10-30g of carbohydrate per 100g raw, tons of varied micronutrients, lots of fibre, delicious tasting. Why crush endless sweet potatoes when you can throw in some of these too? And it’s not as though they are hard to cook. There are at least 3 easy, quick and delicious ways to cook all the root veg above.
As per my post last week, you can throw any root veg, once chopped (and maybe peeled) into a roasting tray with mushrooms, peppers and cherry tomatoes for 50 mins on 180 degrees and you will get an amazing stew of soft veg in earthy tomato sauce. Just make sure to season with salt, pepper and olive oil. Batch cook this for a lasting source of balanced meals.
Make a hash with them
Again you can use any of the veg above and in any combination. Peel and chop some root veg into small cubes (2cm max), as well as some peppers and cherry tomatoes. Peel and chop a white onion or two and a clove of garlic. Sauté the onions and garlic until slightly brown and then add the root veg. Stir and fry until the root veg begins to soften. Season with salt, pepper and herbs (my favourite combination is Herbes de Provence with a little smoked paprika). Now add 1 cup of water and two teaspoons of Bouillon vegetable stock. Cover and leave on a medium heat for 15 minutes or until the veg has softened all the way through. You can test by putting a fork in to a piece of root veg. The fork should easily get right the way through (unless you are using a harder veg like beetroot!). Honestly, this is absolutely unreal!
The lazy way
If you are feeling lazy, butternut squash and jerusalem artichokes are your best friends. With a butternut squash, you can simply halve it, scoop out the seeds, season with olive oil, salt and pepper and shove in the oven, as is, on 180 for 50 mins. When it comes out, simply eat directly from the skin with a spoon! If you’re not a paleo-zealot, you might even combine with some tahini. The size of jerusalem artichokes make them a winner. If you peel them and slice thinly you can sauté them with bay leaves and a little stock (or white wine if you’re feeling edgy) and be ready in less than 10 mins. I hate to mention our old friend the sweet potato, but they also fall into the lazy-friendly category. With a sweet tatty, you can simply lob it into the over at 180 for 50 mins in the skin with zero preparation. After it has cooked, simply cut the skin with a pair of scissors down the central line and scoop out the flesh. A little salt, pepper and olive oil and your laughing.
The world’s most versatile paleo carb
And another thing: root veg is not your only option. Let me introduce you to the world’s most versatile starchy carbohydrate, THE BOILED CHESTNUT! I absolutely adore these things. Why? First of all, there is simply no other more convenient paleo-friendly carb for when you are on the go. That’s because all you have to do is carry a packet with you and pop it open when you’re ready for lunch. The boiled chestnuts are ready to eat and pack a lovely 33g of starch per 100g cooked. 1 pack is going to get you 50g of carbs. That will suit many, many purposes. What other paleo starch can you just carry around and pop open like a can of Coke?
That’s not all. The second amazing thing about chestnuts is that they buddy up with your favourite green veg in magical ways. They can make kale or Brussel sprouts into sublime things (I say that as a guy who loves both as it is). Simply add some chopped chestnuts while sautéing kale or sprouts (or anything else for that matter) to produce a wondrous combination of earthy carbs and green goodness. When it comes to dinner, this is about as nutrient dense as they come. Pair with some fish or chicken for a balanced meal.
To conclude, if I hear another person moan about how many sweet potatoes they have to eat or complaining about how they ‘have’ to eat rice, I may lose my temper. Look: eat rice if you want; bore yourself to death with the orange tater til the cows come home but don’t pretend it must be so. There is a world of health-giving, taste-bud enchanting choices out there if you brave the unfamiliar world of swedes and squashes. They aren’t so exotic. Just shove them in the oven and shut the fuck up.
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