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.
"Cauliflower is our go-to to replace high-starch potatoes or refined white rice. It's become a fridge essential; we joke that it's one of the only beige foods allowed in there," says Melissa Hemsley. "We grate it, mash it, roast it and use it as a pizza base for our flower-power pizza. This low-starch British veg is nutrient-dense and supremely versatile. A fluffy replacement for pilaf rice to go alongside our chicken curry, in place of bulgur wheat in our middle-Eastern inspired lamb meatballs with cauliflower tabbouleh, or made into a creamy mash as a wonderful side dish."
Jamie Oliver is another convert. He's been a fan of cauliflower rice since adopting a grain-free, Paleo diet in 2001 to deal with myriad health issues. He recommends using a food processor's "S" blade or simply grating the cauliflower's head to achieve the mock rice.
But, if you're time poor and don't fancy cleaning up specks of cauliflower from your kitchen for days afterwards, then Cauli-Rice launches at the beginning of next month. It's the brainchild of former marketing executive Gem Misa, who was a fan of homemade cauliflower rice but found it tricky to make with small children running around the house. In fact, enough people thought that Cauli-Rice was a great idea that she raised $900,000 (£575,000) through the crowdfunding site Crowdcube.
"And it tastes just like rice; the taste is important," says Misa. "There have been carb replacements in the past, like courgette noodles, but those had a very jelly-like texture and just didn't taste the same. People are really excited about it because it gives them the chance to enjoy meals they previously had to avoid if they were on a low calorie or low-GI diet."
Unlike Tesco's cauliflower couscous (about the only other ready made alternative on the market), which has a two-day shelf life, Cauli-Rice maintains its freshness for 12 months. You simply need to microwave or stir fry it before it's ready. And Misa points out that you won't be left with half a head of unused cauliflower either.
"We're trying to address food waste, too. And just acknowledging how busy people are these days."
With so many forgoing rice and other carbs for its healthy imitator, Uncle Ben, King Edward et al had better watch their backs.