Dear reader, you know my tendency when discussing fairly common themes like substitutions to descend into snarky flippancy, right? Yeah, have no fear I’m as sardonic as ever! Let’s start this with the ever common opening: What are nightshades? Seriously, Google that, you’re here to be helped not to be faced with formulaic word-count increasers. You’re also here for actually experience, not just vague guesses and half-hearted reiterations of familiar ideas. I haven’t spent the last, what? Five years at this to start telling you I have a taco seasoning that’s better than the countless near identical recipes you’ve seen, because I’m not here to sell you on my brand nor am I here to threat you like the idiot I was made to feel time and time again when I placed my faith in the faint hope that maybe this time the recipe would be something new. Jack remembers the struggle, dear reader. As I sit here with strangely tight, but not unpleasantly so, abdominal muscles, abs of steel and a heart of gold, that’s honest Jack, I tell you honestly that I believe the substitutions here are, if not wholly original, very useful and worth considering.
Now, I’ve probably talked about these all a one point or another, but as new readers, all dear, old or new, come to the blog, while I sit here wondering why, it never hurts to collect what I know in a single post now and again. Now maybe you’ll think the effort to procure some of these too much to bother with and that’s fair, but it may help you with a little inspiration. Now, things like sweet potatoes for potatoes are a great idea, but there’s no point pointing that out again. I hope what I share here, all ideas I still use day to day, though there are others on the blog, almost all recipes are nightshade free after all, will make you stop and think. Maybe you share this post and help someone out. Maybe you put Jack in your will and bequeath him a haunted mansion. Who knows? I’m tossing this post into the churning sea of free from in the hopes it’ll act as a life-preserver for someone who was like me: Confused, scared, angry and unwilling to just settle. Okay, enough preamble, onto the meat of the matter.
Amaranth. Yeah, yeah, I hear ya, you’re saying that Jack never shuts up with the pigweed. I can say with certainty that I created this recipe for the most creamy nightshade free side myself. By mistake if I’m honest. It’s not only free from nightshades, but also dairy, eggs, sugar, corn and just nearly everything, if you’re stuck with a nut allergy there’s a tahini option just begging to be tweaked. What makes the cashew version so good, aside being creamy, decadently rich, but still healthy as they come, is that it can be adjusted to the texture you want, less nut butter will make it looser and lighter, whereas less oil and more nut butter will make a thicker, chewier side. It’s the reason you see it here so often. While I do love quinoa, it’s been a friend for a long time, the versatility and taste of nut butter amaranth just wins out every time. Plain amaranth wouldn’t be a match for potatoes, it’d be like making porridge and passing it off as mash. This is on a while other level.
Harlequin Squash. If you search harlequin squash on the recipe page you’ll see so many hits, with very good reason, harlequin squash is hands down the greatest potato replacement I’ve ever eaten. It can make anything from gnocchi to roasts, but, big but, I have no idea of the availability of harlequin squash outside of growing your own. Now, the markets here aren’t very big, the selection wouldn’t be considerable, so perhaps you’ll be able to find it amongst he squashes. I’ve eaten quite a few in my time and I’ve never tasted one to match potatoes like this does. The first one I ever ate made me panic as it was so like eating a potato. If you’ve ever read a gardening post you’ll know the great love I have or this big berry, there’s a reason I’ve spent a good seven or eight months each year of the last three years growing these wonders. If here was ever something I’d push as a necessary part of a nightshade free diet this would be it. I hope they’ll become as popular as they deserve to be.
Berries. Now it’s not to say that nightshade free sauces are rare, they’re not, I have literally dozens, but the use of fruit like a tomato in recipes can’t quite be replicated that easily. I’ve often seen vinegar used with berries, but histamine intolerances says no. But I feel that the fresh, slightly tart sweet balance of fruit is really interesting and worth exploring. Tomato ketchup was a common ingredients in the messes I used to call meals, but I couldn’t say that I could tell it was a fruit. The loss of tomato is the loss of a, sometimes subtle, backing flavour. You’d notice the absence if not the presence. Instead of just trying to emulate here I’ve instead tried to celebrate the ingredient. You’ll know you’re eating a strawberry curry sure, but you’ll enjoy the flavours. This is a case of if you can’t have, then take a different tact. Fruit pairs with so much, like the ever present tomato they can fit in almost anywhere.
Sichuan Flower Pepper. An old friend I’ve since revisited. This is the only spice that ever came close to cayenne. It has a numbing heat, when it touches the tongue there’s a burning numbing sensation, you’ll want to be moderate in your use of this. Though not the sinus-clearing fiery heat of cayenne, it’s very potent. Mix a little into your sauces for a potent punch. Combine with raw garlic to tear the roof off your mouth. I tell you I loved the intense heat when I used to eat it, the hotter the better, but too much does detract from the experience of savouring food. A little here and here, is pleasant though. When spicy heat is all but non-existent this is very welcome in any nightshade free pantry.
So, there we go, dear reader, just a few of the ingredients in my free from pantry. Not all by any means, but ones with parallels. I suppose I do miss nightshades, more the convenience than the taste really. It’s been so long since they’ve comprised any part of my diet that I just don’t even think of them as food. There’s no need I suppose, I’ve found replacements that have exceeded all expectations. Hopefully you’ve found this edifying, interesting and somewhat useful. I’ll be back again soon, dear reader.