Twist and shout: The magic of spiralizers
Popular with people cutting back on carbs (courgetti anyone?) and parents looking to put a new twist on 'boring' fruit and veg, a spiralizer is a value gadget that easily ticks all the boxes, writes Isabel Hayes
The spiralizer was labelled the must-have kitchen gadget by Vogue at the start of 2015 and it's lived up to its name, with retailers reporting its popularity has gone through the roof. As more and more people jump on the healthy eating bandwagon, spiralizers are a cheap and easy way of eliminating carbs from meals and slashing the calories.
So what exactly is it? A spiralizer is an unimposing little machine which originated in Japan to aid in the sushi-making process. With the turn of a handle, it manually grinds hard root fruit and vegetables such as courgettes, sweet potato and cucumber into ribbons, spaghetti-type noodles or other shapes. As a result, the humble courgette is transformed into courgetti - a guilt-free replacement for spaghetti. Or cucumber can become cunoodles (cucumber noodles).
Spiralizers are popular with those trying to cut back on carbs or eliminate them from their diet and people who are following a gluten-free, paleo, vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. But they're also handy for parents who are struggling to get their kids to eat more vegetables. A peeled and spiralized courgette can be cleverly disguised as spaghetti, while children are also more attracted to the curly shapes.
Despite their growing popularity, spiralizers are not yet widely available in Irish department stores. Most consumers go online for their purchases on websites like Juicers.ie, Juiceland.co.uk and Amazon. Brown Thomas also stocks one spiralizer -the Hemsley & Hemsley model, €40.
"Demand for the Hemsley & Hemsley Spiralizer has increased tenfold over the last 12 months," says Edel Woods of Brown Thomas. "Turning vegetables into noodles and ribbons is a fantastic way to replace heavy gluten-dense pasta with light nutrient-rich vegetables and you won't be able to tell the difference. Not only is it nutritious but it's surprisingly filling too."
Liam Lennon of Juicers.ie has also seen demand rise sharply in recent years. Since he first started stocking spiralizers on the website three years ago, demand has increased "fivefold", he says.
"It's such a popular product and it's growing massively," he says. "It's all about healthy living these days and replacing pasta and carbs with things like courgette noodles and carrot noodles is so much healthier. If you look at the nutritional value of 100g of courgette compared to the nutritional value of 100g of cooked pasta or egg noodles, you'll see they're like chalk and cheese in terms of the amount of calories you consume."
Another key attraction is the price. Most models range from around €35-€60, meaning even those who are sceptical as to whether spiralizing is for them or not are more willing to take a chance on it.
There are also cheaper handheld spiralizers on the market, but these are extremely hard work and are limited to smaller pieces of fruit and veg. As a result, they're not half as popular as the worktop model.
In general, spiralizers all essentially do the same thing. Some hold the vegetable in place vertically, while others hold it horizontally, usually with a metal ring or plastic spikes. You then choose a blade depending on what thickness of noodle or shape you want to achieve, slot it in and turn the handle to make noodles.
There are a few extra features depending on how much money you want to spend. Some models have handy suction cups so you can attach the spiralizer to the worktop and avoid it slipping around. Others have a metal skewer for holding the vegetable more firmly in place.
One model, the Inspiralizer, which is available via Juiceland.co.uk (€56 approx), has all the blades held in place on rotation, so you don't need to slot them in manually. Another model, the Turning Vegetable Slicer (€56 approx, Juiceland.co.uk), is a catering-quality machine which can connect to a cordless drill or screwdriver to enable speedy motorised spiralizing.
Almost any hard root fruit or vegetable can be turned into noodles, including courgette, sweet potato, carrot, cucumber, apple, pear, mooli (giant radish), celery, parsnip, peppers, potato and turnip. Users report a surprisingly large quantity of noodles can be produced from a single vegetable - one sweet potato can supply enough noodles for two people.
There are dozens of recipes and even recipe books devoted to spiralizing these days to provide inspiration. The simplest recipe is courgetti, which can simply be added to a bolognese sauce towards the end of the cooking process to produce an al dente texture. Noodles can be sautéed, steamed or baked - sweet potato curly fries are a big hit.
"It's a strange phenomenon really, but all fruit and veg, even something as simple as an apple, tastes so much nicer when it's been spiralized," says Andrea Buxton of Juiceland.co.uk, which deals with a lot of Irish customers.
"We've probably sold spiralizers for about eight or nine years but it's only in the last couple of years that the growth in them has been quite astounding," she says. "At first it was mainly catering companies who were buying them but now everyone wants one for their kitchen. In the last couple of years sales have gone through the roof."
Mid-range models tend to be the most popular, according to Buxton, with the Spiralz Spiralizer and the Hemsley & Hemsley Spiralizer (both €40 approx plus €3.50 shipping) being the company's best sellers. "There is very little difference in them and they are both super models with strong ABS plastic. We give them a lifetime guarantee because they're so simple and easy to use and they're also really robust."
Buxton warns against going for cheaper models that may not have ABS plastic or long guarantees. "There are some really cheap copies out there and they just don't stand the test of time," she says. "You're better off getting it from a reputable seller if you want it to last."
Liam Lennon of Juicers.ie stocks the Lurch range, German-made appliances that range from €37.99-€59.95, plus €7.50 postage and packing. "A spiralizer doesn't require electricity, it's portable," he says.
"You can put it away and store it easily. But mostly, people buy it so they can replace their pasta with something that looks like pasta, feels like pasta and is much healthier than pasta."