American dietitian and author of Good Carbs, Bad Carbs, Johanna Burani, shares favourite recipes with a low or moderate GI from her Italian kitchen. For more information, check out Johanna's website. The photographs are by Sergio Burani. His food, travel and wine photography website is photosbysergio.com.
Bowties ‘n’ Beans
This dish is as nutritious as it is fast, economical and really delicious. The Italians seem to be able to prepare effortlessly wholesome dishes with what’s in the fridge or in the vegetable garden or at the local market. Makes 5 one-cup serves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
175g/6oz fresh spinach, washed and well drained, each leaf and stem quartered
6 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
400g (14oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (1½ cups)
pinch dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup hot water
2 cups uncooked farfalle (bowtie or butterfly) pasta
1 tbsp oil from sundried tomatoes jar
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano cheese
- Warm the olive oil in a large heavy pan. Add the garlic and the spinach and sauté on medium-high heat for 4–5 minutes or until the spinach leaves look wilted. Add the tomatoes, beans, thyme, salt and pepper and hot water. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and add to the sauce in the pan. Drizzle the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes jar over the pasta and mix well, using tongs. Serve immediately with the grated cheese on the side.
Per 1-cup serving
Energy: 962 kJ/ 229 cals; Protein 10 g; Fat 8 g (includes 1 g saturated fat and 3 mg cholesterol); Carbs 31 g; Fibre 5 g
Chicken and barley risotto
Barley is a healthy low GI grain that’s perfect for cheap eats at home. It’s also one of those magic foods we should be eating more of (nutritious and high in soluble fibre). It takes about 35 minutes to cook and you can use it in place of rice as a side dish (cooked in stock for extra flavour), or added to soups, stews and pilafs or to make a ‘cheat’s risotto’ like this one. Serves 4 to 6
450g (1lb) skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1½ cups pearl barley
5½ cups hot chicken stock
120g (4oz) green beans, trimmed, sliced into 3 pieces
1 cup frozen peas
¼ cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Pop the chicken in a small bowl with the vinegar and oregano, toss to coat and set aside for 5–10 minutes. Use the marinating time to chop the onion and trim the beans.
- Cook the chicken in 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan for 3–4 minutes over medium heat, turning to brown on all sides. Lift out and set aside, covered, to keep warm. Heat the remaining oil and sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft. Stir through the barley making sure it is well coated then tip in the hot stock, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and let the risotto simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the chicken and continue simmering for a further 10 minutes. Add the beans and cook for 3 minutes, then stir through the peas, parsley and Parmesan cheese, and cook until the peas have heated through (about 1–2 minutes). Taste, season with freshly ground black pepper and serve as is or with a tossed salad.
Per serving (based on 4 servings)
Energy: 2386 kJ/ 570 cals; Protein 39g; Fat 19g (includes 4g saturated fat and 96mg cholesterol); Carbs 53g; Fibre 13g
Barbecued chermoula lamb with pumpkin and eggplant burghul
GI News myth-buster, Nicole Senior, has published two cookbooks (Eat to Beat Cholesterol and Heart Food) both with home economist Veronica Cuskelly to show how deliciously easy it is to tuck into heart-friendly foods like vegetables, low GI wholegrains, fruits, nuts, fish and lean meats and healthy oils. This low GI recipe for two is from Eat to Beat Cholesterol. When we made it we found it could also serve three people for a lighter meal easily. Serves 2-3
200g (7oz) piece lamb (loin eye)
3 tsp chermoula (or a Moroccan) spice mix
½ cup burghul (bulgur)
1 cup boiling water
2 cups diced (1cm/½in) butternut pumpkin
½ cup sliced beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup sliced onion
2¼ cups sliced baby eggplant (aubergine)
Olive oil cooking spray
½ cup reduced fat plain yoghurt, lightly beaten
2 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
- Sprinkle 2 tsp of the chermoula spice all over the lamb and press into the flesh; cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the burghul, boiling water and remaining teaspoon of chermoula in a bowl and allow to stand for 15–20 minutes until the grains have softened.
- Place the pumpkin in a small saucepan, just cover with water and cook, covered, until tender, 4–5 minutes, add the beans and cook for a further 1–2 minutes. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid.
- Heat oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat and cook the onion for 1–2 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until cooked. Stir in the pumpkin, beans, the reserved cooking liquid and burghul and cook, stirring, for a further 1–2 minutes. Keep warm.
- Spray a barbecue with olive oil spray and cook the lamb as liked, turning once. Wrap in foil to rest in a warm place for 5 minutes then slice finely across the grain.
- To serve, spoon half the burghul mix on each plate and top with lamb slices and a dollop of yoghurt sprinkled with coriander.
Per serving (based on 3 serves)
Energy: 1718kJ/ 410cals; Protein 26g; Fat 13g (includes 3g saturated fat and 47mg cholesterol); Carbs 47g; Fibre 10g
Check out Nicole’s website for more information on Eat to Beat Cholesterol and Heart Food – they are packed with heart-friendly recipes the whole family will love.