In the GI News Kitchen

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


Barley risotto with mushrooms and thyme
I’ve just returned from our summer visit to our home in Friuli, Italy. As always, I spent loads of time with my friend, Vanda. When we are together we inevitably start talking about food – new recipes, seasonal ingredients and things like that. This time was no different. Since Vanda is not a pasta enthusiast (silly girl!), we discussed the different ways we use barley in our homes. She uses it in place of arborio rice because, being diabetic, she’s found that her blood glucose levels are much better with barley consumption. On the plane ride home, I started thinking about this recipe. I made it for dinner the other night and we liked it. I hope you will too. Serves 4

120g (4oz) mushrooms (cultivated, baby bella, cremini), halved or sliced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery (no leaves), finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups stock/broth (vegetable or chicken), heated
2–3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked

Barley risotto with mushrooms and thyme

Warm a medium sized non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
Pour olive oil into a large non-stick fry pan. Heat on medium-high for 30 seconds, then add the garlic and vegetables and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Add the prepared mushrooms minus any water that resulted from their cooking. Add the barley and stir the entire mixture thoroughly. Pour 2 cups of broth into the barley-vegetable mixture, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for about 10 minutes or until the broth has been absorbed. Stir occasionally. Slowly add in the remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until all has been used and barley is cooked. This will take another 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, season to taste, sprinkle on the thyme and serve immediately.

Per serve
Energy: 690kJ/165cals; Protein 6g; Fat 3g (includes less than 1g saturated fat); Available carbohydrate 24g; Fibre 6g

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Spicy Caramelised fennel, valencia orange, tomato & olive ragout
Chef Mark Jensen wants us to eat more greens for our health and the planet’s which is why the vegetable chapter in The Urban Cook contains the greatest number of recipes. ‘I’ve done this deliberately,’ says Mark. ‘Traditionally, when we conceive of a meal we first decide on the meat protein component and then we choose the accompanying vegetables. I want to challenge this notion by encouraging you to choose the vegetables first. Draw inspiration from the seasonal produce in your greengrocer’s window and only then decide on the protein.’ Serves 6 as a side dish.

2 fennel bulbs, about 600g (1lb 5oz) each
4 Valencia oranges
1/3 cup olive oil
2½ tbsp white wine vinegar
200g (7 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
100g (3½ oz) black olives
handful parsley, roughly chopped

Spicy Caramelised fennel, valencia orange, tomato & olive ragout

Trim the fennel tops, reserving any smaller stems. Trim off the bottom core of the fennel bulb, then slice it in half. Continue to slice the bulb in half until you have eight pieces about 1.5cm (5/8in) wide at the thickest edge. Repeat for the second fennel bulb.
Cut the top and bottom off two of the oranges, then remove the rest of the skin by following the contour of the orange, working from top to bottom, with your knife. Work around the orange until all the skin and pith have been removed. To segment the orange, lay it on its side and slice in between the white pith towards the middle of the orange until all the flesh has been removed. Reserve the segments and place in a bowl. Squeeze the juice from the remaining two oranges, reserving the juice.
To cook the fennel, heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the fennel and fennel stems, taking care to lay the pieces flat in the pan, without overcrowding. You may have to fry the fennel in batches. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the fennel takes on a nice caramel colour, then turn and caramelise the other side.
Add the reserved orange juice and vinegar and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by a third.
Add the tomatoes, olives and orange segments and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the parsley. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve. This dish can be served hot or cold.
– Reproduced from The Urban Cook by Mark Jensen (Murdoch Books)

Per serve
Energy: 800 kJ/ 190 cals; Protein 2 g; Fat 13 g (includes 1.8 g saturated fat); Available carbohydrate 15 g; Fibre 4 g

Kathmandu stew
We always say that ‘people with diabetes should learn to love fabulously low GI lentils’. Did you know that they are a good source of plant protein too? You’ll be coming back for seconds with this mildly curried, mildly sweet red lentil and sweet potato stew from Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health (published by The Experiment). It’s satisfying served alone or with a simple raita made with soy yogurt, toasted cumin seeds, and cucumbers. Serves 4.

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp curry powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
pinch cinnamon
2 cups organic red lentils, rinsed
1 medium orange-fleshed sweet potato, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1–2 tsp sambal oelek or dried red chillies
4 cups water
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped

Toast the cumin seeds and powder, fennel seeds, curry powder, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon in a cast iron frying pan on high heat until the cumin seeds start to pop.
Add the red lentils and stir until the spices are mixed in. Add a splash of water and continue cooking and stirring. Add the sweet potato, carrots, onion, sambal oelek, and 4 cups water.
Stir, cover, and bring to a boil, then stir again, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes until the sweet potatoes and lentils are cooked. Add salt to taste, and serve garnished with fresh cilantro.
– Recipe is reproduced by kind permission of Moira Nordholt.

Energy: 1400 kJ/ 335 cals; Protein 25 g; Fat 3 g (includes 0.4 g saturated fat); Available carbohydrate 46 g; Fibre 17g