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.
Chocolate glazed almonds
The Easter meal is a grand event all over Italy. The different regions prepare their local traditional recipes – all delicious. When it comes to dessert, however, there is a standard commonality. All over the country, a ‘Columba’ cake is served to herald the last of the several Easter meal courses. ‘Columba’ means ‘dove’ in Italian, the shape of this butter cake. To accompany our Columba, I often serve these delicately glazed almonds. Sometimes they disappear before the Columba! If an espresso machine or coffee maker is not available, use instant espresso coffee granules and follow instructions on the jar. Servings: 16 (2 pieces per serve)
2 cups blanched, roasted almonds (see tip below)
100g (3½oz) 90 % cocoa dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
90g (3oz) semi-sweet morsels
1/3 cup freshly brewed espresso coffee (regular or decaf)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau orange liqueur (optional)
Place the almonds in a single layer on parchment paper to form a 32cm x 15cm (13in x 6in) rectangle.
Mix the chocolates in a small double boiler and gently melt, using a small spatula to blend. Add the pinch of salt and mix.
Brew the coffee and immediately add to the chocolate mixture. When well blended, add the butter, allow to melt. Stir to blend thoroughly. If using, add the liqueur and mix well.
Carefully pour a thin layer of the mixture evenly over the almonds. Allow to air dry overnight or refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into pieces 3.5cm x 5cm (1½in x 2in).
To blanch almonds: Place almonds in a medium sauce pan, cover with water and boil 2–3 minutes. Drain. When cooled, slip off the outer layer and pat the almonds dry.
To roast almonds: Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF degrees. Arrange almonds in a single layer in a jelly roll pan. Toast for 15–20 minutes. Cool before using.
Per serving (2 pieces - made with Grand Marnier)
Energy: 823kJ/196cals; Protein 5g; Fat 16g (includes 4g saturated fat and 2mg cholesterol); Available carbohydrate 6g; Fibre 3g
Cut back on the food bills and enjoy fresh-tasting, easily prepared, seasonal, satisfying and delicious low or moderate GI meals that don’t compromise on quality and flavour one little bit with this Money Saving Meals recipe making the most of barley. For more recipes check out the Money Saving Meals website.
Chicken and barley soup
Barbara Solomon’s totally, totally delicious soup from the Monday Morning Cooking Club nourishes body and soul. Use up leftover roast chicken, or simply pick up half a chicken (without stuffing) from the takeaway and shred the flesh, discarding the skin and bones. It’s a winning combination. Makes 8 servings.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g (14oz) can diced or crushed tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock (home-made is best, but a bouillon cube is fine)
1 cup pearl barley
2 cups shredded chicken meat (no skin)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions, carrots and celery until sort. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil.
Add the barley and reduce the heat to a simmer, then cook for about 50 minutes (no lid0 or until the barley is tender. Add the chicken and parsley, and stir to heat through. Season well and serve.
Monday Morning Cooking Club started back in 2006 when six Jewish women who live in Sydney came together on a Monday morning to share recipes and talk about food. What started as an idea to raise money for charity (over $230,000 to date), grew into a project to document their community’s somewhat obsessive relationship with food, and became a beautifully photographed (by Alan Benson) book with 100 recipes from 65 ‘contributing cooks’. It’s available from their website HERE.
Per serving (based on making 8 servings)
Energy: 885kJ/210cals; Protein 12g; Fat 8.5g (includes 1.6g saturated fat); Available carbohydrate 20g; Fibre 4.5g1
For a special occasion …
Lemon pepper lamb with braised eggplant
Here’s a dish for an Easter feast served with creamy tzatziki. You can buy tzatziki from the refrigerator section of the supermarket or make your own by mixing together 1 cup low-fat plain Greek-style yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ⅓ cup grated carrot or cucumber, 1 clove finely chopped garlic, and a pinch each of salt (optional) and black pepper. Serves 4–6
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup grated lemon zest
800g/1¾lb lamb loin
6 small or 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1in cubes
Olive oil spray
2 red onions, each cut into 8 wedges through the root end
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
6 cups baby spinach
½ cup low-fat tzatziki
Combine the pepper and 2 tablespoons lemon zest and press well into the lamb (add a little flaky sea salt to the mix if you wish). Set aside.
Lightly salt the eggplant and set aside for 15 minutes, then rinse really well and drain on paper towels.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Spray well with oil and cook the onions until softened. Lightly spray the eggplant with oil. Add to the pan and cook for 4–5 minutes, shaking the pan regularly (add a little stock if it starts to stick). Add the chickpeas and remaining stock and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, garlic, remaining lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Meanwhile …
Heat a nonstick grill pan over medium-high heat. Spray with oil and cook the lamb for 2–3 minutes on each side for medium-rare, or longer if preferred. Remove the lamb, cover with foil and then a tea towel, and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Cut into 2cm/¾in thick slices. While the meat is resting …
Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and remaining lemon juice in a small saucepan and gently warm through. Add any lamb resting juices.
Divide the spinach, lamb, and eggplant mixture among four plates. Drizzle with the dressing and serve with tzatziki.
Per serve (based on making 6 servings)
1554kJ/370cals; 34g protein; 26g carb; 15g fat (includes 5g saturated fat and 3mg cholesterol; 6g fibre
From High Protein, Low GI, Bold Flavor: Recipes to Boost Health and Promote Weight Loss, copyright © Fiona Carns, 2012; reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.
Hot cross buns
This recipe has a moderate GI value (66). Note that it uses the Australian 20ml tablespoon. If you use a 15ml tablespoon, you will need to add 2 extra teaspoons of the psyllium, caster sugar and golden syrup. The great thing about home cooking is you get to decide the portion size. We made 26 medium-sized buns.
3 cups 00 flour
1 1/3 cups wholemeal plain flour
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
2 tablespoons pysllium
2 tablespoons caster sugar
4 teaspoons dried yeast
3 teaspoons mixed spice
200g (7oz) raisins, finely chopped
1¾ cups reduced-fat milk
60g (2oz) 40% reduced-fat margarine
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 small egg
Cooking spray, for greasing
1 extra small egg, lightly whisked, for brushing
1/3 cup 00 flour
2½–3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup 100% fruit spread
1/3 cup water
Combine the 00 flour, plain flour, spelt flour, pysllium, sugar, yeast and spice in a large bowl. Stir in the raisins. Heat the milk, margarine and golden syrup in a small saucepan until the margarine melts and the mixture is lukewarm. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg. Add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and prove in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
Preheat oven to 180 C (fan-forced). Spray a swiss roll pan or large baking tray with cooking spray. Punch down the dough with your fist and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes or until the dough returns to its original size. Divide the dough into 18 equal portions. Knead each portion into a ball and place close together in the pan. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside for 20 minutes to prove or until buns rise up and touch each other. Meanwhile, to make the paste …
Place the flour and water in a small bowl. Beat until smooth, until a little more water if the paste is too thick. Spoon into a small plastic bag.
Brush the tops of the buns with a little egg. Snip a small hole in the corner of the bag and pipe the flour paste to form crosses over the buns. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until the buns are cooked through and golden brown.
To make the glaze, put the fruit spread and water in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the spread melts. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the mixture reduces and thickens. Pour through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Turn the hot cross buns out onto a wire rack. Brush the tops of the buns with the glaze and set aside to cool.
Keep the hot-cross buns in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Alternatively, wrap individual buns in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Label and freeze for up to 3 months, defrosting as required.
Per serving (1 medium-sized bun - 70 g)
Energy: 730kJ/175cals; Protein 5g; Fat 2.6g (includes 0.6g saturated fat and 13mg cholesterol); Available carbohydrate 32g; Fibre 3g