During all the years I’ve written for the Irish Examiner, I’ve seen innumerable diet fads come and go, but have never advocated any regime. I simply encourage readers to seek out fresh naturally produced local food in season. Nothing I’ve seen or read has changed my mind, but the more I learn about the mass production of food and the problems associated with the intensive production systems and factory farming, the more convinced I am that organic is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Antony Worrall Thompson, one of the UK’s best loved chefs, presenter of Saturday Kitchen and co-presenter of BBC Food and Drink Programme, is passionate about organic food, good animal husbandry and the importance of local producers. Antony and his Irish wife Jay own four restaurants in London, including Notting Grill and Kew Grill. Both restaurants specialize in organic meat, fruit and vegetables, often supplied from their own farm. Antony is a keen proponent of healthy eating since he was diagnosed with Syndrome X, a pre-diabetic condition. He vowed to reverse this condition by eating well, losing weight and giving up the ‘smokes’. He structured his diet on the sound principles of the Glycaemic Index – the G. I. measures the speed at which foods are broken down by the body to form glucose, the body’s source of energy. High G.I. foods break down quickly and leave you looking for the next food fix. Low G. I. foods break down more slowly and leave you feeling fuller, longer. It is these low G.I. foods that form the core of the diet. The G.I. Diet makes all the calculations for you by listing all foods in three traffic light colour categories: red light foods which you avoid if you want to lose weight; yellow light listings are foods that are to be used occasionally; and green light foods – eat as much as you like. In short, The G.I. Diet will not let you go hungry or feel deprived. It is simplicity itself . It made perfect sense, so Antony embarked on this new exciting way of eating and of course wrote a book about his experience of the diet. He made it his mission to prove that one could still eat yummy, healthy food without it being boring. The book ‘Antony Worrall Thompson’s GI Diet’ has to date sold over 350,000 copies. Little did Antony realize when he started to write the book that it would be the diet of 2005. The GL (Glycaemic load) Diet is the next exciting extension of GI principles. As it is a more precise calculation of GI and portion sizes, it allows an even bigger range of foods in your diet with more generous portions. Researchers have found that not all carbohydrates are the same, which means that you can’t group all the carbohydrate-containing foods together, as some diets do. Some carbohydrates are digested more slowly – they are said to have a low GI – which means that our blood sugar levels don’t yo-yo up and down and we feel satisfied for longer. It is when our blood sugar dips that we feel hungry and prone to having a fit of the munchies. So, basing a diet around carbohydrates with a low GL without eliminating any of the important food groups means we can lose weight while enjoying a wide range of foods and a balanced diet. The GL (Glycaemic Load) Diet Made Simple is the third book in Antony’s series, based on the GI diet. It takes the diet one step further by balancing foods on the plate, looking at portion sizes which the GI doesn’t do. For instance, carrots have a medium GI but its rating is based on 500g which of course you wouldn’t eat in one portion. The GL calculates the glucose effect of a normal portion size, say 80g, which means that the glycaemic load is in fact very low. The real success of this diet is not just about losing weight but more important keeping it off. The front of the book gives lots of clear information on GI and GL food tables so you don’t need to do any complicated calculations. Even if one doesn’t have a propensity towards diabetes or syndrome X, this book is worth buying because choosing foods that release their energy slowly into our systems, rather than sugar laden goodies that give us an instant boost and then fizzle away, must be a good idea. Buy Antony Worrall Thompson’s GL Diet From Amazon published by Kyle Cathie.
Wholesome bars of goodness, these make a great snack with a glass of semi-skimmed milk. Wholegrain crispy rice is available in some supermarkets and health food shops.
Makes 12 25g (1oz) desiccated coconut 150g (5oz) ready to eat dried apricots 50g (2oz) dried cherries, cranberries or blueberries 2tbsp vegetable oil 2tbsp peanut butter 3tbsp clear honey 1tsp natural vanilla extract 100g (3½oz) whole rolled porridge oats 50g (2oz) wholegrain crispy rice 50g (2oz) raw cane soft brown sugar 25g (1oz) sunflower seeds ½ tsp ground cinnamon 50g (2oz) good-quality dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, melted (optional) Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Spread the coconut on a baking tray and cook for about 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Alternatively, dry-fry in a non-stick frying pan. Finely chop the apricots and cherries or whiz in a food processor. Put the oil, peanut butter and honey in a heatproof bowl in the oven for 1-2 minutes or in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, just until they are easy to mix. Stir in the vanilla extract. Mix all the ingredients except the chocolate until well combined then press firmly into a lightly oiled shallow 19cm square tin. Bake for 20 minutes then press lightly again. Leave to cool in the tin. If wished, drizzle with melted chocolate and leave to set, then cut into 12 bars.
Seared Scallops with Crushed Minted Peas
The secret to cooking scallops is to turn them in olive oil to moisten, then get the pan very hot before you add them. For a special presentation thread them onto rosemary stalks before cooking.
Serves 2 4 large fresh scallops (or 8 small ones) 1tsp olive oil freshly ground black pepper PEAS 15g (½oz) unsalted butter 6 spring onions thinly sliced 175g (6oz) frozen peas 150ml (5fl.oz) vegetable stock 2 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves Wash the scallops and pat dry on kitchen paper. Turn them in the oil and season with pepper. Set aside while you prepare the peas. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and soften for 1-2 minutes. Add the peas and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir the mint through then pulse in a food processor until roughly crushed. Return to the pan season with pepper and keep warm. Put a small non-stick frying pan over a high heat. When hot, add the scallops and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side (no longer or they will become tough). Remove from the pan and serve at once on top of the crushed peas. This is delicious with chunky oven-baked chips.
Quinoa is a South American Seed which can be used as a (gluten-free) alternative to rice or couscous. This is a tasty snack on its own with a green salad, or serve it as an accompaniment to grilled meats. Toasting the quinoa in a dry frying pan until it starts to pop enhances its flavour.
Serves 4 250g (9oz) quinoa 1 tbsp olive oil 2 onions, peeled and chopped 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 2 bay leaves 1tsp dried crushed chillies 400g (14oz) tinned chopped tomatoes 4tbsp freshly chopped parsley Put the quinoa in a non-stick frying pan and dry-fry over a medium heat, stirring frequently until it starts to pop. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until lightly golden if it starts to stick add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water. Add the garlic, bay leaves, chillies and tomatoes to the onions with an equal quantity of water and bring to a simmer, stir in the quinoa. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Stir in the parsley.
Prawn and Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing
Soak beansprouts in cold water for 5 minutes then drain thoroughly – it really improves their crunch! You can replace the rice noodles with other noodles such as soba (buckwheat).
Serves 4 100g (3½oz) thin rice noodles 250g (9oz) cooked peeled prawns 150g (5oz) beansprouts 150g (5oz) sugar-snap peas, roughly shredded 4 spring onions, shredded 2tbsp freshly chopped coriander 1tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan. Dressing 75g (3oz) coarse peanut butter 1tbsp reduced-salt soy sauce 1tbsp clear honey ½ tsp crushed garlic 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped 2tbsp rice vinegar For the dressing, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with 2 tablespoons hot water from the kettle. Put the noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to soak for 5 minutes then drain thoroughly and refresh in cold water. Drain thoroughly once more. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the drained noodles, stir the dressing through and serve at once.
Savoury Mince with Lentils
Mince is so versatile and easy to use and combining it with lentils reduces its GI as well as giving added interest and texture. This savoury dish is good as a simple meal with vegetables but also great spooned over a jacked potato – either a sweet potato or a traditional one – or with pasta. This recipe is also good for freezing.
Serves 6 400g (14oz) very lean mince beef 1 onion, peeled and chopped 1tsp English mustard powder ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 2tbsp Worcestershire sauce 2tbsp tomato puree 400g (14oz) tinned tomatoes 200g (7oz) green lentils, rinsed 2tbsp freshly chopped parsley 2tbsp freshly chopped chives Put the beef and onion in a large non-stick frying pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently until they are well browned. Add the mustard, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree and stir well. Add the tomato puree and stir well. Add the tomatoes with 1 tin of water and bring to a simmer. Stir in the lentils, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes until well cooked and reduced to a rich sauce. Add the chopped herbs just before serving.
Pork Fillet Stroganoff
Using yogurt instead of double cream dramatically reduces the calories in this dish – the cornflour is added to stabilise the yogurt as it’s warmed. Serve with noodles or brown basmati rice and a green vegetable or salad.
Serves 4 1tbsp vegetable oil 500g (18oz) pork tenderloin, cut into thick strips about 1 cm wide 15g (½oz) unsalted butter 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 250g (9oz) closed cup mushrooms, wiped and thickly sliced 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce 1tbsp Dijon mustard 1tsp paprika 150g (5oz) 0% fat Greek yogurt 1tbsp cornflour mixed with 100ml cold water Freshly ground black pepper Preheat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add the oil . Add the pork and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Add the butter to the pan, then the onion, mushrooms and thyme and pan fry until just softened. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, mustard and paprika. Return the pork with its juices to the pan and mix well. Combine the yogurt and cornflour mixture and fold through the meat to warm through. Season with pepper. You may like to add a little extra water for a thinner sauce or another tub of yogurt for a creamier sauce. Foolproof Food
Crunchy Breakfast Cereal
A healthy alternative to shop-bought products. Choose from the variety of fruit spreads available in health food shops to vary the final flavour slightly.
Serves 4 100g (3½oz) whole rolled oat flakes 100g (3½oz) rye flakes 25g (1oz) brazil nuts, roughly chopped 25g (1oz) whole almonds, roughly chopped 100g (3½oz) fruit spread (with out added sugar) 50g (2oz) plain bran cereal such as All-Bran 2-3 Bananas, to serve 100-150g (3½-5oz) Berries of your choice, to serve Semi-skimmed milk or low-fat natural yogurt to serve Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6. Combine the first five ingredients in a large roasting tin. Whisk the fruit spread with 4 tablespoons of boiling water to make a smooth puree then stir through the cereals, seeds and nuts until well mixed. Spread out evenly. Bake for 10 minutes, stir well and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until golden. Leave to go cold then stir in the All-Bran. Store in an airtight container. Serve with roughly chopped banana, berries and milk or yogurt. Hot Tips Second Wise Woman Weekend 26-28 May 2006 , Dromahair, Co Leitrim A weekend of learning, discovery, celebration and fun. www.wisewomanireland.com firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 071-913 4913 or 086-8286303 Hegarty’s Cheddar Cheese – This delicious mature cheddar is available in Cork in the English Market at On the Pigs Back and Iago, The Quay Food Company in Kinsale, and in Sheridans and Superquinn in Dublin – look out for it. Irish Foodwriters Guild (IFWG) Awards Four Irish speciality food businesses were honoured by the IFWG for the excellence of their produce. The Awards Ceremony took place at L’Ecrivain Restaurant in Dublin. Valerie and Alan Kingston won their award for their Glenilen Farm range of artisan dairy products produced on their small farm in Drimoleague, West Cork. Ballycross Apple Farm, Bridgetown, Co Wexford – award for their range of artisan, pure, natural fruit juices. Brady Family Ltd, Timahoe, Co Kildare – for its quality Irish hams. A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dublin Jack and Betty Hick for traditional hand-crafted pork products. Third generation family firm Keelings of Co Dublin , won an accolade for the production of quality Irish-grown peppers. Until this year, 95% of peppers on the €28 million home market were imported. Producing 1,500 tonnes of peppers a year under glass, Keelings created 50 jobs and consumers have peppers on their table a day after harvesting.