Review of Anthony Worrall Thompson’s GI Diet
You open the door to your guests with a serene smile of assurance, knowing that the aubergine caviar is ready to be passed around. The duck salad with chunky mango salsa is soon served at the candlelit table, followed by the pot-roasted guinea fowl and the final note is provided by compote of plums in spiced rosemary syrup. At the end of the evening you sink back with the satisfaction of having impressed and all the more because no-one would ever have guessed your big secret... that the whole meal was taken from a DIET cookbook.
Yes, if you really enjoy cooking and entertaining but wish to incorporate a healthy, low GI diet into your menu, then Anthony Worrall Thompson’s book, the GI Diet, is the book which takes diet into the world of haute cuisine.
If, however, you are a ready-meal addict, who can barely boil an egg, let alone poach one, but you wish to embrace the healthy world of the low GI diet, then please leave this GI book on the bookshop shelf. This cook book is not for the novice in the kitchen.
Scientific Know-How in Anthony Worrall Thompson’s GI book
The book explains how the author is convinced that a low GI diet is a scientific and practical approach to losing weight and eating in a healthy yet sustainable fashion. He devotes 30 pages to introducing the concept of a low GI diet and the scientific reasoning behind it. It is hard to achieve the right balance with this section of a low GI recipe book: too little information and it seems unsubstantial and too much and it feels as though one is reading a medical journal. This book does contain a pretty thorough introduction to the nutritional basis of the diet, which may be a bit too much for the pragmatist who just wants some ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures and then the lists of what to eat and what not to eat. It is worth ploughing through most of it, however, as one realises that the GI principles are not really quite as simple as the ‘bad’ lists and ‘good’ lists of food. Anthony Worrall Thompson gives some good low-GI tips in the introduction, which he then follows up in his recipes.
To give an example, mashed potato is a thing to be generally avoided in the low-GI world, but Anthony Worrall Thompson suggests substituting it with cannelloni bean mash (as in the shepherd’s pie with a GI twist) or mixing spinach in with the mash (as in the smoked haddock, salmon and prawn pie with a spinach topping.) There are many such suggestions which reveal how interesting and substantial a GI diet can be.
Quick and Easy Meals
This is the weakest aspect of the cookbook for those of us who regularly try to pull together something reasonably healthy is less than 20 minutes. Anthony Worrall Thompson gives no estimated timings for the meal preparation for any of his meals, which is a failing. Some meals look simple but when you read the instructions in detail, there are a few stages to the preparation and for most of us, the meal is not a practical week-night supper, let alone something to grab as you run out of the door. Tuna and Bean salad is a lovely recipe for a quick yet filling lunch, but recipes such as that are few and far between. He explains very few culinary terms, such as in the recipe for passion fruit curd, which has the concluding sentence: ‘Pour into a sterilised jar’; there is no assistance as to how to sterilise jars and I have a distinct feeling that 90% of the population would have very little clue as to how to do this, unless they are bottle-feeding a baby at the time... In many of the recipes, there is also an assumption that the reader has a food processor, knows what bain-marie is and how to use one and can obtain some fairly unusual ingredients (wood-roasted onions and pickled lemons to name a couple). The book assumes a significant knowledge of the kitchen and of culinary language.
Anthony Worrall Thompson gives some good low-GI tips in the introduction, which he then follows up in his recipes. To give an example, mashed potato is a thing to be generally avoided in the low-GI world, but Anthony Worrall Thompson suggests substituting it with cannelloni bean mash (as in the shepherd’s pie with a GI twist) or mixing spinach in with the mash (as in the smoked haddock, salmon and prawn pie with a spinach topping.)
In the GI world breakfast is a really important meal and Anthony Worrall Thompson does not even include a fast, microwaveable porridge recipe. Again, an indication that this book is based on the author’s lifestyle, rather than the average reader’s; maybe celebrity cooks do not have to be in the office by 8.30 that often... The rest of us who have left the alarm on snooze for an hour, yet still want to eat something which will keep us going until lunch, need extremely quick, low GI ideas for breakfast. We may not be making our own mountain bread, (though the recipe for the bread does look appealing), but we may consider Anthony Worrall Thompson’s muesli recipe, which can be put together at the weekend and then provide a great, quick breakfast during the week.
Yes, as I have already claimed, this book is an excellent source of low GI recipes for entertaining; there are some lovely recipes which do not shout “diet meal” and there is plenty of choice. The section on meat and poultry seems particularly inspiring. There are pictures for about half of the recipes, which is useful when planning to cook for guests and wanting to see what the end result looks like.
Surprisingly for a diet book, the pudding ideas are excellent. There are not many recipes in this section but they are versatile and could be used for entertaining and for a weekend, family meal. It can be hard to keep everyone happy with something sweet at the end of a meal, without breaking all the rules and ruining the effort you have made for the main course by increasing the GI index hugely. This recipe books helps with that dilemma. There is a comforting rice-pudding recipe and a number of fruit-based puddings. I tried the compote of plums in spiced rosemary syrup; they were delicious and pretty easy. The plums were poached in red wine, yet the syrup was not overly wine-flavoured; the alcohol had evaporated so even children enjoyed them (with a little extra sprinkling of sugar!)
The book for me?
Anthony Worall Thompson’s GI diet book is exactly as the title says: it is his book and he is a celebrity chef. He writes about how he has made these adaptations to his own cuisine and he tells his story in a personal and inspiring way. If you are already reasonably competent in the kitchen, this book will give you ideas as to how you can complement your own repertoire by changing certain ingredients and food-combinations. There are many recipes which reveal how interesting and substantial a GI diet can be.