Food, Top Feature

Keep a low profile

Whether it’s zucchini puttanesca or pad Thai made with heart of palm, our kitchens are offering more creative low-GI options in 2019

Dry January is over and cutting out carbs is officially bad for you. But people still want to live healthily, so this year Soho House chefs are focusing on a more sustainable approach, creating dishes with a lower glycaemic index than those based on traditional carbohydrates like pasta or rice.

For Maxwell Terheggen, head chef of Electric House in London, the transition has been rewarding. “Low-carb dishes force us to be more creative in the kitchen. It’s more challenging to make something that’s plant-based and equally delicious,” he says.

And from sweet potato fries in Berlin to chickpea pancakes in Chicago, our kitchen teams have risen to the challenge of creating dishes that give a slower burst of energy, but are tasty enough to be eaten rapidly.

Even Cecconi’s is getting in on the act, with a zucchini puttanesca and a butternut squash spaghetti on the menu. Traditionalist Giacomo Maccioni, director of Cecconi’s, is still getting used to the idea but acknowledges that this is what a lot of people want. “We always try not to mess with a classic. But if you do, that dish has to be an 11 out of 10.”

To meet these high standards, head chef Richard Budo spent a lot of time with UK director Tom Collins developing his spaghetti substitutes. “They have to be pan- fried rather than blanched or the butternut squash loses too much water, and the zucchini becomes soggy,” he says. Stronger flavoured vegetables they experimented with, including beetroot, did not need strongly flavoured sauces but the zucchini suited a powerful puttanesca. “They’ve been very popular dishes, especially in summer,” Richard says. “A lot of people eat gluten- free now, and I think others are just curious.”

An even newer idea is the pad Thai at the Soho Beach House, made with heart of palm noodles. Taken from certain palm trees, these edible cores are hyper nutritious and only 15-20 calories per 75g serving.

Back at the Electric, Maxwell is working on incorporating different cultural influences including Vietnamese, Indian and Thai. His low GI ideas like cauliflower green curry, kabucha squash with paneer, and brussels sprouts with nuoc cham don’t leave anyone feeling they’ve missed out, he says: “When you get it right they are the standout dishes on the menu.”

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