Let's Make it A Bowl

Chef Pawan Bisht, Corporate Chef One8, tells us how to make your wholesome glass of smoothie,  picturesque and healthier.

By Madhulika Dash

Smoothies. The delicious after-effect of the 1940 innovation called the Blender – or more commonly The Mixie. It was that one home appliance that changed the way we pulverise. We could turn even the hardest nut into this glass of delicious milk thanks to the blender.

But smoothie – which many believe were the gourmet form of rustic juices served in Rome or in Indian context the panna we love – rise to fame wasn’t just for the easiness it brought to the
kitchen, but versatility. Says Chef Pawan Bisht, “come to think of it, smoothie, unlike milk shakes, allowed you the liberty to experiment. You could throw a probable mystery box and still come out with something that was delicious, wholesome and filling.”

By the late 80s, smoothies had become a go-to meal for the working class who found it a fantastic solution to a quick meal that could hold them in good stead till they reached for their favourite hotdog, coffee & croissant or a good Mumbai sandwich. By 90s it was a standard diet practice. 

Says nutrition therapist Sveta Bhassin, “The thing about smoothies is that it is the most delicious way to following a raw-diet with all the nourishment intact. However, smoothies, much like modern-day beverages, has its loopholes as well. For instance, too fine a smoothie often disrupts the fibre in fruits and vegetable; then comes the issue of added sugar and of course the wrong composition that can lead to it becoming more of yet another sugary indulgence than wholesomeness.”

The realisation, adds Bhassin, “of these little fall outs in smoothie gave rise to what we call Smoothie In A Bowl.”

A gradual progression to the once-famous Acai Bowl, says Chef Bisht, “this bowl version aided people to experiment with a wide variety of fruits, seeds, vegetables and even butter.”
Did it resolve the little ‘loopholes’ of a traditional smoothie? To a large extent it did, says Bhassin, who has used the version to help many of her “people” start eating things like sattu, ragi and such, which “they would otherwise not willingly. It was also a great way to introduce people into trying seeds like pumpkin, sesame, chia and such.”

But the biggest draw of the smoothie in a bowl was it being instagrammable. Which, say the experts, put it back into the worry corner with people overloading it or using too many sweet things one over the other. The idea of this original #eattherainbow concept was getting foiled. That was the situation till about 2012 when the bowl version saw a resurrection. And since then, add Chef Bisht, “it has inspired a lot of its variants both in the health quarters and definitely in the creativity corner.”

So how does one curate the bowl that is good? By following a few basic rules and lot of playful ideas, say Chef Bisht, who recently created bowls that could be had from breakfast to dinner.
Start by staying off juices, instead use coconut water or choose a fruit that have natural water in them like watermelon and muskmelon. Another good option is hung curd, which can give the
smoothie its velvety smoothness and taste.

Get the sugar from dates, dry fruits or honey. Remember each fruit used comes with its own quota of natural sweetness.

Think fat. Yes, we said FAT – the good one that we get from peanut butter, almond butter, avocado, mango, banana and even that bit of white-dark chocolate. These aren’t just what gives the smoothie in a bowl its brilliant texture but also taste that aids in digestion of what you eat.

Mix and match in 2:1 or 1:1 ratio. A good smoothie in a bowl will not have more than seven ingredients, which will be divided into primary ingredients, first layer flavour and of course garnish. A delicious wholesome bowl will have two different fruits and one vegetable. Ideally, one of the three primary ingredients should be a contrasting taste, and one should bring in the fat component in.

Now think layers: With your primary ingredient forming the base as a smoothie, now comes the question of assembling it in a bowl. If you are using fruits that have fibre, use them as garnish. While layering think the first and the last taste you would like to have. And then texture. Things like seeds, granola, oats mix and even chopped nuts ideally are placed in the centre and form the middle layer. 

Popped rice and millets however can be the top layer as well. So should orange segment. Salt and pepper are the secret ingredient. No matter how you base your smoothie – with hung curd,
butter or fleshy fruit – there is a good chance that you will be having a sweetness overload. Salt then can balance it to create the perfect layer of flavour, plus it helps the fibre and protein to break down slowly creating better taste with each spoon, especially if your base smoothie is of sattu or ragi.

Less is more. Like most dishes, the definition of a good smoothie in a bowl is less clutter. One could experience every aspect of it and know why it is there. Hence, most successful bowl will not have more than four to five ingredients with the maximum at seven, which includes the salt and pepper. A good start will be to use one fruit – mixed berry or a mix fruit salad if you want variety – one seed, one variety of nut, one granola bar/fruit/vegetable and a base fat, which can be yogurt or peanut butter. Hold the seed for garnish while the nut can go into the base after soaking it for a while.