Saturday 21 April 2018

Trendy food to bowl you over

Thanks to Nigella and Gwyneth getting deeply dishy, avocado and toast is no longer the default order for fashionable foodies

Deeply dishy: Nigella Lawson
Deeply dishy: Nigella Lawson
Gywenth Paltrow
Rosanna's Turmeric cauli bites
The Nation's Favourite Healthy Food
Neven Maguire's Pad Thai Stir Fry

Shane Watson

Goodbye, plates. Hello, bowls. If you want a little prediction for the year ahead prepare for small bowl takeover in 2016. It may not sound like much of a trend - goodbye, plates has more of a ring to it - but bowl food is where we are all heading.

"We are now in the age of the phenomenon I have come to think of as 'things in a bowl'," says the Los Angeles Times's restaurant critic. Nigella Lawson devotes a whole chapter of her book Simply Nigella to bowl food and admits: "If I could, I'd eat everything out of a bowl."

Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow's high-end lifestyle website Goop claims that wise people (for which read: affluent style leaders) say "everything tastes better in a bowl". You may think this is hard to get excited about, but you might have thought the same about coconut water and avocados on toast and look how that ended.

Actually, the bowl revolution is likely to be bigger than all of the above because it requires a shift towards bowl-friendly food. Lawson writes (in Simply Nigella): "For me 'bowlfood' is simply shorthand for food that is simultaneously soothing, bolstering, undemanding and sustaining."

She goes on to explain that she's not talking about comfort food in the sense of nursery stodge but food that can be simply spooned or forked out of a bowl, "each mouthful satisfyingly the same as the one before". So bowl food is food that doesn't need cutting or combining, dipping or twiddling around a fork; a risotto-style experience that's as effortless and comforting as spooning Häagen-Dazs out of the tub. Only this is 2016 so culinary trends are about healthy mindful eating first and foremost and bowls are the first word in healthy eating. It's got to the point where if you want to serve healthy, nutritious, balanced food (especially during the day) you're probably putting it in a bowl.

Lean proteins, greens, vegetables and whole grains are the classic bowl-friendly ingredients - nothing too chewy, nothing too unwieldy or bulky - and the bowl is a key part of the experience. The blogger and author Sara Forte has written a whole book about bowl food, Bowl + Spoon, in which she identifies the bowl as the perfect vessel in which to create simple, delicious and healthy meals.

It's the idea of a bowl containing a complete meal, just enough of everything combined in one manageable pot, that appeals to chefs and diners. Nothing is avoided or pushed to one side. Everything "nestles against each other" in a marriage of flavours, textures and balanced nutrients. Bowls put paid to picking at food, and they're small enough that the diet-obsessed can relax and accept their perfect portion control. And, practically speaking, bowl eating has the edge on the old retro flat plate: just spoon and go, no need to put down your phone or your iPad.

This trend all started in earnest with smoothie bowls, which - a bit like avocado for breakfast - got the photogenic vote on Instagram. From there via grain bowls and quinoa under poached eggs next to wafer-thin sliced radish and avocado, the world went bowltastic. Classic bowl combinations are deliberately packed with nutrients so bowl food has a reputation like no other. There's often an egg in there, usually kale, or a big hitter on the superfood chart and the picturesque ratings, such as hot pink dragon fruit. It's a bit like Net-a-Porter packaging - if it comes in a bowl you already feel confident about the contents.

Mainly, though (talking of Net-a-Porter), if you check out the pictures of bowl dishes you will quickly see that you get something seriously good looking in a crowded, colourful, intense hit that you just can't get on your regular plate: less is more packed in and prettier. This is lady-friendly food to show off to other ladies.

At the Egg Shop in New York City the bowls are called the Spandex (poached egg, avocado, quinoa) and the El Camino (poached egg, pulled pork, tomato, tortilla strips) and are as dazzling as they are popular to eat.

Poké, Los Angeles's favourite new food trend by way of Hawaii, is bowls - basically - containing deconstructed sushi. It's all bowls. Small bowls. You read it here first.

Rosanna Davison's Turmeric cauli bites

Serves 2


2 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast, plus extra for sprinkling

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp melted organic virgin coconut oil, plus extra for greasing

1 tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp smoked paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

3-4 drops of liquid stevia

Himalayan pink rock salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into small bite-sized pieces


Preheat the oven to 190°C. Lightly grease a baking tray with coconut oil.

In a big mixing bowl, stir together the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, coconut oil, turmeric, smoked paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper (if using), a few drops of liquid stevia and some salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower pieces and mix together well to ensure that each piece is liberally covered in the spices.

Spread the coated cauli bites out on the greased tray. Sprinkle a little more nutritional yeast on top.

Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the florets over and cook for 5 minutes more to allow the pieces to turn golden brown and crispy. Serve straight away in a bowl while still warm.

'Eat Yourself Beautiful' by Rosanna Davison is published by Gill & Macmillan at €24.99

Neven Maguire's Pad Thai Stir-Fried Noodles with Pork

Serves 4


175g (6oz) Thai flat rice noodles (preferably Thai Gold brand)

100g (4oz) roasted peanuts

Juice of 2 limes

1 red bird's eye chilli, finely sliced

3 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp shrimp paste (from a jar)

1 tsp palm sugar (optional)

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

350g (12oz) piece of pork fillet, well trimmed, halved and thinly sliced

2 eggs, beaten

2 shallots, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

200g (7oz) beansprouts

4 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander, plus extra sprigs to garnish

Lime wedges, to serve


Soak the noodles in a large bowl with enough boiling water to cover them for 15 minutes, until softened and pliable. Drain the noodles in a colander, then place in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 45 seconds, until tender, or according to the packet instructions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, blend the roasted peanuts in a mini blender or roughly grind using a pestle and mortar. Set aside.

Mix together the lime juice, chilli, fish sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, shrimp paste and the palm sugar, if using, in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok until very hot, then stir-fry the pork for about 5 minutes, until cooked through and just turning golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Pour in the eggs and quickly swirl the wok so that the egg sticks to the sides in a thin, even layer. Leave for about 30 seconds, until the eggs are just set, then break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Remove and set aside with the pork.

Wipe the wok with kitchen paper and return it to a medium heat, adding the remaining tablespoon of oil. Stir fry the shallots and garlic for 2-3 minutes, until softened and just beginning to brown. Pour the lime juice mixture into the wok and simmer for 1-2 minutes, until it has reduced and thickened slightly.

Add the drained noodles, beansprouts, spring onions and coriander to the wok. Toss for 1 minute to wilt the beansprouts, then return the cooked pork and egg to the wok and toss everything to combine.

Serve the pad thai noodles in warmed bowls. Garnish with sprigs of coriander and place the lime wedges and a little bowl of the ground peanuts to one side.

'The Nation's Favourite Healthy Food' by Neven Maguire is published by Gill & Macmillan at €22.99.

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