Whatever you like to call them, I first heard of ‘bowls’ from JL Field discussing ‘hippie bowls’ on some podcast or other. Then I noticed the whole chapter on ‘Bowls & and a few plates’ in Isa does it. I’d read and heard about different kinds of bowls – I’d even made several – but I never really understood what they were until I saw Jenné Claiborne make one on Our Hen House TV, episode 8.
The simplicity of the process, and the scope for invention, got me experimenting with lots of different kinds of bowls. Now I’m hooked!
It’s just a new framework for your dinner
When Jenné Claiborne explained the framework of the ‘bowl’, I realised that it was just a different version of the ‘meat and 3 veg’ dinner plate that I grew up eating.
Like ‘meat and 3 veg’ the structure is the same each time, but the elements, combinations and flavours are different each time. The only difference is that the vegan bowl is kinder and far more delicious!
Knowing this framework, I stopped following bowl recipes, and started creating my own…and it’s great fun. And the all the family loves them.
Stating the obvious
I know it seems painfully obvious! I’m probably the last to figure them out, but here’s how it goes. (I’ve included lots of examples, not because you don’t know, but just to show how varied the bowls can be.)
1. Choose a grain
There is such a variety of grains to choose from:
- rice: white, brown, basmati, jasmine, long grain, short grain, wild, arborio, etc.
- noodles/pasta: soba, ramen, penne, etc.
- polenta: creamy or baked
2. Choose a legume
Here are a few that I’ve used in bowls:
- chickpeas, split peas, etc.
- beans: black-eyed, borlotti, red kidney, lima, etc.
- lentils: red, green, brown, black, etc.
- little burgers or balls made from legumes
3. Choose a non-starchy green vegie
- rainbow chard, silverbeet
- pak choy, bok choy
- kale: cavalo nero, curly
- broccoli, broccolini
- green beans
- brussels sprouts
- salad greens
4. Choose whatever other vegies you like
It’s great if you have some leftover vegies in the fridge. I’ve been roasting up a little tray of pumpkin, carrot and onion, and then keeping them in the fridge to last a few days. They seem to go well with everything. And avocado is just perfect to plop on top, because it makes just about everything delicious.
5. Choose a sauce
You can make one, using a recipe or just experimenting.
- one of my favourites, that I’ve mentioned before from VeganEasy, works really well with a bowl.
If you’re in a hurry, or have some good stuff in the fridge, you can also use pre-made sauces and toppings:
- dips, like hummous, babgannoush, etc.
- prepared sauces, like Mexican salsa, leftover pasta sauce. I’m also planning to try out some of those Juanita’s Kitchen simmer sauces I wrote about in my last post.
6. Choose a sprinkle or topper
- seeds – there are lots of nice toasted seed mixes in the shops if you’re in a hurry
- pickly bits, like sauerkraut or kimchi
- crispy noodles
- mixes like Gomasio or dulse flakes
- spice mixes, like za’atar or dukkah, I also love the ones from Screaming Seeds
- herbs, like parsley, coriander, basil, etc.
7. Put it all together
You could just chuck it all in a bowl, but that would just be a mess! Having said that, my son stirs the whole lot up anyway, and it still looks pretty good.
I’ve seen a few different explanations of how to ‘construct’ the bowl. Most that I’ve seen, say you pile it all up, but I like Jenné Claiborne’s method, because you can see everything and choose little pieces of each for each mouthful.
So, her method is to start by putting your grain on one side of the bowl, put your legume next to that, your greens in the remaining space and pile your other vegies on top. Drizzle your sauce over the top, then sprinkle with your topping. And there you have it – a simple, delicious feast in a bowl!
Some bowl combinations
Tragically, I’ve even found myself lying in bed imagining possible bowl creations. Yes, it’s come to that…
Here are some that we have enjoyed:
- Brown rice, black beans, pumpkin, broccoli, onion, corn, avocado, Ki’ Gourmet chipotle chilli sauce (I love this stuff!), pepita, sunflower and sesame seed mix, and parsley on top, and a piece of lime to squeeze over the top.
- Long grain white rice, fried tempeh, brussels sprouts, roasted onion, pumpkin, peanut sauce, parsley
- Wholemeal spiral pasta, borlotti beans, broccoli, carrots, tomato sauce with garlic, pepper and dried basil, olives and parsley (parsley is taking over our garden, so it’s been featuring heavily). This would also be great with a cheesy cashew sauce.
My son’s favourite
Soba noodles, baked tofu cubes (from Isa does it), steamed broccoli, roasted carrots and pumpkin, miso-tahini dressing (from Isa does it) and toasted sesame seeds.
My daughter’s favourite
Homemade naan, chickpea curry, roasted pumpkin, potato and Brussels sprouts. She made this one for our dinner on Saturday night. It still kind of fits the bowl structure, it’s just that the sauce is mixed in with the chickpeas, rather than drizzled over the top of the bowl.
My husband’s favourite
Brown rice, chickpea patties (bought – Bite Me), fresh salad greens, grated carrot, crispy noodles, avocado and kimchi.
That one was tonight’s dinner. It was a really good one for a weeknight, because it used shop-bought chickpea patties from Bite Me (below) and I didn’t have to cook any of the vegies. I just cooked the brown rice while I prepared the rest of it, and quickly fried the patties to heat them through and crisp them up.
Brown rice, chickpeas, roasted carrots (in 3 colours), roasted onion, sauteed rainbow chard, hummous dressing from VeganEasy, seed mix and parsley.
Bowls can be fast food or slow food
You can make these really quick, by using tinned beans or prepared patties, a quick grain like couscous, prepared sauces and salad vegies – or you can spend all day roasting bits and pieces, blending sauces, cooking dried beans, toasted seeds…you get the picture.
I don’t think we’ll get sick of them any time soon
This probably seems like a whole lot of fuss over nothing, but this has really changed the way I prepare dinner. I already have a basic structure for each dinner, so I only have to think about which pieces to fit together – just like the old meat and veg.
Of course, I’ll still cook a soup or a curry or lasagna, but I’m pretty sure these bowls will be the basis of most of our dinners – for quite a while, anyway.
The 2 videos that started me carrying on about this…
Watch the episode of Our Hen House TV with Jenné Claiborne preparing her bowl.
Here’s Jenné Claiborne making her Berbere Bowl