31 August 2008

Bottle supermarket Smoothies can be expensive to buy - they cost at least 2 or 3 times as much to buy as it would to make your own. Any household looking to eat well should always have a stocked fruit bowl, fruit is not only relatively cheap, but it is a much healthier snack than crisps, cakes and sweets. When it gets a little over-ripe, then pop it into a smoothie.

Smoothies are really quite easy to make, and are also a really good way to get the five a day.

Because the pulp of fruits stays in smoothies, you are getting the fibre associated with them, and not just the sugars which are in juices - although a fruit juice makes a good base for a smoothie.

Stuff you will need to make a smoothie

Fruit - you can use fruit that is slightly past its prime for this. Bruised or damaged fruit is perfect for smoothie making.

  • Some fruit juice for a base.
  • You will need some sort of blender to do this. A hand held blender can be used, but will be hard work and take longer. The kind with blades inside the jug will work best. Also a hand operated blender could be used, but this is a job made easy with an electric blender.
  • A jug (unless the blender is the right kind which includes the jug), preferably a few litres.
  • Some cups, and even bottles to pour it into. Use bottles so you can take it to work with a lunch box and really show off a bit.
  • A chopping board to slice fruit (or veg).
  • A good sharp veg knife (and possibly a peeler).
  • A kitchen with a door - making smoothies can be quite noisy.
  • Optionally - you can have some ice.
  • A bit of patience.

Choosing fruit, veg and other ingredients

You then need to choose the fruit. Bananas go well with summer berries like strawberries, blueberries etc.

Plums, apples, mangoes, peaches and pears go well together, but be sure to let the pears ripen until soft, until that grittiness has completely gone.

With most fruit, do not restrict yourself to one variety - a well stocked fruit bowl should vary the fruit seasonally and have a couple of varieties on the go. For example, there are different seasonal varieties of apples throughout the year, Sweet varieties and tart varieties give smoothies different flavours. Russets give a more delicate perfumed flavour.

Bananas that are mostly brown are good, bananas that are still a little green are not suitable. Ones with a number of brown spots are also fine.

Watermelon adds a lot of liquid to a smoothie, and makes it too sweet, so don’t go overboard with it. Honey melons add a bit less liquid, but still can make a smoothie a little over sweet.

Pineapple adds a lot of sweetness and tang to a smoothie. It can also make it quite acidic so be careful.

Carrots, Beetroot and celery are also used often in smoothies.

Carrots are always good in smoothies, they add a little sweetness but not too much, and also add a fair amount of bulk. Do not overdo it though, as they can overwhelm other tastes quite quickly.

Beetroot adds real colour and flavour to a smoothie. It adds body and fibre too, which is good for a detox.

A selection of herbs are also used in some smoothie recipes.

Root ginger chunks make for adding some zing. Fresh Basil or mint give crisp fresh flavours to a smoothie.

Also, to keep it juicy, we normally use a fruit juice as a base. Apple juice makes for quite a sweet smoothie, where orange juice makes for more of a tangy one.

In my opinion, Basil gives smoothies a nice fresh taste. It is a member of the mint family, and it is sure to be healthy. I don’t know the nutritional content or benefits of it, but I really think it gives a nice twist to a smoothie.

I love foods with a kick to them. I am a fan of chillies, wasabi, mustard and horseradish. I wouldn't put those in a smoothie, but I think Ginger is a nice flavour in deserts, biscuits and smoothies. Who can say no to Ginger Crunch biscuits anyway!

Ginger is suppose to be good for the digestion too, although smoothies generally have a lot of fibre which is also good for that. Again, it is not for any real health reason, I just love the taste!

Preparing fruit to go into a Smoothie

With apples or pears, it is simple, core them, slice them, and drop them into the blender. Bananas are also easy, just skin them, slice them, and drop them in.

Peaches, plums and cherries need to be destoned then sliced and dropped in. You may optionally want to deseed grapes or use a seedless variety. Pull the tops of strawberries. Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries go straight in.

Mango can be prepared by removing the stone, removing the skin and slicing.

Prepare carrots by simply washing them well, top and tail them, slice them and drop them in.

Watermelon needs to be skinned, seeded and sliced. Honey melon (Guadalupe and other similar melons) can be sliced and used in smoothies by deseeding and slicing away from the skin.

Pineapple - fresh pineapple can be difficult to skin, and I will admit my wife usually does this.

Cooked beetroot is easiest, simple slice it up and drop it in. Fresh beetroot needs to be thoroughly cleaned, then skinned and sliced before it can go in.

To add zing to a smoothie, a chunk of root ginger can be chopped and blended in. This is even more effective if you make a paste of it with a mortar and pestle or a small herb blender before adding it. With tastes like ginger, surface area is fairly important for getting it to diffuse through the mix, and not merely be chunks of ginger.

Basil - surprisingly basil can go well in a smoothie, although this needs to be fresh basil not the dried type. The best kind of basil to use for this is basil you have grown yourself. Alternatively, buy a growing pot, and use the topmost leaves.

Mint - mint leaves can be added, but be sparing with mint, it can easily overwhelm. Again, home grown fresh mint is easily the best (and will be cheaper in the medium term).

Some smoothie recipes I like

  • Banana and Strawberries. I sometimes like to add other summer fruits to this. Add a little ginger or basil but not both. Apple or orange base.
  • Carrot, ginger and Beetroot. This is a real detox smoothie. It is probably an acquired taste, but I find it quite tasty. Orange base.
  • Apple, banana and Mango. Very sweet and fresh. Good served with food. Quite filling too. Apple or Orange base.

Final tips and tricks for making Smoothies

Experiment and try things out. Smoothies are good for all kinds of occasions, and you can also bring them out with lunchboxes. If you buy any supermarket smoothies in bottles, keep the bottles, wash, and fill with your own smoothie so you can take them out.

A couple of gotchas - don’t get carried away drinking too much, a smoothie is filling, and will zap your appetite for a meal. Smoothies are also quite sugar laden so be aware that there can be too much of a good thing. Smoothies should be consumed pretty soon after making. They may keep for a day or so in the fridge, and be fine to take to work as a lunch box, but after three days they are probably not good to drink.