Tag Archives: gluten-free

COVID Can’t Beat A Pumpkin Spice Papaya Spoonshot!

Imagine going to your favorite smoothie bar and lchecking the menu, looking for something new and interesting to try. You spot a flavor labeled ‘Pumpkin Spice Papaya Turmericand think – how could that possibly taste good? But you give it a shot since you’re a foodie who loves exotic sounding names, and lo and behold, it actually tastes pretty fine. Makes you wonder, how in the world did they come up with this combination?  

If you thought a brilliant chef concocted this in a restaurant kitchen, you’d be wrong. 

This hit flavor was created by a ‘food innovation intelligence platform’, which basically uses Artificial Intelligence to build a virtual ‘food brain.’

All this is explained eloquently by Kishan Vasani, the co-founder of Spoonshot, a company that uses its innovative technology to provide this ‘brain’ to the food industry.

“It’s like combining the experience of the greatest chefs and food critics around the globe with food scientists, food ethnographers, (folks who plot how food interacts with culture and behavior) specialty and niche food communities and online chat groups which may have as few as a thousand members, food commerce platforms, etc. A billion disparate points of data are extracted from this wealth of foodie information and connections are made which actually predict future trends at the embryonic stage, almost before they happen. With Spoonshot’s input, food industry clients can have a head start on the food trends bandwagon. All that data is also used to innovate new food and flavors which have the greatest chance of succeeding in the marketplace, like our pumpkin spice papaya turmeric smoothie.”

“We are in the business of trying to predict future trends before they go mainstream,” Vasani tells me. “Companies spend enormous amounts on research before launching a new food, but their methodology hasn’t changed over the past several decades. The success rate for new food launched in the marketplace is often between 10 and 30%. Our technology, which requires much less investment, is poised to increase that rate significantly.”     

Food trends often originate from a particular chef or restaurant in a certain town or country: how it becomes a global trend is what Spoonshot’s technology tracks.

Quinoa was an Andean staple that grew popular at the same time as gluten-free, high protein food became attractive. It’s the perfect alternative to rice or bread for a population rife with gluten allergies and obesity. Today, there is a shift towards veganism and food which is ethically produced, climate friendly and good for the environment.

For example, Spoonshot, (in collaboration with International Food Trendologist Liz Moskow), has come up with a future food trends list which includes Silverfin fishcakes made from wild caught US Asian carp. Asian carp is an invasive species of fish that is threatening the Mississippi river, and for environmentally conscious consumers, the environmental impact of eating this carp is just as important as the taste. Food with a low carbon footprint like legumes, pulses, grains seaweed and algae are going to appear more often on restaurant menus and in everyday cooking.

“Interest in environmentally conscious food has grown 55% in the last year alone,” Vasani says.

A good example of an environmentally friendly vegan alternative to dairy, is ice-cream made from Aquafaba, the water chickpeas are soaked in. It may not sound scrumptious but it’s actually quite delicious, and is predicted to trend in the future. Since meat alternatives are increasingly popular, vegetarians are going to see more of Carob-based products – Carob helps provide much needed collagen for muscle health to those who don’t eat any animal products. 

The Covid19 pandemic has also produced an almost seismic shift towards comfort foods. Anxiety is at an all-time high and foods containing the essential oil Copaiba, from the Copaifera tree, which produces relaxation are likely to be popular.

The most engaging part of Vasani’s story is his entrepreneurial journey, and his resilience, especially with facing the latest Covid fiasco. He grew up in England where his father ran a grocery store. There was a subconscious emphasis on food which he says comes from his Gujarati roots: dinner time was always the central hub of the family.

He joined a retail bank after a degree in business from Aston University (UK), but found the pace too slow for his entrepreneurial itch. This was the early 2000’s, the era of rising digital media platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon.  Against his parents’ advice he launched his own digital marketing agency in 2006.

My parents gave me a year,” he says. “I was 22 years old and felt I had these ideas about personalizing a service product the way Facebook and Amazon were personalizing consumer experiences.

It was a rollercoaster ride. He eventually wound up his business and joined Just Eat, the European food ordering platform that acquired Grubhub in June, 2020.

Sai Sreenivas & Kishan Vasani, Spoonshot co-founders

However, the drive to be a self-made entrepreneur proved overwhelming. After a couple of years he left and, along with his friend Sai Sreenivas, created a business model that eventually led to the concept of Spoonshot. Initial investors were friends and relatives, before outside financing began to roll in.    

“Twice in the last five years we’ve been left with a week’s worth of money in the bank. The last time it was around Covid. We were about to close a round of funding and then Covid blew up around the country and our investor pulled out at the last minute,” Vasani recalls.

“This happened on a Saturday” he says. “We were so demoralized that we decided to shut everything down. Five years of grueling work and innovation would go down the drain, quite apart from the 20 full time employees we had in Bangalore. That was one of our worst days.”

“On Sunday, both of us woke up and seemed to be hit by the same motivation at the same time – we were not going to let a tiny virus beat us and negate all our hard work over the past five years. We decided we were not going to fire anyone; our company model believes in complete transparency with our employees, so we told them our dire financial situation. Some decided to leave, and some stayed. But no employees left because of Covid or our financial situation. One left to start their own business, and one left to pursue a PhD. We spent the next few days going to our network to secure emergency funding. We took 50% pay cuts but we steadied the ship.” 

The sucker punch of Covid19 has not dimmed his enthusiasm or his spirit of entrepreneurship.

“We’ve put everything on the line, cashed out all our savings and made enormous sacrifices,” he says. “The economy will recover, and we’ll be ready.”

In August Spoonshot overcame Covid19 by securing $1M in seed funding.


Jyoti Minocha is an DC-based educator and writer who holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins, and is working on a novel about the Partition.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing Editor at India Currents

Image by silviarita from Pixabay 

Healthy Gluten-free Desserts: No Oxymoron (Peanut Butter Cookies & Brownies)

Healthy Gluten-free Desserts: No Oxymoron (Peanut Butter Cookies & Brownies)

Gluten free food is widely popular now, and curiosity about the right recipes are at an all-time high. Eliminating gluten from your diet does not mean that you have to forgo flavor. Most celebrities and health conscious adults have taken to a gluten-free diet, which can also pass off as a fine detox miracle.

Gluten is a protein found in common grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It is a gluey protein found primarily in bread, pastas, cereals, and desserts, and it is also a vital ingredient in most baked goods as it creates fluffy food and desserts, binding dough together giving a moist texture overall. Gluten-free foods have soared in popularity because food with gluten can lead to severe digestive issues and may lead to diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and intestinal cancers.

In step with this trend, we have expert chef Jia Singh giving us recipes for gluten-free desserts. Chef Jia Singh, who loves to dole out fun, sumptuous and interesting recipes for Food Cloud, says, “Growing up, I watched star chef Anthony Bourdain, read a lot of his cookbooks and learnt a lot about cooking. I realized I was intolerant to gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye, barley) and found that India didn’t have any gluten free dessert options. I am a conscious eater and workout bunny and realized that healthy desserts were an oxymoron in India. I decided to bake in India and that’s how Petite Sweet Eats was born. Petite Sweet eats is a healthy dessert initiative that makes gluten free, low glycemic index, low- carb treats accessible and affordable. Our most popular eats include sugar free and grain free peanut butter cookies and skinny cupcakes, and carrot walnut cake with philly cream cheese frosting (low carb, gluten free and sugar free).” Here are a few of Chef Jia Singh’s recipes.

Peanut Butter Cookies
(Grain free and gluten free)

grain-free peanut-butter cookies
Peanut butter cookies are one of the many treats that remain healthy and guilt-free.

½ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 yolk from a large egg
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp coconut flour
½ cup ground gluten free oats
6 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter (melt in a bowl before mixing)

Instructions:

• Preheat the oven to 180
• Grind peanuts in a processor until smooth. Add all the ingredients into the processor and pulse until smooth.
• Remove the dough from the processor and refrigerate to cool for a bit
• Remove from the fridge, roll into balls and bake for 20 minutes or until brown
• These cookies make for great mid meal snacks and are great with your daily cuppa of chai. Substitute the brown sugar for Splenda and you can enjoy this treat sans guilt.

Gluten-free Brownies

½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup coconut flour
4 eggs
½ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla essence
1∕3 cup coconut oil or butter

Instructions:

gluten-free brownies
Brownies remain delectable, even without gluten.

• Sift the coconut flour and cocoa powder until they are well blended
•  Preheat the oven to 180 c
•  In another bowl mix all the wet ingredients (eggs, honey, butter and vanilla).
•  Combine the dry and wet ingredients with a mixture until the batter is smooth and free from lumps.
• Line a baking pan with parchment and add the batter onto the pan
• Bake for about 30 minutes. Do a toothpick test
• Cool the brownies and enjoy. They can be had with homemade ice cream or with a handful of nuts and some fresh cream.

DIY Energy Balls

¾ cup pitted dates (120g)
½  tsp pure vanilla essence
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp shredded coconut (don’t use low-fat coconut flakes)
1∕3 to ½ cup peanuts (pulse through a processor)
4-5 tbsp unsalted, natural peanut butter

Mix all the ingredients, pulse through a processor. Shape into balls and put them in the fridge to shape up and chill. Pull them out right after a grueling workout. Enjoy!

Bon appétit!

Kavita Wadhwani has nine years of writing experience on subjects ranging from fashion, fitness, décor, to food and travelogues.