What are they?
Little balls of protein and energy made from pureed raw dates, nuts and seeds – now with a shot of protein powder as well. Otherwise known as bliss balls, date bombs, goji balls and even amazeballs, they've been around since the raw food trend of the 1970s, but are currently getting a push courtesy of a new gluten-free, gym-happy generation.
Where are they?
Lydia McPartlin, chef at Ceres Organic Cafe in Brunswick East, soaks gluten-free oats and dried apricots overnight before combining with pepitas and linseeds and rolling the balls in raw coconut. "We attract a lot of vegan, raw and gluten-free food lovers" she says, "and these tackle all that in one go."
At Spelt Quinoa in Fitzroy, Gemma Flye sells locally made Probites, protein balls of dates, quinoa, tahini and agave syrup, as well as all the ingredients needed to make your own, from raw cacao powder to chia seeds.
"I used to eat raw seeds and almond milk, cinnamon, tahini and agave for breakfast and I wanted to mush it all together to take with me," Naked founder Jemma Gawned says. "That's how the goji balls were born." Leon Mugavin of The Leaf food store in Elwood says they walk out the door. "They're a great snack and they make you feel less guilty than a chocolate brownie," he says.
Byron Bay, as you can imagine, is the centre of the "bliss ball-protein ball" universe, home to both the famous Byron Bay Bliss Balls and Naked Treaties' 100 per cent raw, vegan, certified organic, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free goji balls (both sold around town; check their websites, Byron Bay Bliss Balls and Naked Treaties).
Wollongong has gone mad for them, the craze kickstarted by Lee & Me chef Rylee Cole, who makes her sell-out protein balls with muesli, honey, apples, peanut butter, chia seeds, LSA, wheatgerm and protein powder, then rolls them in coconut and chia seeds. "A lot of our clients are very health-conscious, and we wanted something that would give them that extra energy they need before gym" she explains.
Addiction Food in Ashfield does a healthy trade in protein balls at farmers' markets, and food stores, and Camperdown's Real Food Connection even has online delivery of their balls, built of dates, nuts, honey, raw cacao powder and protein powder.
In Bondi, the beach set line up at Sejuiced for chef Tom Walton's new-age protein balls, made from gluten-free muesli, raw extra virgin coconut oil, raw cacao powder, chia seeds, linseed, sunflower seeds and brown rice protein powder. His tip? "It's easier to make a lot of them than a little."
Why do I care?
Because they deliver a burst of high energy for breakfast on the run, before or after training or as an mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Can I do them at home?
Of course. Just whiz everything in a food processor, shape into balls and roll in coconut or cocoa powder.
Recipe: Protein balls
Add a tablespoon of natural protein powder if you're in training mode. The more raw, unprocessed and organic the ingredients, the better.
100g chopped walnuts or cashews, lightly toasted
100g almonds, lightly toasted
2 tbsp linseed, sunflower seeds and/or pepitas
170g medjool dates, pitted and chopped
100g soft dried apricots or figs, chopped
100g prunes, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp tahini or peanut butter
2 tbsp raw cacao powder or cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp honey or agave syrup, Pinch of sea salt
100g desiccated coconut for coating
1. Combine the walnuts, almonds and seeds in a food processor and whiz until fine crumbs. Add the dates, apricots and prunes and whiz until smooth. Add the tahini, cacao powder, cinnamon, honey and sea salt and whiz for two minutes or until the mixture starts to form into a ball.
2. Divide into golf ball-sized portions and roll into balls between lightly wet palms. Roll in coconut, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Tip Freezing makes them deliciously firm and chewy.
Makes 15 to 20
Ceres Organic Cafe, corner Roberts and Stewart streets, Brunswick East, (03) 9389 0100.
The Leaf, 111 Ormond Street, Elwood, (03) 9531 6542.
Spelt Quinoa, 40 Johnston Street, Fitzroy, (03) 9939 9330.
Naked Treaties, 2 Marvell Street, Byron Bay, 0422 169 458.
Byron Bay Bliss Balls, byronbayblissballs.com.au
Lee & Me, 87 Crown Street, Wollongong (02) 4244 0695
Sejuiced Health Bar, Shop 3, Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach (02) 9300 0253
Real Food Connection, 2 Sterling Circuit, Camperdown (02) 9516 0267 www.realfoodconnection.com.au
Addiction Food www.addictionfoodcom.au