Growing up, milk was the bane of my existence. I started and ended my days with it, under duress every time. I remember saying that it made me queasy, which my long-suffering mother assumed was a lie (fair, I was a nightmare child), and it wasn’t until years later that I was vindicated with a stamp of lactose intolerance. TOLD YOU MA.
As it happens, we all now know that most Asians stop being able to process milk around adolescence, while some are never able to process it at all. It’s not that we’re allergic; our bodies just can’t digest the main sugar – lactose – that milk contains. In most humans the enzyme that breaks down lactose (lactase) stops being produced somewhere around the age of two. Result? All those undigested sugars end up in your system fermenting and getting up to all sorts of shit. It isn’t dangerous, but it isn’t pleasant either.
I don’t really want to join the hysterical debate about how cow milk for humans is the devil’s work, but I will say that it doesn’t work for me, and so I’ve turned to alternative plant-based milks, or ‘mylks’ (health-speak for non-cow milk) made from almonds, cashew, or the odd macadamia or hazelnut (both as insanely delicious as you’d think). It isn’t a hipster fad either, because nut milks (yep, just giggle and get it over with) have been around since the Middle Ages, so aren’t actually at all new or a fad at all.
I found store-bought mylks watery and hard to find, and occasionally with more ingredients that required. So now when I want it, I make it. If you’re new to this, you’re likely thinking that this sounds like a lot of work. Not so. You will need to soak your almonds for anywhere between 8 hours and two days (the longer you soak them, the creamier the milk will be, and I like those suckers to get really plump), but the actual process takes around 3 minutes, and once you see how easy it is to make real, fresh almond milk, you will never buy the stuff ever again.
You will need
- 1 cup almonds, rinsed well and soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight, although I like to change the water a couple of times and leave them to soak for at least two days.
- 4 cups of clean, filtered water.
- Cheesecloth, a mesh strainer, or a nut milk bag (available online, but super expensive here in India)
1. Drain and rinse the beans from their soaking water. Remember to discard the soaking water even if you choose a shorter soak because it contains phytic acid, an enzyme inhibitor which stops your body from properly assimilating nutrients.
2. Combine the soaked nuts and water in a blender and blend until smooth (this should take about a minute).
3. Strain the milk through a nut-milk bag (if you have one) or through cheesecloth, squeezing well to extract every last bit of liquid. You’re done.
Feel free to substitute any other nuts or seeds to create a variety of milks. Cashew milk is the creamiest and doesn’t even need straining, just a quick blend to make a super indulgent-feeling treat with a natural sweetness. Make unsweetened milks by just blending the soaked nuts and water, or add some vanilla essence and honey for a touch of sweetness. For an even richer drink, add a spoonful of almond butter. Adding turmeric to your nut milk makes an incredible anti-inflammatory tonic that’s great to have just before you go to bed.
And don’t discard the almond meal, the pulpy leftovers in your cheesecloth – you can add this to smoothies, your porridge, or use in baking. I chuck mine into my coffee scrub in the winter for buttery skin. To save for use later, spread it out on a baking tray and bake on low heat in your oven until dry (this should take between two and three hours), and you can freeze and keep this dry meal for a couple of months to use when needed.
One quick note: Almonds are delicious, nutritious, and a pretty complete little pop protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. They do, however, have a rather, shall we say intense ecological footprint (see here and here). So make mylk, but perhaps treat it like a special thing rather than a daily indulgence.