The Food of Spain: Horchata – Almond Milk

Horchata Almond Milk

You know when you’ve heard of someone but never met them and then when you finally meet them they look nothing like what you imagined? Well, I get thrills from trying and buying uncommon foods, and I really really wanted to find tiger nuts for Claudia Roden’s recipe for Horchata de Chufa, Tiger Nut Milk. To help me on my quest I ‘googled’ tiger nuts so I at least knew what I was looking for. I’d conjured up a picture of a cute round nut (if nuts can be called cute), with little stripes all over it, about the size of a marble. Turns out tiger nuts are actually wrinkly, shriveled and look a little bit like a small brain. They also happen to be elusive, I couldn’t find any on my rounds through the local health food stores, and again turning to ‘google’ for help, the internet lead me to terrible comments on forums about actual tigers and their actual nuts.

Enough said.
I decided to use almonds instead.

Nut milk principles are pretty much the same worldwide, search for ‘nut milk’ and you’ll find a million recipes giving you the same steps. Traditionally in Spain nut milk is sweetened slightly and some regions infuse it with lemon peel. It’s also perfectly good straight, but I drank mine with some lemon rind and a meedjol date on the side for a slightly sweet chilled drink.

Almond Milk – Horchata

250g raw almonds
1 litre of water

Rinse the almonds well, cover them with a generous amount of water and soak for a minimum of 12 hrs (I left mine soaking for 24 hrs). After soaking, get rid of any almonds floating on the top of the water, this is a sign the nut is old and rancid. Drain the nuts and rinse them again. Place them in a food processor or blender with 250ml of fresh water. Blend to a soft paste and scrape down the sides of your machine. Pour in another 250ml of water and blend again. Add the remaining 500ml of water and stir well. Store in the fridge for 2-3 hours to infuse.

Using a fine cloth, line a colander resting over a bowl and slowly pour the nut milk through. The liquid will drain into the bowl and the nut pulp will remain in the cloth. Roll up your sleeves and twist the nut pulp in the cloth so you can squeeze the remaining liquid out of the pulp, a messy but very satisfying business. Pour the almond milk into a container and store in the fridge. It will keep well for up to 3 days. If you wish to sweeten the almond milk use a natural sweetener like honey.

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Coconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black Pepper

Coconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black PepperEven as I’m toasting myself outside in the sun on a beautiful spring day, I still crave a hot mug of something.  Tea. Tea is my friend, and in the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky, “I say let the world go to hell, but I shall always have my tea.

But some times you need tea with a twist, a bit of spice, and a little kick.
Let me introduce you to Coconut Chai.
The perfect mug of deep golden nutty tea to drink no matter what the weather.

Today I’m sipping it in the backyard enjoying the spring air, but I can imagine tucking a small thermos in my pack to be taken on a day cross-country skiing. The turmeric gives the tea a soft earthy flavour and the pepper keeps the spices kicking.

Coconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black PepperCoconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black Pepper – Dairy Free

Serves 2

400ml can coconut milk
2 tsp loose leaf black ceylon tea
1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cracked black pepper
A pinch of allspice
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of turmeric
2 tsp of honey

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Stirring regularly, allow the mixture to warm through and tea infuse into the coconut milk, but do not bring to a boil.  After 5 minutes pour through a sieve into two tea cups and serve with a fresh crack of black pepper.