In the cafe, we offer soya and almond milk as alternatives for people that don’t drink cow’s milk. We use Rude Health almond milk because it seems to be a reliable brand – I am a label scanner, and I don’t find anything on their labels to discourage me (unlike numerous other ‘healthy’ products that throw terms like ‘wholegrain’ about on the front to reassure you that you don’t need to look at the actual ingredients. And this has a name, apparently – it’s called a ‘health halo’). The other day I was making myself an almond milk flat white – ’cause that’s how I roll sometimes – and one of our staff members said, “I wonder how you make almond milk?” Well, for anyone who has wondered the same thing, here’s how.
Nut milks are super easy to make. Just soak your nuts overnight, drain and rinse them in the morning, whizz them up in a blender with twice the volume of fresh water (e.g. one cup of nuts to two cups of water), then strain. You can buy special nut milk bags for this purpose, but I usually use a cheesecloth or muslin in a sieve (you can also use a clean J-cloth or pair of tights you’re not planning on wearing again – let all the liquid drip through then give it a good squeeze to get out the last bit). Any nut will work: almond is the most popular, but hazelnut is also good and I’ve recently been having a bit of a thing for Brazils. And that’s it. There are two caveats, however: it can actually work out more expensive to make your own than to buy it, since nuts are not cheap; to maximise value, use the leftover nut pulp in smoothies or baking. You do have the benefit of knowing that your homemade stuff is not adulterated with cheap oils, sweeteners or preservatives, but – caveat number 2 – this means it will not last so long (about 3 days in the fridge).
This is why at the cafe we buy it – because we never know how much we’ll need. At home, I find it’s best to make in small quantities when you know you’ll get through it; I tend to soak a cup of nuts on a Sunday night to blend into milk on Mondays for the next few days.
And what to do with your homemade nut milk? Obviously anything you would use ‘normal’ milk for (although, how I hate the word ‘normal’ around food). It has a nasty tendency to separate in hot drinks, but will still taste fine. I pretty much always put mine in my breakfast smoothie, which I drink whenever I’m working in the morning and which my colleagues make fun of because of its alarming colour. But I don’t mind. When you start work at 7, it’s reassuring to know that you have fruit, vegetables and protein right with you to be consumed through a straw while you launch into your day (coffee comes soon afterwards).
Ailsa’s breakfast smoothie
Fills a bottle for 1
A handful of kale (washed and thick stalky bits torn off)
1 tbsp nut butter or nut pulp leftover from nut milk making
300ml-ish milk of your choice
1 tbsp superfoods (optional, e.g. spirulina, maca, lucuma)
Blend, adding more liquid if required to get the right consistency. Decant into bottle and stash in bag. Leave blender in sink to soak (especially if you used spirulina, or it will be green forever).