“I think everybody’s nuts” – Johnny Depp
Is milk bad for us? I really quite genuinely have no idea anymore. Pretty much everywhere I look I can find millions of sensational articles telling me that milk is some awful inflammatory, acid-forming, snot-inducing poison. The anti-milk brigade also delights in pointing out that humans (and mainly only those in the West) are the only species who drink milk to adulthood and, to make it worse, drink the milk of ANOTHER ANIMAL (urgh gross how creepy etc etc). But, of course, for every one of these articles, I can find six that say something different, which remind us that we have been dairy farming for over 7000 years, tell us to load our kids with it until they’re at least five and that milk is our protein, calcium and vitamin giving best friend. So that’s all entirely clear then! Marvellous.
The line that I take in our house with milk is basically this. The small person drinks it, twice a day like small people do. Yes maybe I am a sap to the corporate power of the dairy lobby, but he is still pretty small, is growing and I am less comfortable experimenting on him than I am myself and my husband. And so until the Department of Health or WHO or whoever decides these things tells me to do something different I will carry on letting him drink milk. I always avoid milk when I have a cold – there definitely IS something in the snot-inducing thing. Beyond that, our basic rule is that if a dairy-free milk alternative is the same or nicer than milk for any given purpose it shall be used. If it isn’t (and I have yet to find a dairy alternative that doesn’t render English breakfast tea utterly vile), the cow’s milk stays. Almond milk, for example, is really great on nutty muesli and in smoothies. Ditto oat milk for porridge. While I am not convinced that we still know enough about the safety of many soy products generally, I will concede that some soya milks in coffee can be quite tasty.
Anyway, all of that is just a very long way to getting round to telling you about this cashew milk that I made with my own fair hands in my very own kitchen this afternoon. I am really quite excited about it. Yes, I know. Cashew milk! Exactly the sort of thing I would until recently have written off as a weird cranky ‘healthfood’ (and the people who made it at home even crankier and weirder). But then I tried the awesome one that they make over at Plenish, the super fashionable London juice cleanse company. I love all of their juices (even the broccoli one) but this was really special – a sort of healthy vanilla milkshake loaded with plant protein, magnesium, copper and zinc. I necked half the bottle as an afternoon snack (I would never drink a glass of milk) and then used the rest to make porridge the next day and it was fantastic. At £13.50 per 500ml bottle, however, using it to cook your morning porridge is a bit like using Evian to wash your car.
How hard could it be to make my own? Not very, as it turns out, and I think I have pretty much nailed their formula after a couple of failed attempts. Unlike with almonds or brazil nuts, cashews are so soft that they don’t need overnight soaking or need straining afterwards. What you will need is a super hardcore kick-ass blender. I have a Vitamix, which while very expensive has been a brilliant kitchen investment. If you don’t have a blender, nut milks can be made in a food processor, but you may need to strain it through a muslin or a fine very sieve afterwards.
To make 500ml you will need:
- 400ml water
- 100g raw, unsalted cashew nuts
- 10g chopped dates (you could sweeten with maple syrup or similar if you prefer)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt (I used Maldon. Plenish use Himalayan Pink)
- Seeds scraped out of 1/2 a vanilla pod (or 1tsp or so extract, but go easy and taste as you go)
Stick in your blender and blitz! It is quite foamy when it comes out but settles pretty quickly. I prefer this quite cold so I stuck it in a sealed bottle and into the fridge for a while but you could throw a couple of ice cubes into the blender and reduce the water slightly if you want to drink it straightaway. It will (the internet tells me) keep for a 3-4 days at least in the fridge if sealed, but there is no way it is going to last that long.
Kitchen song of the day: Stubborn Love – The Lumineers (The Lumineers)