Alt-milks are all the rage right now, especially since you can milk almost anything these days from seeds to nuts and grains, but while they don’t hold a candle to real dairy, each is interesting in its own way. Almond and cashew milks are the most popular and while you can definitely make your own, it’s far less tedious to just pick a tetra pack of the stuff. Plus this way there’s less wastage because really, what are you going to do with all that flavourless nut pulp left behind?
If you are in fact lactose intolerant, these milks are a good substitute, but if you’ve purchased almond milk to get on the healthy bandwagon, you’re looking for ways to work it into more than just healthy drinks I’m sure. Some of the more basic uses for almond milk are to add it to gravies that will benefit from it such as butter chicken or Thai curry, soups, mashed spuds, but adding it to baked goods such as cakes and puddings in place of milk works just as well. You could also make a béchamel using almond milk for a different taste.
When picking up almond milk, look out for Europaea Vegan Farms, which offers an Original and an Unsweetened variety — the difference is the addition of cane sugar. With an organic certification in place from Italy, this is a premium product that uses mountain spring water from the North and almonds from the South of Italy. The product boasts a lighter body than regular milk and the almond taste in the Original is mild with a not too prominent sweetness. This makes it easier to blend it with other smoothie ingredients. Olive Tree Trading will deliver the products home to you if you’re in India. Follow the link here.
The first recipe is for a cold almond milk ramen made with unsweetened almond milk that’s loosely based on Bon Appetit’s more recent cold ramen soup from Nakamura in New York, which I have come to love. The almond milk acts as a base for all the condiments you’re serving it with. A miso and a chilli paste are stirred into the ramen which is finished with fried onions, peanuts, smacked buffalo cucumbers and some of my favourite chilli oil, from those amazing Dan Dan Noodles I made last year. Stirring in the miso paste lends a boom of umami and salt to the almond milk, which we then take further with the chilli paste where all the real flavour lies. Don’t shy away from using a pack of Maggi here for your noodles because it works perfectly. Make sure your milk is fresh-out-of-the-fridge cold for this recipe.
Cold Almond Milk Ramen with Smacked Cucumbers
Yield 3 bowls
This one's a fantastic recipe, but it's also a bit of a project because of all the chilli pastes and condiments. My advice to you would be to start a day before. Serve the almond milk right out of the fridge.
The Chilli Paste
Vegetable oil 3 tbsp
Chilli flakes 2 tbsp
Toasted Sesame Oil 3 tbsp
Red chilli powder 1 tsp, or more if you’d like it hotter
Ginger 1 tbsp grated
Mirin 1 tbsp (substitute with 1 tsp sugar and 2 tsp Chinese cooking rice wine)
Sugar 1 tbsp
Dark Miso paste 1 tbsp from a bottle (I used Japanese Choice here)
White sesame seeds 1 1/2 tbsp, lightly toasted
Sake 1 tbsp (if you don’t have sake, just add an equal amount of cooking Chinese cooking rice wine here)
Sichuan Peppercorns 1/2 tbsp, freshly ground
Pear and Miso Paste
Spring onions 2, finely chopped
Pear 1 thick wedge, peeled, grated
Ginger 1 tbsp, grated
Garlic 4 cloves
White miso 1/3 cup (use Fresho, available online, or use an equal amount of Korean doenjang in place)
Mirin 1 tbsp (substitute with 1 tsp sugar and 2 tsp Chinese cooking rice wine)
Sake / Cooking Rice Wine 1 tbsp
Toban djan Chilli Bean paste1 tsp (use Lee Kum Kee available at gourmet stores)
Chilli flakes 1 tsp
FOR THE CHILLI OIL RECIPE, CLICK HERE
Green cucumber 1
Salt 3 tsp
Garlic 1 tbsp, grated
Sugar 4 tsp
Soy sauce 2 tsp (I used Kikkoman)
Rice vinegar 4 tsp
Chilli oil 1 tbsp from the above recipe
Unsweetened almond milk 3 cups (I used Europaea Vegan Farms’ Unsweetened Almond Milk)
Maggi Noodles 3 packets or any other dried instant noodles of your choice
List Of Condiments
Fried Onion 3 heaped tbsp, one for each bowl
Spring onion 1, chopped finely
Salted peanuts 2 packets
Basil leaves one handful, roughly torn
Kafir lime leaves 4-5, tightly rolled together and thinly sliced
Start by making the smacked cucumbers. These are called smacked cucumbers because you have to beat the cucumbers open with a rolling pin. So lay the cucumber down on a chopping board and beat it a few times till it breaks open and into a few pieces. Now chop the cucumber diagonally into 1 cm pieces and combine it in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Cling film the bowl and place it in the refrigerator till the ramen is ready.
For the chilli paste, over a medium-low heat combine the ginger, the two oils, chilli flakes, chilli powder and heat till it is lightly simmering. Take the pan off the heat after 30 seconds and stir in the lightly toasted sesame seeds, mirin, sugar, miso paste, sake and the freshly ground peppercorns. Now bring this mixture back to heat and keep stirring till the sugar dissolves. Once the paste returns to a simmer, take it off the heat and cool.
For the miso paste, over medium heat, stir together the chopped spring onions, ginger, garlic, pear, miso, mirin, sake or rice wine, chilli bean paste and chilli flakes. Don't let it simmer and when warm, take it off the heat and cool.
For the chilli oil, refer to my chilli oil recipe here, which makes more than you need, and let's face it- no amount of this condiment is ever enough.
Cook the noodles as per packet instructions. Drain the noodles and dunk them in ice water, then drain again and set aside.
Fill each bowl with a cup of almond milk and begin by stirring in the miso paste into the almond milk till adequately seasoned. Follow with the chilli paste- a teaspoon in each should be enough for each bowl, but you could add more. Drizzle over the chilli oil and sprinkle over the fried onions, spring onions, salted peanuts, basil leaves and lime leaves.
Drain the smacked cucumbers and serve alongside the cold ramen.
For the second recipe, I took a page out of my childhood to create a cake that’s a riff on my favourite milk drink as a kid. Milk Rose is made by mixing Kalvert Rose Syrup into milk, and I specify Kalvert because Rooh Afza just doesn’t taste the same. If your childhood memories are tied -in with Rooh Afza, you could definitely use it instead of Kalvert.
The milk rose cake is a Rose and almond cake with an Almond milk rose soak and a Rose Swiss meringue buttercream in and all around. You will require rose water in addition to rose syrup to make this cake. Garnish with pistachios and dry rose petals. The reason I prefer a Swiss Meringue buttercream is because it’s a lot lighter than regular buttercream. What sets it apart from the others is technique — heating the egg whites with sugar over a double boiler, then beating it till fluffy before adding in the butter piece by piece is how you make it. The buttercream looks curdled when you add the butter, but that’s okay. You just have to keep whipping until it is smooth.
Milk Rose Cake
Yield 2 18-cm cake tins
My favourite milk drink growing up was a few tablespoons of Kalvert Rose Syrup stirred into milk. This cake is a grown-up riff on a childhood favourite with layers of almond and rose cake, an almond milk and rose syrup soak and fluffy rose buttercream.
Almond and Rose Cake
Almond Meal 1 cup
Caster sugar 2 1/2 cups
Egg Yolks 5
Rose Water 1 tsp
Almond Milk 1 cup (I used Europaea Vegan Farms’ Original almond milk)
Cake flour 2 cups (to make cake flour, from each cup of all-purpose flour remove 2 tbsp and replace with 2 tbsp of cornflour, then whisk it in)
Salt 1/2 tsp
Baking powder 3 tsp
Egg Whites 6
Cream of tartar 1/4 tsp
Milk Rose Soak
Almond milk 1/2 cup (I used Europaea Vegan Farms’ Original almond milk)
Kalvert rose syrup 2-3 tbsp
Rose Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Egg whites 150g in weight
Butter 250g, room temperature, cut into cubes
Granulated sugar 180g
Kalvert Rose Syrup as much as 1/3 cup, but depends on sweetness
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer or stand mixer till it is billowy and light. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as you go.
Add in the egg yolks one at a time incorporating it well into the batter between additions. Next, add in the rose water and mix well.
Whisk together the almond meal, cake flour, baking powder and salt.
Now alternate between adding the dry ingredient mix and the almond milk to the creamed mixture, folding with a spatula between additions.
In a dry bowl, add in the egg whites and cream of tartar. Whisk on low speed at first till frothy, then turn the speed to high till the egg whites hold stiff peaks.
Add a spoonful of the egg whites using a steel spoon to the batter and stir to aerate it, then with a gentle hand, in three intervals, fold the remaining egg whites into the batter being careful not to lose too much air.
Pour the batter into the lined cake pans and gently tap both cake pans on the kitchen counter to release any air bubbles. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Make a double boiler setting, which is a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with simmering water. Ensure that the water is not touching the bowl. In the heatproof bowl, add the egg whites and sugar and whisk constantly. It should double a little in size and be hot to touch. You could also use a hand mixer for this step. Rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers to check if the sugar has melted. If it has and the mixture is hot, then it's ready.
Remove from heat and beat with an electric hand mixer till it is white and fluffy and the bowl is cool to the touch. This should take anything between 6-10 minutes. Next up, add in the butter piece by piece and continue to beat. The mixture will look like it is curdling but continue to beat till it is smooth.
Add in the Kalverts syrup two tablespoons at a time till you have achieved the desired sweetness.
To assemble the cake if any of the cakes have domed tops, slice them off. Then further divide the cake into even layers. Put the first layer on the cake stand, spoon over some of the milk rose soak and spread the buttercream on top. Add the next layer and repeat till you have used up all the cake's layers. Using an offset spatula use some buttercream to make a thin coating around the cake to hold the crumbs together. This is the crumb coating. Chill the cake till the thin layer of buttercream has firmed up. I usually leave the cake at this crumb stage because that's how I like a lot of my cakes, but if you want to completely frost it, take the cake out of the refrigerator and spread the remaining buttercream all over. For a very smooth surface, dip the offset spatula into warm water between turns, wipe it dry, and use it to smoothen the surface of the cake.
Finish with a garnish of pistachios and rose petals.