Some of you may think that I am against vegetable “milks”, particularly after my article of a few weeks ago I Need a Pick-Me-Up after Cycling for Hours. The truth is that I enjoy the odd one, particularly on a hot summer day. I guess I am more against the detractors of real milk than the promotors of vegetable ones. I have in fact been drinking vegetable milks for over 25 years….. you see I drink Horchata, a vegetable milk common in Spain.
There was an horchata bar just near where my wife used to live. It had to be one of, if not the best horchata bar in the city. They sold carpets all year round, and turned over part of the shop into the horchata bar in summer. And, before you ask, I have no idea what synergies exist between horchata and carpets!
The shop is still there selling carpets, but unfortunately the horchata side of the business closed down some years ago. Talking to one of the owners, she informed us that there were a couple of reasons why the bar closed. The first was a lack of space after they were told they could no longer use the pavement outside the shop to set out their tables and chairs. The second was the fact that they had to comply to modern hygiene standards for the preparation of food and drinks.
The latter got me thinking……. obviously we need to have safeguards in place for bars and restaurants to ensure the food and drinks we consume have been prepared and cooked under the appropriate conditions, but are we going too far? Has our world become too sterile?
At times I am known to be a speculative thinker, but in this case I have been reading a couple of reports on possible links between cleanliness and allergies. Studies on Amish, Swedish and Swiss children over the last four or five years would seem to indicate that children growing up on farms are one tenth as likely to develop allergies as they grow older compared to other children from more urban environments.
Quoting from the Amish study:
“As our homes and public spaces have become cleaner, the theory goes, young children are being exposed to fewer germs, infectious agents, and other substances that help train their developing immune systems to recognize and fight allergic disease.”……
“The Amish live a 19th century lifestyle, spending time in the barn, drinking milk directly from the cow, all the things that used to expose us to these substances early in life”
A similar study in Sweden, of children growing up on daily farms, reached very similar conclusions.
Perhaps children’s compulsion to touch everything and then suck their fingers is something we should encourage? At the very least it would seem that we shouldn’t be running after them all the time with a bottle of disinfectant or cleansing towels!
Anyway, whilst you digest the above, let’s go back to the horchata……
For those of you that think that vegetable milks are a fairly recent thing it is thought that they were consumed at least as long ago as ancient Egypt, whilst the first documented recipe for horchata is from 1786 (in the book Alcaldes de Casa y Corte)!
Horchata typically comes from the Valencia region of Spain. It is made from ground nuts that in Spanish are called “chufas” and that in English are known as Tiger Nuts or Earth Almonds. (Botanical name is cyperus esculentum).
Finally a big thanks to José, my brother-in-law who gave me the recipe. I know I still owe you a fudge recipe, I am working on it, honest…….
Serves 4 people
200g Chufas / Tiger Nuts
½ Cinnamon stick
Wash the chufas well then leave in an abundant amount of water for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the chufas.
Blend the chufas with the water.
Towards the end blend in the sugar. Strain the liquid off the solids.
Leave the liquid overnight with the cinnamon stick and the peel of the lemon.
This recipe is for a sweet horchata, I like things sweet! As the sugar is added towards the end, I would recommend you adding a little sugar then tasting. Continue adding sugar until it is as you like it!
Tiger nuts are not the easiest product to source. For those of you in Zaragoza looking for a local shop, you might want to try Koralium in Calle San Miguel.
If all else fails, Amazon does sell tiger nuts. They have them available in various formats. They can be peeled or not, but they do need to be whole!
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge