Badam Milk (Almond milk) with saffron, cardamom and pistachios is a refreshing drink, whether it’s served cold in the summer or warm in the winter.
I’m going to take you down food memory lane today, and this one involves public transport in India.
Have you taken a ride in a public transport in India, in the summer, during peak hours? Not sure how it is now, because they have air-conditioned buses now that you can pay a little extra to ride, but 14 years ago (gosh! has it been that long?!?!), when I was still in college, riding a bus, in the summer, during peak hours was the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like you were in endless hell.
For one, India is crowded. Very, very crowded, so much that the only time you will find a seat in a bus, is if you are riding it at really odd hours. Secondly, my people have no sense of boundaries; You will be bumped, grabbed, groped (bordering on sexual assault, especially if you are a female minor in a school uniform), pushed, shoved, yelled at, pick-pocketed (if you get distracted for even a second), even suffocated to death (I came very close to the grim reaper once or twice)!
I have been severely traumatized by bus rides. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
But what can you do?
Nothing! Literally nothing. If you think it’s easier to avoid public transport (to hell with the environment!) and just take an auto or a cab or drive yourself everywhere, NO. You will age just sitting in traffic jams.
What’s worse, is being a middle-class kid in school/college, and you have to stay back for classes or projects or tests outside regular hours; your monthly allowance doesn’t really allow extravagances like cab rides or unicorn drop-offs and the group bus or van your parents paid for isn’t going to bend its schedule to fit your irregular hours.
So, the bus it is.
Which is how I got hooked onto Badam milk.
On Saturdays, on the way back home from college that involved atleast one 45 min bus ride and one 20 min share-auto on a good day (on a bad one, it was three bus transfers that could easily take you 2 hours to get home), we had to get off the bus, cross the road, walk 10 minutes in blistering heat to catch a share-auto. Those 10 minutes are usually spent in silence, even when you are walking with friends, partly out of exhaustion, and partly because you are contemplating the number of times you were groped on the bus, and question all your life choices that led you here. Once I was flashed by a homeless person while crossing the road.
One particularly exhausting day, during the very heart of summer, my friend and I decided to make good use of our allowance, break our journey and walked into a popular sweet shop that was on our way to the auto stand. The biggest draw, was that it was air-conditioned, and the seating was empty. The second draw, was the sugary smells emanating from it, and we unanimously felt like we needed the sugar to survive the remainder of our trip home.
So we walked in, my best friend and I, on a hot Saturday afternoon, into this sweet shop and we ordered a glass of Badam milk – the only sensible thing on the menu that we could afford, and yet feel like we splurged on, while still getting a good value for money.
And there it was. The most perfect chilled glass of rich milk, infused with almond paste, saffron and cardamom and so much sliced pistachios that with every sip, you are both gulping, as well as chewing. As we drank it in, it slid like silk down our parched throats, sweetening our veins and minds, erasing the exhaustion away from us. It was the universe’s way of apologizing to us, for the hellish bus rides we’ve had to endure. And it was an apology we accepted.
We sat there for atleast 20 minutes, letting the sweet, sugary creaminess rejuvenate us before heading out. And then next Saturday, and a few more saturdays since, we returned, for a glass of magical Badam milk, as often as our allowances allowed us.
Maybe something about the bitter sweetness of that memory still repelled me, or maybe it was just faster to stir in a tablespoon of the MTR mix (affiliate link) into a glass of milk, but either ways, I’ve never tried to make Badam milk from scratch at home, even though the memory stayed with me.
Now I’m vegan, and last week, as I was extracting my own almond milk at home, I was suddenly and quite randomly reminded of the horrid bus rides, and the single cup of delicious badam milk that made it all better.
I haven’t even had the instant version since going plant-based (since it has milk powder in it), and the memory brought with it a craving.
So instead of just diluting the almond paste, I extracted it a little bit thicker, strained and brought it to a slow boil. In the meantime, I ground up some cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle, and steeped some saffron (affiliate link) in a little of the warm almond milk. Added both of those into the pot of simmering almond milk, and sweetened it with sugar, slightly sweeter than I now prefer, just to honor the old memory.
Chilled, it tasted almost like the real thing (understandably without the dairy flavor and taste). But it was enough, to take me back into that sweet shop, sweaty, exhausted and still a child in many ways.
It is the paths we walk, that makes us who we are.
And when you make this delicious Badam Milk using this method (which I really think you SHOULD!), be sure to SHARE YOUR PHOTOS with me through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I’d love to see what you cook from here!
For the almond milk
- 1 c blanched almonds, soaked overnight
- 3 - 3.5 cups water
For the flavor infusion
- 1-1.5 tsp saffron
- 4-5 cardamom pods
- 2 tbsp pistachios, chopped
- Sugar, to taste*
Extract the almond milk
- Follow the method here to extract almond milk, using 3-3.5 cups of water (instead of the usual 5 cups) for a thicker, creamier extract. Strain using the finest mesh sieve you have.
Steep the flavors
- Transfer the almond milk to a saucepan and bring to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring once in a while to prevent burning.
- In a mortar and pestle, pound the green cardamom until the skin separates from the seeds. Discard pods, and grind seeds to a fine powder. Set aside.
- Take 2 tablespoons of the warm almond milk from the saucepan into a small bowl, and steep the saffron until the milk until it turns a bright orange.
- Add the ground cardamom seeds and steeped saffron to the saucepan. Sweeten with sugar to taste. This is a dessert-type drink, so I prefer to make it sweeter than I normally prefer beverages to be. Also note, as any warm beverage cools, sweetness reduces.
- Once the drink smells sweet, fragrant and the raw almond smell is gone, remove from heat. Add the chopped pistachios.
- Depending on the season and mood, this drink can be served either warm, or chilled. Keeps in the refrigerator for upto 3-4 days.
- I need about 4-6 tablespoons of cane sugar to sweeten this drink. As mentioned above, I like this to be sweeter than I normally like drinks to be, as this is served more as a dessert after meals, or a welcome drink at special/festive occasions.
- You can also add a tsp of rose water for a floral fragrance.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 233 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 17g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 213mg Carbohydrates: 10g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 3g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 8g