I'm not sure how I've got so many years down the line with this diet without tasting almond milk - let alone thought about making my own - but somehow I have. On reflection, I realise that I've managed so successfully to inhabit the mindset of deprivation (I know - poor me, right?) that I just accepted that milk, and all the good things associated with it (bechamel sauce, cereal, crème caramel) were off the menu. And I have made the most of it using my rule of concentrating on what I can have, instead of what I haven't. So I used to be a huge cappuccino addict, but for the past seven years it's been a black Americano or bust.
But, despite accepting a milkless existence, lately I've been curious about making my own almond milk. This wasn't really my motivation, but almond milk is lower in fat and calories than milk, and it's rich in phosphorus, potassium and zinc as well as vitamins A, D and B 12. Making your own is cheaper than buying it. And, it's also quite fun in a get-your-hands-dirty way, with the added satisfaction of knowing exactly what it is you are eating.
Also, I've got a Nutribullet, which hasn't become invaluable yet, although I strongly feel like it could. It's perfect for almond milk because you need something super-strong to blitz almonds with (I did actually break my beloved mini hand-blender a few years ago when I was making my own almond flour).
Nut milk is all about the straining, so I ordered a nut bag online (although you can use a piece of muslin or even some tights). And you have to soak the nuts overnight, which I suppose is a bit of a faff (although only in that it means being organised). But once you have done that it probably takes less time to make than it would to go to the shop and buy some.
And the result was: milk, but way more creamy.
Once it was made, I excitedly made some of what will now be referred to as Espresso Almondo. Delizioso!
And then - newsflash! - I whipped up a béchamel sauce (using almond flour instead of flour). I added cheese. It didn't taste like the white sauce of old (it's a bit sharper) BUT I made a white sauce! I am envisaging lasagne (with vegetable strips instead of pasta); fish pie (with cauliflower mash instead of potato); chicken and white sauce (with broccoli rice instead of rice). And, just like that, a whole new world of possibility has opened up.
DIY Almond Milk
200g raw almonds
about 600ml water, plus more for soaking almonds
nut bag or muslin square
1. Place almonds in a large bowl and soak them overnight in an inch of water. The almonds will absorb water (and become softer, so easier to digest) and expand. The longer you soak the almonds, the creamier your milk will be.
2. After 8-12 hours (ideally), drain and rinse the almonds - which should now be soft - and rinse them under cool water. Place the soaked almonds in a blender with about 600 ml water and blitz on high speed for 2-3 minutes or until blended into a fine meal consistency and is opaque and white.
3. Get your nut bag or cheesecloth and strain the almonds over a large bowl. Then pour the almond milk mixture into the strainer. Using your hands, squeeze the nut bag gently to release all the almond milk from the almond meal. This process goes on for much longer than you might anticipate! Place in the refrigerator in a sealed glass container for up to 2 days.