So Good Almond Milk Makes It Easier To Embark On A Dairy-Free Lifestyle
In an outdoor kitchen in Nanded in Maharashtra, two heads are bent as one over a couple of Tetra Paks of So Good Almond Milk. Scattered around the kitchen table are other ingredients like flour and sugar and saffron. Grandmother Rukmini Thakkar is putting together a recipe for badami kesar pedas using the less calorific and lactose-, gluten- and dairy-free almond milk instead of animal milk. The granddaughter, intent as always, watches and photographs the process for posterity. Srushti Chauhan Angane, whose blog, Anecdotal Craving, recently highlighted her grandmother’s zoomed-in, sure hands working in the kitchen, is intent on imbibing and preserving family recipes for future generations. A task that has been unfolding over many family stories and much laughter; as also a bit of generational discord….
Excerpts from our conversation with Angane….
Do you do a lot of cooking with your grandmother?
I have realised one thing – from the little experience that I have – that food and stories go arm-in-arm. I started cooking because of my grandmother; her love and passion for cooking is unparalleled. However, cooking is my hobby, a hidden talent that came out of hiding due to the pandemic.
I have so many memories from my childhood when she would sit me on the chair in the middle of the kitchen as she cooked. She would tell me stories and laugh her heart out at something silly that I did – it made me realise that cooking could be so much fun. While growing up, I began to help her move the ladle or add some dhaniya on top of dal. Before I even realised it, I had started enjoying cooking.
Just before I tied the knot last year, my grandmother taught me all her brilliant sweet and savoury recipes. Today, the only difference is that now I get to teach her a thing or two myself, and she feels so good about it. She asked me to show her how to make Alfredo pasta as she loves cheese.
Do both of you like to cook the same things or do you find that generational differences kick in with the choices?
I love everything that she makes but, yes, some differences do kick in. My grandma makes food from scratch! For instance, she will make the seva (vermicelli) with all-purpose flour at home, whereas I would definitely get a packet of ready-made seva from the store. Another point of clash is the usage of ghee or any kind of fat. I am super scared of all fat and I try to use it as little as possible.
Is it always your grandmother’s recipes that you make?
More often than not, the recipes I share are from my grandma’s kitchen, but I do have some of my own. However, all the traditional Guajarati dishes are hers.
Are you intent on preserving your grandmother’s recipes? Which one is your favourite? Do you have a recipe book inspired by her?
I believe that heirloom recipes are a part of the fabric of every family’s history and roots; they contribute so much to the little joys of the hearth and home. My love for cooking was ignited in my grandmother’s kitchen, and nothing can compare to the taste that she brings to the table. I try to unearth, collect, preserve and eternalise the heirloom recipes, most of which are handed down by my grandmother. I do not have a recipe book as yet, but my blog is where I tell my stories in an anecdotal manner while reminiscing about my childhood spent in my grandmother’s kitchen. I do wish to put together such a book inspired by all her recipes someday soon.
Do you and your grandmother often substitute ingredients for health or any other reasons? Like using almond milk instead of animal milk? What, according to her, are the benefits of using almond milk? And how was the taste?
One of the major reasons that we have switched to almond milk is that my mom and brother, both, have adopted a vegan lifestyle. Apart from this, almond milk poses many health benefits as it’s low in calories and sugar, and is naturally lactose-free. My grandmother used to soak almonds for us every morning, and during our examinations, she would make us drink a glass of warm milk mixed with a spoonful of almond oil.
This is the first year that we have tried to make sweets using almond milk instead of regular dairy, and it definitely is a healthier option for guilt-free binge eating during festivities.
The kesar badam pedas that we made using So Good Almond Milk were simply delicious. We specifically used vanilla-flavoured almond milk to add that subtle flavour. The pedas just melted in our mouths and were super light as well.
Is it important to you and her that the almonds used are locally sourced? Does sustainability mean a lot to your grandmother or is it mainly a modern buzzword?
My grandfather practises Ayurveda. My grandmother and grandfather spent a lot of time together researching locally available home remedies. My grandparents believed in sustainable living even back in the day. My grandmother always thinks twice before disposing of anything. She refuses to use plastic, and even if she does end up with a plastic container, she reuses it over and over again to avoid wastage. Eco-friendly living is the keyword in my household; she plants her own greens and leads a minimalist lifestyle
What other recipes would you use almond milk for?
Our experimental badami kesar pedas turned out brilliantly, and if I could, I would replace animal milk with almond milk in every recipe. But to name a few, considering the upcoming festivities, I think almond milk would be a healthier substitute for animal milk in kheer, sevai, fudge, phirni, to name a few. Apart from this, a must-try is almond milk thandai.
What is the most important thing that you have learnt from your grandmother (in the kitchen and outside of it)?
Every now and then, and especially during the festive season, I am reminded of all the lessons that I have learnt from her. Some were taught to me formally with intentions of grooming me, and others I just simply learnt by observing her life, which she leads so gracefully. If I were to mention one of the lessons that I learnt from her, it would be: “Do not be wasteful.” She always made full use of anything that entered her kitchen pantry. “Paisa wasool,” (value for money) I would say. For instance, she would make us khakhras from the leftover lunch rotis or Bombay sandwiches from the leftover sabzi. And she absolutely hated it when we wasted food; I remember she would say, “Take only as much as you can have, and always finish what’s on your plate.” As I grew up, I realised that those lessons were not limited to the kitchen. I now understand how important it is to take up only as many tasks on hand as you can handle and how precious life is, utilise it for a cause, don’t waste it.
What would you consider the biggest difference between you and her, especially in the kitchen?
The biggest difference – and I am sure most of the millennials and even people from my mother’s generation would relate to this – is that we do not have the kind of time or energy to do bulk purchasing for the whole year! I take one day at a time, and you will see small packets of 100 gms to 500 gms max in my kitchen. Whereas my grandma buys pulses, lentils, rice and even grains in bulk as and when these arrive in the market after a particular item’s harvest. She still practises this method. Now, soon after Diwali, she will stock up nearly 50 kgs of toor dal. I can’t imagine myself doing this. I prefer packaged wheat flour, whereas when she stocks up on wheat, she first sun-dries it, gets it cleaned (she used to clean it by herself when she was my age) and then grinds it into flour at home, just enough to suffice for one month’s use. This is such a time-consuming, primitive practice, but for her, there is no other way.
Badami Kesar Peda
So Good Almond Milk, 200 ml; Almond flour, 1 cup; Sugar, 3 to 5 tbs; Milk powder, 2 tbs; Ghee, 1 tbs; Saffron strands, to taste.
Heat the almond milk in a pan, bring it to a boil and add some saffron strands to it.
Once the almond milk starts to reduce, add sugar to the milk, stir well.
Gradually add almond flour to this mixture and keep stirring on low heat. Finally, add milk powder for binding purposes.
Take this mixture off the heat and let it cool down. Grease your palms with some ghee and make mini balls or discs.
Garnish with saffron strands.
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