Photo by Tamara West
Horchata is a Mexican drink, typically made from soaked white rice and cinnamon. Served over ice, it’s perfect on a hot afternoon. The original Spanish version is made with either African tiger nuts, which are a kind of tuber (never tried them myself but they just went on my food bucket list), or melon seeds. Almonds often make an appearance too and here I’ve made them the star, because the result is creamier and more flavoursome than the rice version.
The first step is to make your own almond milk, and it’s pretty easy if you have a decent blender. If you have time on your hands you can remove the skins from the almonds first. This is how they make those shiny white blanched almonds — soak them in boiling water for 5 -10 minutes, then place in ice cold water and squeeze the loosened skins off. I like to add a bit of almond essence to intensify the almond character, plus maple syrup for fragrant sweetness — just use as much or as little as you prefer. Cinnamon is the other key ingredient, and if you’ve never tried grinding a fresh cinnamon quill, I encourage you to try it. All the spicy richness is released and it’s quite a different experience from pre-ground cinnamon. In other parts of South America, horchata is made with different ingredients. You may like to try sesame seeds or peanuts for the base, as well as lime zest, vanilla and nutmeg as flavourings. Experiment and enjoy.
- To make the almond milk, it’s ideal if you can soak the almonds overnight in the cold water, but you can get away without doing this. Place almonds and water in a good blender and run for a couple of minutes until nicely smooth. Strain into a bowl, pressing and squeezing the pulp to extract as much of the liquid as possible.
- To assemble the horchata, use 500ml of almond milk and mix with the maple syrup, almond essence and cinnamon. Serve in a glass full of ice cubes.