During my pre-vegan days, every Navratri I would offer my friends badam milk (almond milk) as a prelude to snacks before handing over haldi-kukum. It was a tasty drink. How can almond ground and added to milk, boiled and reduced to half its volume and sweetened with sugar, garnished with bruised saffron threads not be tasty? But that was the before I woke up to the cruelty involved.
The first year I became vegan, I was at a loss as I did not have a good drink to replace the almond milk. The vegan almond milk I take consists of only almonds and it was not a viable choice. I only offered water and snacks. I did not like the idea of juice as it is not in keeping with tradition.
Last year, I made this quick, tasty and very healthy drink conceived that afternoon. It must have been one of those days when a friendly fairy must have been around, raised her wand and decided to spring an idea on me. I am sure I heard the ‘bulb’.
A few days earlier I had prepared basil pesto, and as always my refrigerator had a good stock of cashew yogurt. I think it was probably only the second or third time that I was preparing cashew yogurt. I mixed a small quantity from both, ran in the blender, and tasted. The concoction was surprisingly tasty. I made a big batch and decided to serve my friends.
This is not your regular buttermilk. Though a new recipe, the plain and spiced recipes taste exactly like, perhaps better better than the original. How else can cashew taste?
Dish: Vegan Buttermilk and its variations [Neer mor, chaas and basil-pesto buttermilk]
Yield: About 5-6 cups depending on dilution
Cashew yogurt – 1 cup [Recipe here]
Basil pesto – 1 cup [Recipe follows]
Salt and pepper to taste
Lime – 1/2 tsp. if needed
Sour cashew yogurt is the best choice for this recipe. I found that fresh cashew yogurt tastes best when it has just set, and if it is allowed to ferment for a long time, it bubbles and smells yeasty. Now this recipe does not taste good without sour buttermilk! In order to let it turn sour, I place just-set yogurt in the refrigerator overnight to arrest the fermentation. Next morning remove and dilute the yogurt to desired consistency. Leave diluted yogurt, covered at room temperature for about 4-5 hours. This time the yogurt will ferment gradually without forming bubbles or any unwanted smell. Repeat this (refrigeration and fermentation) for two days and you will perfect sour cashew yogurt, ideal for preparation of buttermilk. You can also let the thick cashew yogurt ferment and dilute at the end of the fermentation process. The thick yogurt can be used as to replace sour cream in baking, or for cooking kadhi, and other Indian yogurt based dishes.
At this stage you can make any of the four types of buttermilk detailed below.
( Ideal dilution for me is to whisk 2.5 cups of water to one cup of cashew curd. But this varies as per taste. Some like their buttermilk thick while I like it almost watery. If, after dilution it needs more sourness add juice from half a lime.)
Vegan buttermilk – mor
Mor (Pronounced as ‘more’): Add salt and pepper and enjoy a simple buttermilk sans frills.
Neer mor: Season it with mustard seeds, ginger, chilli and curry leaves.
Vegan spiced buttermilk – chaas
Chaas: Pound chilli, curry leaves and ginger together till granular. Mix with the ‘mor’ or buttermilk. Adjust salt. No need to add pepper.
Make vegan buttermilk with basil pesto:
Add 1 cup of pesto to every three cups of diluted buttermilk and run in the blender. Ratio may be varied as per taste. If needed add some lime juice to make it slightly tangy.
Recipe: Basil Pesto recipe
Recipe modified from Jamie Oliver
This can be made in a blender but I like to make it in my stone/wood mortar, as it preserves the flavour of basil better than in a blender. The basil remains coarsely crushed and the pine nuts remain granular. That imparts major taste. If you prefer a smooth pesto, use a blender.
Fresh basil, leaves picked and cleaned – 2 cups
Extra virgin olive oil – About 3 tbsps.
Pine nuts, toasted – A fistful
Fresh garlic cloves – 3
Pink salt / Saindhav namak – To taste
Black pepper, coarsely crushed (optional) – To taste
Pound the garlic, basil without oil in the beginning in the mortar, till the basil gets bruised. Took me about 5 minutes. Use a spoon to push down leaves from the sides if needed.
Add pine nuts and further pound till the pine nuts are well crushed and evenly distributed into the mixture. Another ten minutes. You will need to scrape the sides with your hand and push the mixture into the center occasionally.
Add oil, salt and pepper and mix everything with the pestle, pounding as you do so. Two minutes of this and you are done!
Use this as a sandwich spread, to coat your pasta, instead of tomato sauce over your pizza, or make an innovative chaas!
I used as less olive oil as possible – about 2 tbsps. You can try it too, but a classic pesto should have strong flavour of olive oil, hence the extra tablespoon in the recipe!