Warm milk beverages, served lightly sweetened or flavoured with exotic nuts and warming spices have always been a part of India’s culinary legacy. Before the British East India Company started mass production of tea in India in the 1600s, milk was the beverage of choice in the Indian subcontinent.
There are many references to the drinking of spiced milk in the vedic texts. Milk imbued with spices and nuts was an important part of royal meals. Guests would be welcomed with saffron and cardamom infused milk. This tradition continues till today in many households and festivals and celebrations are replete with spiced almond or pistachio milk.
If you like me are skeptical about pre packed cartons of masala powders, this can be a natural home made alternative to store bought badam (almond) milk powder. At times, I mix this nut and spice rich powder into Hari’s milk to cut the monotony from his regular carob milk.
It is not only delicious but also nutritious. The healthful properties of almonds and other nuts are well known today and this is a great way to incorporate nuts into a diet, especially a child’s diet (provided your child is not allergic to milk or nuts).
Apart from being stirred into milk to be drunk as a beverage, this powder has other uses too. It can be stirred into payasams and kheers (milk puddings) to give them extra taste. It could also be mixed into accompaniments to sweets like rabri and pheni.
Serve this exotic milk beverage to your guests as a warming drink or chilled during summers. It fits in excellently into a party menu. Or savour it when you are in the mood for something traditional and exotic and want to relive a royal repast.
Milk Masala Powder ( An Exotic Spiced Drink) Recipe
You can use cow milk or soy/almond/ rice bran or any other milk of your choice to make this drink. You could also use a single nut or vary the nuts used for a change in taste.
2 tbsp almonds
2 tbsp cashews
1 tbsp pistachios
1/8 tsp saffron strands
1/4 nutmeg, ground in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
6 cardamom pods, shelled and seeds crushed
2 peppercorns, crushed (optional)
4 tbsp raw sugar (preferably unprocessed)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder for added colour (optional)
In a wok or a heavy bottomed skillet, place the almonds, cashews and pistachios and roast over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure that the nuts don’t get black. Cool completely.
Place the saffron strands and gently heat for a few seconds. Crush to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle.
In a coffee grinder or blender place all the nuts and spices, almonds, cashews, pistachios saffron, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper if using and the sugar and pulse until finely ground. Do this in spurts and with a gap of 30 seconds. If you keep the motor running continuously you might get a paste instead of powder as the nuts are oil rich.
Stir in the optional turmeric powder and store in an air tight container.
To prepare the spiced milk beverage:
Stir in 2 tsp or 1 tbsp of this powder into warm milk of your choice. Mix well with a spoon. You might want to place this powder in the cup first, add a little milk, mix and add more milk and mix if you don’t want any lumps. Add additional sugar to taste if required.
Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or chilled.
Note: You can store this mixture for upto two weeks. It is better to store it in the refrigerator and not for a long period as the nuts can turn rancid.