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What’s better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy you don’t need one. In It’s That Simple, we talk you through the dishes we make with our eyes closed. Today, badam doodh.
When I was growing up in Mumbai, evenings during Ramadan were magical. After having our fill of shami kebabs and biryani at iftar parties, my friends and I would head to the town center, where stalls decorated with twinkling lights sold some of the most delicious-smelling treats imaginable. We’d wash down more snacks with glasses of rich, fragrant badam doodh, which translates from Hindi to “almond milk.”
Unlike store-bought almond milk, badam doodh is creamy, velvety, and made primarily from whole-fat dairy milk—it’s almond-flavored milk rather than milk made from almonds. While plant-based milk may now be a multibillion-dollar industry, these types of beverages have actually been around since medieval times, if not much earlier in the case of soy and coconut milks. People in the Middle East used to make almond milk for special occasions, especially during Ramadan and Lent, when the fasting periods for the two religions coincided.
Ramadan festivities weren’t the same once I moved to London, where I didn’t know as many people and celebrations were more private. So I’ve started re-creating the badam doodh from home as a way to revisit those Ramadan nights.
Soak 20–25 blanched almonds (about 2 heaping Tbsp.) in warm water until they have softened somewhat, about 40 minutes. (When my mother makes badam doodh, she starts with raw almonds, then meticulously takes off each skin so that they do not mar the drink’s appearance or texture. Starting with blanched almonds can save you that step.) Drain and rinse almonds and add to a blender with ¼ cup room temperature whole milk, 2 tsp. sugar, a heaping ¼ tsp. ground cardamom, and a couple saffron threads. Blend on high speed until smooth.
Warm 1¾ cups whole milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scoop out about 1 Tbsp. warm milk and pour over a pinch of crushed saffron threads and set aside. Add the blended almond mixture and ½ tsp. rose water to the saucepan with the warm milk, whisk to combine, then bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the milk starts to look golden yellow and almost comes to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent the milk from scorching. Add the reserved saffron mixture to the saucepan, stir to combine, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve if you’d like a thinner, smoother drink. Serve warm and garnish with a few additional strands of saffron, or chill and top with slivered pistachios, cashew pieces, dried rose petals, and yes, more saffron.
Badam doodh is good poured over corn flakes or added to rice or vermicelli to make kheer or payasam, desserts similar to pudding. But this year, I’ll sip mine on its own, counting down the days until I can return to Mumbai and the iftar snacks on Mohammed Ali Road.
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