When I was in my mid-twenties I was unwell a lot, I was missing a lot of time of work and since I had quite a busy job I was really feeling the strain. The days I did go into work I usually felt awful, constantly sick and exhausted with pounding headaches. The doctors tested me for everything but in their eyes I was fit and well. So under the advice of my personal trainer I went to a local kinesiologist to seek a more holistic approach, which was a fun if slightly batty experience. Kinesiology is the study of human movement and a series of simple tests on muscles is believed to determine any imbalances in the body. Since by this time I was fed up of going to the doctors for them merely to shrug and give me further blood tests the holistic approach seemed a welcome relief.
The kinesiologist put various food samples in my hands and tested my muscle response to see if any particular food group was causing an imbalance in my body and by eliminating the incriminating substances from my diet she hoped to determine the cause of my lack of energy and why I was frequently plagued by nausea and headaches. Now the results were not a short list; it turned out I was intolerant to mushrooms (yay, I hate them anyway), beer (ditto), soy (meh), marmite (hmm, I always quite liked marmite), wheat (oh) and dairy (noooooo). At the time I was subsisting on a diet of chicken baked in tomatoes and crème fraiche and I did so love my cups of tea; I couldn’t bear having to give these up.
However, if I thought about it, the dairy thing kind of made sense. As a child I was never able to eat cereal as the milk made my ears pop, like I had lost my centre of gravity, and since taking up the tea habit in my late teens I was never able to drink more than a couple of mugs before getting my patented ‘tea tummy’.
The inability to tolerate lactose is more prevalent in human beings than we realise. Most mammals cease to produce lactase after being weaned which means they become intolerant to lactose and although many human beings have developed lactase persistence into adulthood, meaning that they can digest lactose normally, Wikipedia says (so it must be bible) that in 75% of adults lactase activity is decreasing, leading to the intolerance of lactose.
Over the years I have managed to erase wheat from my everyday cooking, only saving it for my baking addiction and the odd burger from Meatliquor, which is why you see so many gluten-free recipes on this site. However, the dairy thing has plagued me off and on for years, I have been more than happy to treat myself to a bit of dairy for the odd recipe but slowly I found that I was consuming it every day again, mainly in my tea but also cheese, yoghurt and my own personal temptation, crème fraiche (seriously, I was adding it to everything).
Since I began to think about and then embark upon the Whole30 I have successfully managed to cut it out for 24 days and counting. Now, thank goodness the Whole30 allows caffeine as it has meant that I can happily still drink my beloved two cups of tea a day without any guilt. The reason I can do that… well now finally I am getting round to my point… is Almond Milk (cue halos and a heavenly chorus).
I see a lot of American paleo sites are a bit concerned about commercialised almond milk due the ingredient of carrageenan which is used as a thickener and which some studies show has slight carcinogenic properties. However, I cannot see it included in the ingredients list of my normal Alpro Almond Milk. Still, I have been keen to try my hand at homemade almond milk since the beginning of my Whole30 plan and I finally took the milky plunge this week. My word, am I glad I did, it’s like discovering almond milk again which has meant more angels and more heavenly music.
I never really minded the substitution of almond milk for dairy in my tea, it was different, but for me cleaner than dairy, it has a sharper flavour and seems to strengthen the taste of the tea rather than soften it like dairy. However, since I like my tea as mighty as an ox this turned out to be the milk I was looking for. However, this homemade stuff is the real deal; richer, silkier, fresher, more nutty and made my tea feel much more luxurious, almost as if it had whole milk in it.
Before I started looking into it I couldn’t imagine how almond milk was made but it turns out that it’s pretty straightforward. You just soak the almonds in water for a couple of days, drain them and then blend with fresh water. The milk is produced immediately but you will want to strain through muslin to get rid of all the nitty gritty. It’s worth mentioning though that at the end of the milk making process you will be left with some soggy almond meal in the muslin after straining, I would heartily recommend you dry this in a low oven before keeping in a jar as they make an absolutely perfect breadcrumb substitution.
I am pleased that the Whole30 has made me embrace almond milk again and I know I will never go back to whole milk in my tea. I cannot say I will avoid all dairy in the future but it is certainly a good thing to keep to a minimum since I cannot deny that as soon as I limited my wheat and dairy intake the daily headaches and nausea faded away. I have lots of plans for this almond milk as its possibilities are so much more adventurous than just adding to tea but they do include a bit of baking and ice cream making and I can’t wait for my Whole30 to be over so I can get stuck in.
150g whole unblanched almonds
500ml of water, plus extra for soaking
- Place your almonds in a medium bowl then pour over enough water so it covers the almonds by an inch.
- Cover with cling film and leave for two days for the almonds to soften.
- Drain and rinse the almonds then place in a blender with the 500ml water. Whizz up for a couple of minutes until it’s as smooth as you can get it.
- Place two layers of muslin in a large bowl, wide enough to gather up after you pour in the milk mixture.
- Pour the milk mixture on top of the muslin then gather up all the corners and tie up with string.
- Lift up the muslin ball and watch all the clean almond milk drip into your bowl. Squeeze the muslin ball to get as much milk as you can.
- That’s it. Pour the milk into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge. You can reserve the almond meal left over in the muslin for breadcrumbs or baking.
- The almond milk only lasts for a few days so drink up quickly.