FOOD AND NUTRITION | HEALTHY DRINK | MEMORIES
Almond milk or Harira/Hareera (not to be confused with the Moroccan soup made with mixed vegetables and lentils and/or other dishes with the same name) is a traditional sweet drink prepared with dry fruits, milk, and sugar as the main ingredients. There are many variants of this dish, but what I have known is of the Almond Milk.
Both of my paternal and maternal extended families have a rich cultural heritage. Precious and rare recipes have been handed down through generations and our fine culinary traditions define us. The knowledge, skills, and methods are impressive.
My (late) mother made Hareera with a lot of love and dedication. It was something we looked forward to. Dry fruits, milk, sugar, pure ghee, hot spices — all costly ingredients, yet were part of our middle-class life, and I liked the beauty of it. Our parents ensured respect for the traditions and nutritious meals.
My mother’s recipe consisted of lots of pure ghee, sugar, almonds, poppy seeds, rice, and sometimes cashew paste. She also made the same almond milk drink with ragi (finger millet) powder. These dishes would turn out to be very rich and healthy. Her absence haunts me every day, the void never to be filled. Yet, when it comes to cooking, I reminisce about the happy times and try to be a good cook like her.
Like reading, writing, and painting, cooking is therapeutic for me, even though we cook every day. A dish turns out to be more tastier when one makes it with a lot of love, pure intentions, precision, and sincerity, and that’s what my mother taught us. For example, the finely ground almond paste and the cardamom powder must be sieved, as she would explain — the milk should be clear of any leftover thin strands of cardamom skin or almonds or the ragi husk. I remember this and follow.
I had done some variations by adding below ingredients, at different times just to experiment:
- Small pieces of dry figs when frying.
- Almondette (also known Calumpong Nut or Chironji) when frying.
- Coconut milk with almond and rice.
- Cashew paste or poppy seeds with almond paste, but very less quantity.
**Cashew and poppy seeds may cause drowsiness in some individuals if used in high quantities.
All these variations turned out be very tasty. Figs added a beautiful colour. Chironji gives a nutty taste.
Below is the main recipe of my mother; also per the tradition of most of my extended family, but a bit modified by me in terms of quantities and ingredients used. I have started adding clove and cinnamon only now for taste and aroma; otherwise, I have skipped these while adding ghee. *I don’t use saffron while garnishing.
- Three tablespoons of pure ghee (clarified butter) only.
- Almonds, 25 grams (or more depending upon the quantity of almond milk you want).
- Milk 1 liter (or more depending upon the quantity of drink you want).
- Raw rice 1-2 tablespoons (adds texture and thickness).
- Sugar as per taste.
- 2–3 whole clove pods.
- 1–2 small cinnamon sticks.
- Fine cardamom powder.
- Soak almonds and rice overnight or maximum 4–5 hours.
- Boil almonds for not more than 2–3 minutes; more than this will affect the texture and taste; this is just to help peel off the skin easily, otherwise, can peel the skin with hands.
- Grind the drained rice and peeled almonds to a fine paste.
Sieve this fine paste further with a dry strainer to ensure there are no leftover strands.
- In a large wok or pan, add pure ghee. Add cloves and cinnamon to be fried very lightly (be careful as the ghee heats up very quickly).
- Reduce the flame and carefully add the fine almond paste, saute until the raw smell evaporates.
- Increase the flame now, add milk and stir continuously to avoid lumps or milk burning/sticking to the pan.
- Add sugar and stir. It will take a few minutes for the milk to come to a boil and thicken.
- Cook for 15 to 20 minutes while stirring.
- No raw smell, thickening of the milk, ghee being visible on the surface of the milk/sides of the wok is an indication that the milk is cooked.
Reduce the flame.
- You can check for taste and add more sugar if required. (I always cut down on sugar).
- Sieve/sprinkle fine cardamom powder and stir for few more minutes.
Switch off the flame, close the lid for the flavours and aroma to settle down. **As it is, per tradition, after cooking a meal, you should leave it on the stove for a few minutes; do not immediately open the lid or remove the wok/pan from the stove.
- Serve hot.
- 3–4 days with intact flavours if re-heated 2 times a day.
- Can refrigerate for a week if you want to store and use later.
- Re-heat and drink as needed.
For illnesses, for warmth during winters, for new mothers, for sick kids, for teenagers during puberty, or just as a drink — Hareera covers everything. As I already said, there are variants, and recipes differ from household to household.
I now make it often for my father and sister, but I use the ingredients in moderation, unlike my mother. She wouldn’t have liked my cutting down on sugar and ghee, but the living conditions are not the same now as they were earlier. The pandemic has changed the way we would have wanted to live. One thing leads to another. So, I have stuck to this simple recipe.
You too can prepare it and relish it with your family. Trust me, it turns out to be very tasty, healthy, and wholesome.
Thank you for reading.
© 2023 — A.H. Mehr