How do non-dairy milks measure up? asks Trish Deseine …
Main Image; @alphafoodie
When you have grown up enjoying the creamy taste of cow’s milk, moving away from the taste of dairy can be tricky. The flavour and feel of milk in our glasses, cereals and cups of tea and coffee are daily pleasures, familiar and comforting. Cutting them out can seem like a huge relinquishment of simple treats, in return for a (surely insignificant?) dent on climate change. It’s still one of the first tastes we know. Our pastures and dairy herds are part of our unique Irish landscape, and if you are becoming slightly ancient, like me, you will remember, misty-eyed, the magpies’ massacre of the foil capping those glass bottles brought to your door every day. (If you want to know more about our love story with milk, John and Sally McKenna’s book Milk is a great read, exploring milk’s cultural power and resonance in the history of Ireland).
But with changing times, more and more of us now regularly consume more plant-based milks as ethical or dietary reasons, trumping our personal taste preferences. The greater the mix of millennials or Generation Z in any household, the more types of milk and dairy you will find in the fridge. In the plant-based sector, oat milk is the most rapidly growing worldwide, and appears to be the best dairy replacement or addition. It has a great nutrition profile. Even if it can never match the protein and calcium levels in dairy, it is high in fibre and low in unsaturated fat and full of vitamins D, B12, riboflavin and potassium. The creamy texture is satisfying and, well, it tastes good!
Oats require much less land and water to produce than, say, almond or soy. They are a valuable asset in crop rotations, improving biodiversity and breaking pest cycles, and have relatively low CO2 emissions compared to other plant-based milk crops. With our abundant and often organic homegrown supply, and now a couple of good Irish oat milk brands (Flahavan’s, Organic Oat Drink), they seem to be a good alternative to nut milks with their larger water footprints and air miles. Almond milk, in particular, guzzles a whopping twelve litres per nut. With 82 per cent of the world’s almond supply coming from drought-affected California, it is no wonder there is a global shortage and perhaps it’s a good time to take it off your shopping list completely. But when it comes to cooking and baking, unless it’s just for loosening a cake batter, or making a smoothie, for me, nothing replaces dairy. Just like our meat, we can be more careful about where our cow’s milk comes from, and although we are probably a few years away from seeing slaughter-free milk farms such as Chrissie Hynde’s Ahimsa Farm, we can start choosing, where we can identify them, farms with sustainable practices such as those used by carbon-neutral Ballywalter Park in Co Down.
Fairfield Farm Fresh milk, made by Nick Doyle in Enniscorthy, and stocked by Ardkeen Stores in Waterford, is pasteurised on the farm. It is non-homogenised, meaning that all the fat is left in the milk, with the cream rising to the top the way the magpies used to love it. Another great dairy product to look out at Ardkeen is Tinnock Farm’s buttermilk. This is the real deal, the sweet, delicate milk left over from the butter-making process, not simply fermented as it is in other brands. Even more delicious, nutritious and downright creamy, and quite widely available is Velvet Cloud’s gorgeous sheep’s milk. Many lactose-intolerant consumers are in fact intolerant to cow’s milk casein and the sheep variety allows them to enjoy ice creams, lattes and yoghurts, with extra creaminess, vitamins, minerals and proteins thrown in. I love using the milk for ice cream, and the yoghurt in cakes, muffins, scones and soda bread. It’s also wonderful for marinating lamb and chicken and a worthy replacement for fresh cream with strawberries and other fruit desserts. @trishdeseineencore @TrishDeseine
TURKISH EGGS WITH YOGHURT AND SMOKED PAPRIKA
A great little dish for a Sunday brunch
20 minutes preparation
7 minutes cooking
4 slices of toast
400g sheep’s yoghurt
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Fresh mint and dill to garnish
Salt and pepper
In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the garlic and sauté gently for 5 minutes.
Add the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.
When the butter is foamy, add the olive oil and a pinch of salt, off the
heat. Pour everything into a bowl and set aside.
Prepare a bowl of cold water.
In a large saucepan, bring the water and vinegar to a simmer, then break the eggs directly into the water, one after the other.
Let the eggs cook for 3 minutes.
Take them out one by one with a slotted spoon and place them in the cold water to stop the cooking, then cover them with hot water
to rinse off the vinegar taste and reheat them gently.
Season the yoghurt and divide it among four soup plates. Place an egg on each of them and drizzle with spiced butter.
Sprinkle with chopped dill and mint. Serve immediately with the toast.
SHEEP’S YOGHURT, WALNUT AND HONEY ICE CREAM
Here is a super simple ice cream recipe, using honey as the sugar content to smooth out the texture. Serve with cherry compote or fresh fruit.
10 minutes preparation
30-45 minutes freezing
3 tbsp sugar
300g sheep’s yoghurt
2 tbsp honey
Crush the walnuts coarsely and in a frying pan over medium heat, toast the walnuts for a few minutes, then sprinkle with sugar.
Allow the sugar to melt until it forms a caramel then stir it in to coat the nuts. Reserve the mixture and leave to cool on a baking sheet.
Mix the sheep’s yoghurt with the honey, then freeze the ice cream (beating it in an ice cream maker for 45 minutes or place it in the freezer) until it begins to take on a creamy texture.
Add the caramelised walnuts, mix well and finish for 15 minutes in the ice cream machine, or 45 minutes to an hour
in the freezer, stirring regularly every 15 minutes to break up ice crystals.