Despite the carnivorous revelery amongst the medieval rich, in the early medieval period at least three out of seven days a week were considered fast days. On these times devout members of the community would abstain from eating meat, dairy and eggs.
As a result of this regular abstention, cookbooks of the period are scattered with receipts suitable for the modern vegan. Many include instructions for making an alternative to milk with almonds, a popular ingredient in a medieval gentry kitchen.
take the quantity of almonds, have them well and cleanly blanched and washed and then have them very well brayed; and take very clean fair water and let him strain his almond milk into a bowl or a cornue which is fair and clean
Website reference – Medieval Cookery
- 150g almonds
- hot water for soaking
- 450ml fresh water
- sea salt
- Place the almonds in a large bowl and cover well with plenty of just boiled water. Note: the almonds in my photographs are blanched, but I now know that you gain a much rounder flavour with almonds still in their skins.
- Leave the nuts to soak overnight. Don’t miss out this stage otherwise your almond milk will have an unpleasant bitter flavour.
- The following day drain and rinse the almonds clean. Place half of the almonds, a pinch of sea salt and 200ml fresh water in your blender. Pulse until you have a white emulsification. Pour into a large jug.
- Take the second half of your almonds and fresh water and repeat the process, replacing the salt with two teaspoons of honey.
- Whisk the two batches together with a fork. If you have time, I find that leaving the milk for another day before straining through a fine sieve can improve the taste even further. Otherwise, strain immediately.
The resulting milk in this recipe is lighter, less cloying than many shop bought versions. However, with no artificial emulsifiers it will seperate over time. This is fine, simply shake before use. It can be used in exactly the same way; to drink, in puddings or tarts, even savoury dishes. For extra interest try adding flavours such as cinnamon, saffron or raw cacao powder.