The UAE is catching up when it comes to the number of people bypassing traditional dairy milk, whether it’s due to an aversion to factory farming, a personal issue with digesting lactose, a belief that dairy causes inflammation or a variety of other reasons relating to their lifestyle.
The UAE market is responding to this demand, with speciality coffee shops and restaurants increasingly offering alternatives made with nuts, oats or rice. Even the big chains are responding, following up on what happened years ago in North America and the UK.
At the start of the year, Costa started serving coconut and almond milk at most of its locations, while select Starbucks are offering almond milk for an extra Dh5. Many of Dubai’s speciality coffee shops have been offering nut milk alternatives since they opened. However, what they offer, which is also for sale in those small cardboard boxes that sell for upwards of Dh18 in Spinneys, Waitrose and, increasingly, the large supermarket chains, comes with more than a steep price tag.
They also contain ingredients that thicken, stabilize and emusify the product – with names like locust bean, gellan and xanthan gum, as well as sunflower lecithin, each of which can cause their own digestive issues. Many brands also have added sugar and other flavourings.
“Most supermarket brands will aim to stabilize and use chemicals to ‘keep’ their product on the supermarket shelves for an extensive period of time,” says Mira Naaman, chef and founder of plant-based Abu Dhabi cafe, Nectar, and a member of the Livehealthy.ae expert panel. “Additionally, most brands will sweeten their milks and if you would like to control the type of sweeteners you consume, most brands won’t use unrefined sources.”
Naaman makes her own nut milks at Nectar, because “it’s a cleaner milk, a more cost-efficient product and easy to do”.
Don’t get freaked out, she cautions, because it really is “dead easy” – and fast. She’s shares her cashew milk recipe with Livehealthy.ae, one she is partial to because it doesn’t involve extensive soaking, special milk bags or blenders. One caution: as homemade milks are all-natural, they will separate. A quick shake before use will restore their creaminess.
Recipe: Mira Naaman’s cashew milk
(yields approx 1 litre)
1 cup raw cashews
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
1 liter of water
- Heat 500 ml of water and soak the cashews in the hot water for approximately 15 minutes
- Add nuts, soaked water and the additional 500 ml of water into a high powered blender. Blend until silky smooth
- If sweetness is required, add 2 soft pitted medjool or 3 khalas dates into the mix and blend until smooth
- Refrigerate for approximately three days and use with cereal, coffee and chia puddings