A word of caution before we begin today’s lesson in obscurity. The following soymilk recipe – technique is a better choice of word - is for the kind popular in Asia, not the kind that some Occidentals use in place of, for whatever reasons, the juice of cows. I know it is simpler to open a supermarket-friendly carton of vacuum-sealed long-life goodness, I do so all the time, but making things from scratch gives me a perverse sort of self-sufficient-in-the-city pleasure. Like the fragile, moreish crackers from Ottolenghi, for example, that we can’t stop snacking on (hip, hip hooray for less of that packaging nonsense, I say) and the bread that, surprisingly, and however wonky she may be, I’m now devoted to nurturing weekly.
Homemade soymilk. Yes.
Skitter drops of toasted sesame oil, dark, rich tamari and Chinese black vinegar across the surface while it's hot, strewing as you go with a handful of slivered spring onions for a protein-packed ‘soup’. Madhur Jaffrey, from whom I learned this, suggests it served as such for breakfast but I prefer it a little later, as lunch. For something that resembles the drinks you’re more familiar with, sweeten with sugar – gratings of palm, jaggery or crumbled soft brown. A vanilla bean, split in two and simmered with the milk during the second cooking stage is good but still won’t replicate your favourite brand.
Instead, think of this as a beany beast of an entirely different ilk. Love it for what it is, rather than what it represents. Advice for life, that.
Take 1 cup of organic soy beans and pick over them well. Place in a large bowl. Add clean, cool water and wash well, swishing back and forth with fingers for the better part of 3 minutes. Drain the water into the garden (the habanero chillies, close to the back door, have been thriving on soaking water of late), cover with plenty of fresh cold water and leave them to soak overnight.
Next day, drain the beans and repeat yesterdays swishing process. Drain again. Measure the beans – I had 3 cups this time – and place them in large blender. Measure an equal amount of warm water and pour into the blender. Whiz for 5 minutes to make an uber-smooth puree.
Pour 1 cup of water into a large saucepan and when it boils, pour in the frothy contents of the blender. Keep up the heat and the second it boils, remove the pan. Line a colander with muslin, set it over a bowl and carefully pour in the hot soy mixture. Pull up the corners of the muslin, secure with a rubber band and, using a potato masher, squeeze out as much milk as possible. Cool a little, and wring out the rest with your (asbestos) hands.
Wash out the saucepan and pour in the milk. Gently bring to a boil and the moment the milk begins to ‘rise’ reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the raw, ‘beany’ flavour has been cooked off. Keeps for up to 3 days, if refrigerated.