I was inspired to make horchata after chancing upon a recipe on Sunfood’s website. But it was no regular horchata, but lucuma-sweetened horchata. Mmm… what a coincidence! I had a bag of lucuma powder that has been collecting dust in the pantry. About time for some kitchen experiments with this unique sweetener.
Horchata is a sweet milky beverage, often served chilled as the perfect panacea to scorching summertime heat. The age-old pearl-hued elixir is a concoction of a starch and nuts soaked in water, then sweetened, spiced and strained. It has been an energy drink fuelling people since the cradle of civilization. In its earliest incarnation dating back to Egyptian times, horchata referred to the milk of the tiger nut (ironically not a nut but the small tuber of the chufa plant).
However as the drink swam its way to Spain and then Mexico, it has evolved to be made with more common ingredients such as ground rice as a starchy replacement for the tigernuts and almonds. Below are some of the many variations from around the world:
- Southern Honduras & El Salvador: morro seeds and tiger nuts
- Puerto Rico: sesame seeds, evaporated milk or coconut milk, and lime zest
- Nicaragua: jicaro seeds
A curious investigation over at the noshon.it blog comparing the best rice-to-almond ratio among other variables concluded that 3 parts almonds to one part rice yielded the most creamy drink. However I wasn’t in the mood for grinding down rice and washing up the grinder and decided that pre-grounded Scottish oatmeal would be an awesome substitute. And since I didn’t have almonds, hazelnuts. If I had known earlier, I would have heeded the advice of noshon.it and try out the 1:3 golden ratio. But I used 2:3 oats-to-nuts here, which supposedly made an even thicker drink.
The drink was deliciously addictive, and might I say, oat-rageous. In layman terms it may be described as a nutella shake sans chocolate; is there anything better than the marriage of oaty hazelnut milk with dates, maple-like lucuma powder and warming cinnamon and vanilla? The addition of banana was just to give it a thicker body and make a more satisfying meal.
A little more details on lucuma powder. Lucuma is a low-glycemic alternative sweetener exalted for its nutritional benefits and unique taste. Among its nutritional attributes is its high niacin or vitamin B3 content, which stimulates the functioning of the nervous system. As such it is regarded as an extraordinary natural energizer that gives vitality and helps ward of depression. It is also rich in fiber, iron and beta carotene as demonstrated by its deep yellow flesh. It bears a delicate flavor that resembles maple syrup or sweet potato. Together with cinnamon, both are said to have a calming effect on the digesitve system.
- ⅔ cup Scottish oats or oat bran
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4½ cups water
- 2 dates, soaked and pitted
- 1 tablespoon lucuma powder
- ¼ teaspoon maca powder
- 1 banana (optional)
- Soak oats, hazelnuts, cinnamon and vanilla in 2½ cups of boiling water. Let cool, cover and let stand overnight.
- The next day, strain the oat/nut mixture using a nut-milk bag or fine-mesh sieve, using a spoon to press the pulp against the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the pulp.
- To make the oatchata, blend 2 cups of the drink with dates, lucuma and banana, if a thicker smoothie is preferred. Serve with rawnola if desired.
- Pour any remaining drink into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Variation – Forbidden Chai Horchata (from Steeped by Annelies Zijderveld)
This version has an unexpected color, which comes from the black rice.
1 cup forbidden black rice
2 cups filtered water
6 cups masala chai tea, brewed and cooled (4 bags or 2 tablespoons loose)
1 stick cinnamon
2 tbsp coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener
Soak rice in water for 8 hours or overnight. The next day, blend with the remaining ingredients and strain the horchata through a nut-milk bag to remove any solid residue before pouring into the serving pitcher. Refrigerate and serve over ice.