By: Renu Jain Chandarana
Turmeric Milk, healthy for the whole family
I have been waiting for the moment that I can get my kids into the kitchen to help me prepare snacks and meals. They are so interested in helping and are in the “I wanna do it!” phase that I just feel like it’s the right time to just let them do it. By letting them cook with me in the kitchen I can throw in a few tidbits about technique, the chemistry behind the ingredients and the importance of ‘mise en place’ (French phrase that translates to: putting ingredients in their place). While I know it will get messy, these are the moments we will remember and cherish…those imperfect times when we made messes but were happy and together – creating, experimenting, learning.
Everything I know about cooking I learned from a young age from my parents and my older sisters. Things like food appreciation, nutrition knowledge and the integral role of spices in Indian cooking. I want that for my girls because if they can navigate a menu when they get older or cook for their friends, family and themselves – they will be healthy and hopefully happy! Cooking can be like learning a new language and languages are best learned as a child.
I’m starting with their senses. Whole spices come in different shapes and sizes, they are smooth and rough, fragrant or pungent, crunchy and delicious. They can be seen, touched, smelled, heard (if you crack them) and tasted. Last week, I presented my girls with a masala box for them to share. It has turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, saffron, and two different kids of cinnamon – rolled and flat.
For their first recipe together I chose their favorite – steamed milk before bed – amplified by their choice of Indian spices from the box. Of course they chose them all! I did the grown up work by warming the milk with spices on the stove and then straining it into their cups. I noticed my girls enjoyed their evening milk much more now that they had been the master chefs behind this creation. I’m sure the chocolate chip pecan cookies seen in the pictures helped, but with or without a cookie, my girls ask for their “golden spiced steamers” almost every night now and they choose what goes in them.
If you’re reading this and you’re South Asian, when was the last time you listened to your mom when she told you to drink warm milk with turmeric in it? An ayurvedic favourite for boosting immunity, most Indian grown ups will shudder when they remember back to drinking that earthy tasting neon yellow, with staining power, warm milk. We just needed to add a little more of this and a little more of that to make it more palatable. I think my girls have the formula down and we’d love to share it with you. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it your own – add as much or as little of any spice, omit a spice or add another not mentioned here (like black pepper for warmth). Experimenting will allow you to appreciate the nuances of each spice, individually or mixed together.
Indian Spiced Turmeric Milk
1 inch of flat or rolled cinnamon
1/8th teaspoon of nutmeg (or a few grates of the nut on a micro plane)
2-3 strands of saffron
½ teaspoon ground turmeric (or a few grates of fresh turmeric on a micro plane)
½ teaspoon vanilla*
1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
2 cups of milk (dairy or non-dairy)*
- Put the clove, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and saffron into a mortar and press the spices a few times with the pestle to release their aromas.
- Combine the milk, vanilla and optional maple syrup in a small saucepan and place on low heat on the stove. Add the ground spices and the turmeric to the milk.
- Let the milk heat through, stirring constantly so the spices permeate the milk.
- Low heat prevents the milk from burning on to the bottom of your saucepan.
- Once heated to your liking, pour through a strainer into two cups.You can make the milk as warm as you like to your taste. I don’t boil it because my girls like to drink it right away, but if I make this for myself, I do like to boil it. Just be cautious, milk will boil over the pot and on to your stove if you do not watch it carefully.
*I have used vanilla almond milk and vanilla soymilk to make this and I omit the vanilla and the maple syrup if my non-dairy drink is already sweetened or has vanilla in it. It honestly tastes delicious with both of those alternatives. I haven’t tried coconut milk or cashew milk.
How do you introduce spices or cooking to your kids? What food traditions do you like to share with them?
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