Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Nightcap: Masala Milk

A cuppa before bed

Picture this: Late evening. Post-dinner on Christmas day.

You're sitting with your feet up (hopefully) feeling nice and  stuffed with the festive meal - turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes get the picture. Now you're feeling like a cup of tea before bed. Or you could be thinking of having a glass of port. How about some Brandy? Why not? But if you really want to be ensured good sleep, let me have the pleasure of introducing you to Masala Milk. 

Now this delicious concoction of milk steeped with whole spices, saffron, almonds and pistachios was a hit in my home, and practically a ritual, especially when my father was home for the holidays (he was in the merchant navy). Although I hated milk, this was one of the few ways my parents could actually get me to have a cup. Before bed my mother would heat some milk and stir in the powder, which was available in small plastic bottles, and I would love to watch as the saffron strands would gently colour the milk into a pale yellow. I loved the end because that's when you could eat all the nuts clustered at the bottom. We would gather around the dining table and chat as a family as we slowly sipped from our cups. Listening to my father's stories we had some of the best laughs. So we always retired to bed with a smile on our faces.

Gently fragrant and hugely satisfying

You know how they say a glass of warm milk before bed time helps you sleep well. Add this mix to it and you'll be hitting dreamland soon enough. Funnily enough, while we enjoy masala milk hot, Sean is a fan of it chilled nice and cold - the way it is available in most corner stores in Bombay for around Rs.10 or 12. I remember when we were dating I was craving masala milk so Sean decided to buy us some from the first store we saw on the way while driving. The gentleman behind the counter filled two nice large glasses with the saffron-coloured milk and handed it to us. We drank it and were marvelling at how great it tasted. Then he handed Sean an exorbitant bill for Rs.64. 

I'll never forget the shocked look on his face. This was a time when our pocket money was limited so Rs. 64 and it was a big dent for both our budgets. Being the gentleman that he was, he refused to take any money from me and paid off the bill. Of course by the end of it we were both laughing, especially at our stupidity for not checking the price. He still reminds me to this day about my craving, which drained him of his funds. So yesterday, I surprised Sean with a home made version for breakfast and he couldn't help but start smiling when I presented him with a cup full. Although, it was still warm, he drank it happily and was scooping up all the nuts with a spoon at the end. I think it turned out real good because nothing about the pocket money came up. 

So as I was saying, if you need something to end your evening. Give masala milk a try. It's lightly spiced and is as much a delight for the olfactory senses as it is for your tastebuds. And you can add as much of the nuts or extra spices that you like because you're not going to be charged for adding extra flavour to it. Trust me, you'll be having sweet dreams.

Masala Milk
Serves 2

2 cups milk (I used organic soy milk)
2 tbs almond powder
2 tbs chopped pistachios
3 whole cardamom pods, crushed
3 cloves
1 stick  cinnamon
Pinch of saffron strands
agave or honey to taste

Heat the milk together with the nuts, spices and few saffron strands. When small bubble start to form, turn it off and leave it to steep for at least ten minutes. Don't boil. Pour it into cups and sweeten to taste with agave or honey. Garnish with saffron strands and serve. Can be chilled and served as well.
NOTE: Sean says it would probably taste better with normal dairy milk as the taste of the organic soy milk we use seemed to overpower the taste of the spices a bit.


  1. I've been getting into steamers lately, and chai is so addicting, this will be a nice differentiation from the norm. Great flavors for a cold night.



  2. I love your story and this sounds so good. I just picked up some whole spices by accident and wasn't sure what to do with them. Think I'll try this!

  3. Mmm can't wait to try this out! Thanks for the great inspiration, Beverley!

  4. this sounds like a drink I had while in Israel. I loved it and haven't been able to find a recipe for it online - mainly bc I can't recall the name of it. I'm def going to make this soon (! Maybe with a touch of vanilla vodka for a night cap?

  5. @ Heather - It's very much the chai spices but with a much gentler twist.

    @ Megan - Thanks for your sweet comments.

    @ WGFoodies - Thanks so much for stopping by. Let me know how it turns out.

    @ Laura - You hit the nail on the head! Was wondering what I could spike it with and vanilla vodka sounds perfect!

  6. I'm definitely going to try that masala milk recipe... brings back memories... :)

  7. I have a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night. I've tried everything. Everything except this! It looks so good, how can I not make it?