Lara Williams is the author of Supper Club (Hamish Hamilton)
I gave up nearly a decade of veganism a few years ago, and while I have eaten my weight in Halloumi many times over, I cannot get back onboard with cow’s milk. Nor do I like most other milks: I find rice milk a little limpid and thin; almond milk too nutty; soya milk too sweet. But oat milk does the job well enough: It’s rich enough for tea, doesn’t curdle in coffee, and pairs nicely with cereal. However, it can be hard to find — my nearest corner shop does not stock nondairy milk, and the closest supermarket is around a 20-minute walk. So a couple years ago, I decided I would learn to make my own.
I mix one cup of rolled oats, four cups of water, and a teaspoon of vanilla essence, if I’m feeling particularly frivolous. I throw everything into a blender (I use a Nutribullet) and blend until smooth. But then I hit a road bump: to avoid coughing up a shard of oat while sipping my morning cuppa, the mixture needs to be strained. I started out using muslin cloth, bought from an organic food shop, on the advice of various blogs.
Unfortunately, the mesh wasn’t quite thin enough and so my first attempts were a little gritty. I read that a cotton T-shirt could do the trick, but it was quite hard to gather the fabric in order to strain. So I did some more Googling, read a few more blogs on making nondairy milk, and found the answer: the Lovetree Nut Milk Bags.
Unlike a lot of other nut-milk bags, which use cotton or cheesecloth, Lovetree Nut Milk Bags are made of a synthetic-feeling material described as an “ultra fine monofilament mesh,” so you get a much smoother milk. They are also shaped like long pouches and have a little drawstring at the top, so the milk doesn’t spill over the sides when you are straining. For the past two years, I have poured the mixture into one of these excellent bags and, well, I milk it. I grip the top of the bag and push downwards, as I might on an udder, producing a creamy flume of homemade oat milk. I have never felt more smugly connected to the natural world than when “milking” my oats. The bag produces the smoothest, most comforting oat milk I’ve tried so far, and is significantly cheaper than Oatly, my preferred brand. Really, the only cost is buying a bag of decent oats every few months. Plus, I don’t need to trek to Tesco every time.
To clean, you just flip the bag inside out and scrape out the porridgy remains of the oats (I have heard rumours about more wholesome people baking these leftovers into muffins) and rinse. The whole thing takes five minutes, including the washing up, and the oat milk will keep for a good week or so. I use the small 9x11-inch model, which is just the right size to fit into a measuring jug when straining. You can use the bags to make almond and cashew milk (that’s really what they’re for), but you have to soak the nuts beforehand, and I’m not convinced enough by almond milk to plan this far in advance.
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