Horchata: Becoming a Staple

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Horchata has found a place on the table of the Nifty Spoon Kitchen. There are very few things that we eat day in and day out here at home.

Actually, I just tried to think of dishes that we make at least once a week and there really aren’t that many. Like, two. But Horchata? Horchata has made the cut. I’ve made it three times this week already and every day my husband texts me from work: “Are we having horchata when I get home?”

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“Is there horchata at home?”

“Horchataaaaa??? You know I love me some horchata.”

And although he is the cute one who can text witty messages, I am in the same boat. (Although not as adorable, clearly) I think this drink is UH-mayzing.

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The first time I saw horchata I thought it was really not that appetizing. It looked like watered down milk in a sweaty glass. And it had a strange film of some sort of spice? I was wary as I sipped it. But whoa. WHOA.

If you think this drink looks weird and you are not sold, try it! It isn’t like anything you’ve tasted before, in a good way. It’s creamy, but not in a stick to the back of your throat way, more like a refreshing way. The way water makes you feel when you’ve been walking for too long. It’s sweet, but not soda sweet or cloying like juice. It’s subtle, with vanilla cinnamon goodness.

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So what is horchata? I did some online research because I was curious. It seems its roots started in ancient Egypt (what hasn’t?) They made a drink from ground up chufa, or tiger nuts and added spices. I don’t know what a tiger nut is, but it traveled to Spain and then the idea traveled to Central and South America. The very innovative natives, similarly not knowing what a tiger nut was, did what they do best: they fixed it up to dance to the beat of their own drum. Now horchata is made with rice and sometimes almonds.

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You could make this horchata with boxed rice and almond milks, but for some reason starting from the very base of rice and water in your blender makes it just taste better. And it’s fun too!

So let’s talk ingredients. Rice: go to the store and buy a bag of rice. As big a bag as you can carry because you will want to blend it all and make horchata all the time.

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Cinnamon: In this recipe we use two forms of cinnamon: a stick that is boiled with the water so infuse the spice and then ground cinnamon added at the end. It gives the drink two dimensions of spice. If you can, try and find Canela cinnamon when buying the cinnamon sticks. It’s usually in the ethnic or hispanic food section with other spices. First, it’s a little cheaper and second, it has a nice authentic taste. It’s sweet and subtle.

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Vanilla: Don’t do imitation extract. The pure stuff hits the spot.

If you are fans of tacos or fajitas at home, or anything spicy- it doesn’t have to be Mexican- you should definitely have this on hand. It’s creamy enough to cut that too spicy bite, but nice and refreshing that it doesn’t ruin your palate by filling you up too much. Maybe it will become a staple in your fridge, just as it has in ours.

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Horchata: Becoming a Staple
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 sticks canela cinnamon
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1.2 cup milk (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a blender place 1 cup of rice and 4 cups of hot water. Blend until the rice grains are coarsely ground, about one minute. Transfer the rice and water to a large bowl and add 4 more cups of water. Let this sit at least three hours at room temperature, but we like it best when it rests overnight.
  2. Strain the rice water through a thin sieve into a pitcher. Take one cup of this rice water and a canela cinnamon sitck and place in a sauce pan. Simmer for ten minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and add ¼ cup each of brown sugar and white sugar. Bring it up to a simmer again and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
  3. Add the cinnamon syrup, vanilla, and milk to the pitcher of rice water and stir to combine. Dust ground cinnamon and nutmeg into the horchata and stir.
  4. Chill before serving. Serve over ice with a cinnamon stick stirrer..
Notes
To make this a fun "adult" version of Rumchata. Add ½ cup of rum to the horchata when you add the milk.

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