Have a lassi!

Have a lassi!

Apparently the most refreshing drink on earth – after a cup of tea, that is; mango lassis are a rather odd combination of flavours that somehow just work. Mellissa Bushby has a closer look at this much-loved fruity cooler.

I am a bit dubious about anything that mixes fruit and dairy, but there are so many varieties and flavours that I thought lassis might just be worth looking into. You get sweet, spicy, salty, fruity or plain lassis, and there is also no hard and fast rule on the type of addition; traditionally it is yogurt, but that is not set in stone and there are many options.

I strongly suspect that the appeal of these brightly coloured, fruity coolers is the fact that they are actually desserts masquerading as a drink, which technically means you can have more than one, in fact, you can have quite a few. It is worth mentioning that in some cases, a hearty lassi can even replace a meal, especially when the weather is scorching and ice cream is more appropriate than apricot curry!
The sweet version of a lassi is often simply flavoured with sugar – which balances the natural sourness of the yogurt – but very often, saffron, pureed fruit or rose water is added instead of sugar. Traditionally, lassis are made with mango, but you can actually use any type of pureed fruit. As for the yogurt, there is a huge variation in what is acceptable. A whole lot of yogurt; a few spoonfuls of yogurt mixed with crushed ice; part milk and part buttermilk; pouring cream; coconut milk or coconut cream and even plain soda water will work, depending on your taste, although I am not convinced about the soda water!

Lassis should be creamy and smooth, but not too thick or overly sour or sweet. An important addition to any lassi, especially mango, is ground cardamom. It complements this fruit perfectly, and while I have heard tell of cinnamon as well as cardamom, or even in place of, I would not recommend it – perhaps in an apple or even berry lassi, but for our mango lassi, cardamom is what you are looking for. Cardamom originates from the Indian subcontinent, but has been adopted as a spice of choice all over the globe; it is especially popular in Scandinavian cooking where it is used to flavour cakes and pastries. It has a fresh, tart, minty citrus flavour, and was used as a breath freshener by the ancient Egyptians.

So, after that deviation into spice and the ancient world, let us return to our lassis. I love mine blended with almond milk, creamy and slightly sweet from the flavour of the mango, but perfectly balanced with ground cardamom and the nutty flavour of almonds, not too sour or too thick. And mango and almond, just like basil and tomato, or home-made rosemary-infused bread dipped into olive oil, were made for each other.
A good fruity lassi also benefits from a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and this is true of all types, whether you add yogurt, cream or milk (or water). This gives the drink a sharp citrus burst and a whole new dimension.

Mango-and-almond lassi

• 1 cup of very ripe chopped mango flesh (in a pinch you can also use canned or even frozen pulp)
• 250ml almond milk
• 125ml buttermilk
• 2 tsp brown sugar (to taste)
• ¼ tsp ground cardamom
• A few ice cubes
• A squeeze of lime.

Put mango, milk, sugar and cardamom and the ice cubes in a blender and blitz for 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
Adjust sweetness as this can vary depending on the sweetness of the mango, and also thickness. Add a little extra milk or water if desired.
Pour over ice if it’s a particularly hot day, or serve as is. Lassis also make perfect power smoothies for breakfast.
The lassi can be kept in the fridge for
24 hours. Serves 2.

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