As the name suggests, Thandai – a cooling drink, is ideal for summers. The festival of Holi falls in the spring, just when the plains of northern India are shrugging off the cold and welcoming sunny, bright days. The switch over from mild, foggy days to strong sunshine is often stark and overbearing. That’s when a glass of cool Thandai can work wonders.
Thandi Taseer makes it a summer friendly drink
Thandai is made with a mix of nuts, seeds like poppy and muskmelon, spices like cardamom and black pepper and lots of sugar. The result of these ingredients is a sweet, mildly spiced drink that instantly cools the body. As I continue to learn more about ingredients the idea of “तासीर” is becoming more and more apparent. “तासीर” (Ta-seer), Urdu for nature or characteristics of a substance, is often talked about in Indian households where home remedies are the first course of action. So if you get dehydrated and hot, the advice you will receive is to drink or eat things with a cooling taseer. There is an equivalent of the same in Ayurveda, “Virya”, which is defined as the potency of a substance and its effect- heating or cooling – on the body during digestion.
During my childhood our refrigerator would always have a bottle of store-bought Thandai concentrate that my brother and I polished off making glass after glass of Thandai mixing a tablespoon (or more for sweetness!) of the concentrate with either cold milk or equal parts milk and water.
How to make Thandai Concentrate at Home
Now that I can make my own concentrate, I doubt there will be a dearth of Thandai 😋
So here goes! Make sure you bookmark this quick and easy recipe for Holi.
Preparation Time: 40 minutes (Inactive – 10 mins; Active – 30 mins)
- Magaz seeds (muskmelon seeds)1/4 cup,
- Almonds (soaked) 1/4 cup,
- Cashews (soaked) 1/4 cup,
- Khus Khus (Poppy Seeds) 1/4 cup,
- Hot water for soaking seeds – 1 1/2 cup,
- Elaichi pods (Green Cardamom) 8-10,
- Saunf (Fennel Seeds) 2 tbsp,
- Crushed black pepper 1 tbsp,
- Sugar 2 cups,
- Water for cooking sugar syrup 1 cup (or more as needed)
- ** Saffron strands- 8-10 (OPTIONAL)
Equal parts chilled milk and cold water. Adjust according to taste.
Let’s make Thandai – Process:
Making Thandai in itself is a really quick process. A little bit of preparation is needed beforehand.
1. Measure and Soak – ideally done the night before.
To begin measure all ingredients into separate bowls.
Then soak the seeds and nuts — almonds, cashews, poppy seeds, magaz (muskmelon seeds) either overnight, if you have the time. If not, use lukewarm to hot water and keep aside for a few minutes. The idea here is to gently cook and activate these ingredients while also blanching the almonds. I have made this recipe both ways – with an overnight soak and using this shorter method and achieved similar, comparable results in terms of flavor and texture. So, choose what works with your schedule.
2. After the soak, get ready to grind it all into a thick paste.
Once the temperature declines (when using the hot water method) and it’s easy to handle, slowly start removing almond skins and add blanched almonds to the food processor. Small jar will work better. Drain excess water from the other soaking ingredients and grind into a fine paste. If the mix is too dry and doesn’t blend, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you can get it going.
3. Spice blend for seasoning Thandai
Next, in a coffee grinder or a dry food processor jar, grind fennel seeds and cardamom pods. You can choose to buy cardamom powder or make your own. I describe two ways of grinding cardamom here. Either grind cardamom with the outer shell or use on the seeds.
4. Sugar syrup
After this, put a deep and heavy bottomed saucepan on the stove on medium high heat. Add sugar to it along with 1 cup of water and let it cook until 3/4ths of the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring to prevent sugar from caramelizing and burning. This mix will become a thick, granular syrup.
To this add the paste we made in step 2 along with the powder from step 3 and crushed black pepper. Mix in well and let it cook on low heat for a few minutes ~ 5. If you find it hard to stir, add additional water, only a 1/4 cup at a time.
5. Sieving – almost done!
After 5 minutes of stirring, turn off the heat and strain through a sieve into clean glass jars that are airtight when closed. It will be slightly hot, be careful while handling. But if you wait too long and let it cool down then it will become a semi-solid mix that will not pour. For an indulgent drink with some added color, add Saffron while the mix is still warm. As it ages, the colour will deepen.
Once in jars, leave lids open to cool. Cover the mouth of the jar with a thin muslin cloth or a mesh food cover. Thandai concentrate is ready! When the jars are cool to touch, close and store in the fridge. These will easily last one month.
Make yourself a glass of cooling Thandai with homemade concentrate!
To drink, add one tablespoon of concentrate to a glass of chilled milk. Add water if you want to make a lighter drink or more concentrate for a sweeter one.😉
Stir well and enjoy. 🥛
P.S There’s more – use the leftover goodness of all those ingredients as a spread on toast, or a filling like in these sticky buns!
Homemade Thandai Concentrate
- Grinder/ blender and seive
- 1/4 cup Almonds
- 1/4 cup Cashews
- 1/4 cup Chaar Magaz / Melon seeds
- 1/4 cup Khus Khus Seeds / Poppy Seeds
- 8 – 10 Elaichi/ Green Cardamom Pods Seeds removed from the pods.
- 2 tbsp Saunf / Fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp Kali Mirch / Black Pepper Crushed
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1 cup Water for sugar syrup
- 8 – 10 strands Saffron Optional
- 2 cups Water For soaking seeds and nuts overnight
- Measure all ingredients into separate bowls and then soak the seeds and nuts — almonds, cashews, poppy seeds, magaz (muskmelon seeds) either overnight, if you have the time or use lukewarm to hot water and keep aside for a few minutes.
- Once the temperature declines – when using the hot water method -and start removing almond skins to blanch almonds. Then add these blanched almondsto your food processor.
- Add all the seeds, drainning all excess water and grind into a fine paste. Add water as needed if you have a difficult time getting the blades going.
- Next, in a coffee grinder or a dry food processor jar, grind fennel seeds and cardamom pods. You can choose to buy cardamom powder or make your own.
- Put a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan on the stove on medium high heat. Add sugar to it along with 1 cup of water and let it cook until 3/4ths of the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring to prevent sugar from caramelizing and burning. This mix will become a thick, granular syrup.
- Add the paste made in step 3 along with the powder from step 4 and crushed black peppe to the sugar syrup. Mix in well and let it cook on low heat for a few minutes ~ 5. If you find it hard to stir, add additional water, only a 1/4 cup at a time.
- After 5 minutes of stirring, turn off the heat and strain through a sieve into clean glass jar that is airtight when closed. For an indulgent thandai with some added colour, add Saffron while the mix is still warm. Let it cool down. When the jars are cool to touch, close and store in the fridge. These will easily last one month.
- To drink, add one tablespoon of concentrate to a glass of chilled milk or make it with half water, half milk. Stir well and enjoy!