Homemade Cashew Milk


Giving up on dairy

I have been a pescetarian (that is to say, a fish-eating vegetarian) for over 15 years now. I don’t eat mammals or birds, but I do eat fish, eggs and dairy. 

More recently, the incongruity of consuming dairy whilst refusing to eat an actual cow slowly began to dawn on me. After all, dairy farming is, by virtue of what it takes to make a cow produce milk, a rather more distressing process than meat production, and you can read a bit more about that here.

And so we started trying to cut out dairy. As someone who doesn’t actually like cow milk (one of my earliest memories is suddenly taking very violently against it as a very young child, sitting at my grandmother’s dining table in Chelmsford), giving up many uses of dairy wasn’t much of a challenge. I have never taken milk in tea, only in the occasional coffee, and nor do I eat typical, milk-heavy British breakfast products like cereal or porridge. I discovered very quickly that I very much prefer the taste of soy or almond milk in coffee, that vegan coconut oil spreads are a perfectly viable alternative to butter on good bread, and that Alpro soy yoghurts taste almost indistinguishable  (or even better) than their dairy equivalents. 

Dairy alternatives are not perfect however. Soy and nuts tend to come with significant air miles behind them, and also tend to come packaged in that well known nemesis of recycling, the Tetra Pak. Thinking that we could at least try to resolve the packaging problem, we started researching into making our own milk at home. 

Our thoughts first turned to oat milk, for the simple reasons that we have a local deli which sells oats in paper bags, and oats tend to be grown closer to home (ours in fact travel just a few miles to get to us). No air miles and no plastic, what could be better! We found instructions online and set to work, soaking the oats in a bowl overnight.

Things seemed to be going well as we blended, strained and bottled the milk the following day. However, the sieve didn’t quite strain as well as was needed, and the milk not only had a gritty texture but also kept thickening in the fridge, presumably as the oatmeal residue continued to swell. Our first effort was therefore a bit of a disaster, but we have since bought a cheesecloth nut milk bag and so will be trying again soon.

For our second attempt, we switched to cashews, as they don’t need to be strained. We again put them in a bowl to soak in water overnight, and then had a long conversation about which of our blenders would be best for dealing with the nut blending process (i.e. which would not break). We needn’t have worried: the next morning the nuts had become so soft you could actually squish them between your fingers. We ended up just using our smoothie maker (we have a Breville Blend Active) to make the milk, which is super easy because if you are feeling lazy you can soak, blend and store in the same container. Doing this reduces the time you need to be actively involved in the process to less than about 3 minutes. 

There are of course downsides to cashews, mainly the fact that they have travelled a long way to be here and that you almost always have to buy them in a plastic bag. However, you don’t need large quantities (about 1 cup or 100g of cashews makes almost 1 litre of milk), and there is something lovely about having a bottle of fresh milk you have made yourself in the fridge. I will never be a milk drinker but Mark thinks it’s delicious on his cereal, and with a texture and appearance almost identical to cow milk, it’s great for cooking or in a smoothie. We will persevere with oat, but this was a nice discovery in the meantime. 


You will need:

  • 1 cup/100g cashews (raw/unroasted)
  • 4 cups/1 litre water


Soak the cashews in the water for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Put it all in a blender. Blend. It’s as easy as that. You could add a little cinnamon, honey or vanilla extract if you fancy.

You can of course make different quantities by following the same proportions if your blender/appetite is smaller/larger. 

A final top tip:

I would recommend investing in a funnel for easy moving between containers!


The Coffee Awards 2017

This year’s edition of the STWFW Coffee Awards (formerly the Weimar Republic Coffee Awards) has many tempting potential subtitles: ‘the USA edition’, ‘the dairy-free edition’, ‘the macchiato edition’ or ‘the year I was briefly forced to give up coffee on medical grounds edition’ to name but a few strong contenders. But let’s not confuse things. Let’s stick to what we know. So here is 2017’s Coffee Awards run-down:

Cartwheel Cafe and Roastery, 16 Low Pavement, Nottingham

Cartwheel sort-of won last year’s Coffee Awards (there are no winners, it’s the taking part that counts) and here they are again in this year’s line up. I just love this place. Amazing food (you will basically die of smashed avo), excellent service and super coffee, all done by people who really know what they are doing. In my efforts to be a better vegan this year I drank a lot of black coffee, and you cannot get better black coffee than one of these beautiful, rich, velvety pour-overs. I love you, Cartwheel. Never leave me.

The Specialty Coffee Shop, 50 Friar Lane, Nottingham

Another returning star from last year’s awards, and pictured is a lovely, creamy flat white with oat milk. Oat milk is probably my favourite dairy alternative, and although I have grown to love the nuttiness of soy I will always take oat if it’s available. Specialty have introduced new menus this year and it’s a great place to drop into for a a light brunch or lunch.

Society Cafe, Narrow Quay, Bristol (also in Bath and Oxford)

Newsflash!!! Society is now in Bristol!!! The devoted followers of the Coffee Awards amongst you may recall that Society ‘won’ (there are no winners) the inaugural 2013 edition of the Coffee Awards, back when we were the Weimar Republic. Since then, Society has opened up in Bristol so you don’t even need to get a train to enjoy one of their beautiful, tangy coffees. This is an almond milk flat white. It may not be able to win the Coffee Awards, but it won at life.

Boston Tea Party, 293 Gloucester Road, Bristol (also multiple locations across Bristol and the West Country, with forays into the West Midlands)

Oh Boston Tea Party, one of my most long-standing cafe loves. You have been a teenage hangout (Park Street branch), the scene of many happy brunches with family and friends (Gloucester Road and Cheltenham Road branches), and a retreat when times were hard (Exeter branch, which provided an hour of comfort and familiarity after an arduous work trip, and Gloucester Road, again, where I sat alone and stared for two hours into an empty coffee cup on a Sunday morning, the day after Mark’s dad died). Every branch does a consistently good coffee, pictured is a soy flat white. Also some of the best brunches in the UK (objective fact) and top-notch lemonade and green smoothies. I also feel compelled to mention that Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians is probably one of the great works of modern literature. Probably the greatest modern novel there is. Read it now. If you can read it in a branch of Boston Tea Party, even better.

Toby’s Estate (West Village), 44 Charles Street, New York (other locations across New York)

Across the pond now. Toby’s Estate served us well as we marauded through New York. For some reason I started drinking a lot of soy macchiatos while we were away, and the above was our order for a Sunday afternoon in the West Village, after a lunch of Chinese pancakes at Smorgasburg Manhattan.  After this we walked the High Line. The sun was shining and I was so happy I thought my heart might stop.

Blue Bottle, Westfield World Trade Centre, New York (other locations across New York)

Blue Bottle has a branch just by the 9/11 Memorial in downtown New York. At this point I need to give a huge shout out to the guy that served us soy macchiatos twice in this branch, for giving us all sorts of insider knowledge about how to best get free tickets for the MOMA and what to look for in the current exhibitions, and what day was best to go to the Frick collection. We followed all his advice and it was spot on. Also, the soy macchiatos were very welcome, particularly on our first visit on a bitterly cold day (hereafter known as ‘The Day it was Minus 3 Degrees Centigrade’), after an emotionally gruelling visit to the memorial.

Little Skips, 941 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn

And finally. If there were a winner of the Coffee Awards 2017 (there isn’t), this would perhaps be it. Little Skips was probably one of my favourite places in the whole of New York. Reached from our apartment in Bed-Stuy via a slightly mental bus ride and somewhat dubious walk into Bushwick (what my mother would refer to as a ‘slice of life’), Little Skips is like a creative mecca of brain-stimulating amazingness.  Great coffee, great toasted sandwiches (I had a vegan BLT. YES, a VEGAN BLT. I know, I know. I might cry with joy), super-fun people watching (serious punks and hipster heaven) and generally just a total delight. If I was living my dream of living in a Brooklyn brownstone and being a writer, this is where the magic would happen.


Becoming vegan


I watched Simon Amstell’s mockumentary film ‘Carnage’ this week, which is available on iPlayer for the foreseeable future.

Set in 2067, the film depicts a future world in which the entire population is vegan, and meat, eggs and dairy are banned. It tells the story of how we used to live and how and why we changed, reminiscing about the the meat-guzzling decades of the past with a sense of macabre horror: brightly coloured 1990s fast food adverts, depicting smiling, happy families ploughing dripping burgers into their mouths take on a different quality when cut with footage of cows being shot in the head and male chicks being gassed on egg farms. As we move through the decades, vegan activists become prominent figures, the animal rights movement grows force, and environmental issues including widespread, devastating flooding starts to make people think more seriously about the environmental impact of their choices.

Amstell himself is a vegan. If you go and see one of his stand-up shows he will talk about veganism in his usual apologetic, self-effacing way. The film reflects this, being as it is not full of science or facts and figures, and seems quite personal in its experience of changing views. I saw a lot of parallels with my own experiences in it, having been vegetarian now for almost 15 years. Vegetarianism for me started as a gradual phase-out, and I now eat no mammals or birds (I still eat a bit of fish). At first it was quite hard not eating meat, but after a few years I realised one day that I no longer saw meat as food. I would look at a sausage or chicken breast and feel just as I would if I was looking at a stone or a table. It had left my food vocabulary as an edible product.

Some years later, another shift occurred. I was in Tesco and found myself accidentally in the meat aisle, cutting through to another part of the store. On a shelf were whole chickens, piled up in rows, and I suddenly saw them for what they were: the dead bodies of former living creatures, industrially massacred so we can enjoy a cheap and probably forgettable dinner. I have never had a problem with looking at meat in itself and am completely comfortable with the concept of dead flesh (I was a total dissection geek at school), but the concept of filling my body with the commoditised product of a genocide upset and disgusted me. How would you feel if you walked in and saw a shelf piled up with the cling-wrapped flesh of dead dogs for sale? And what is the difference?

Last year I was at a festival and amongst the activities you could take part in was one where you would be shown how to skin and prepare a dead rabbit, before eating it. I overheard a girl complaining about how she loved eating rabbit, but that the idea of preparing it made her feel sick. To me, the idea that you could find the preparation process revolting but willingly put the results inside your own body is completely incomprehensible, and just goes to show how completely detached we have become from a true appreciation of what we are eating.

Watching Carnage also had an impact on me as a non-vegan. Watching footage of cows suffering obvious pain whilst being forcibly inseminated to keep them producing milk made me realise how incongruous it is to continue to consume dairy whilst not eating flesh. So I will be making more effort to cut out dairy where possible.

I will be recommending Carnage to people whenever I can. The film works so well because although its subject matter is hugely serious, it’s not presented in a serious way and is actually very funny. The future depicted in the film features support groups for elderly people who are trying to deal with their meat-eating past, and viral videos from a Farage-esque angry old man who wants Britain to make meat great again. The film doesn’t have an overt, stern education message, but simply shows that cultural norms are not always rational, and attitudes can change. Sometimes I feel i am just quietly waiting for everyone else to cotton on.

The Coffee Awards 2016

Welcome to the Still Life with Flat White Coffee Awards 2016! Formerly the Weimar Republic Coffee Awards, but new blog, new name, so I suppose these are the inaugural SLWFW Coffee Awards.

I have not really had to stray too far from home this year to get some excellent coffee. The Nottingham coffee scene has exploded in all its rich creamery over the past year or so, to such an extent that we even created a bit of a stir in the national press! Anyhow, stray occasionally I did and here are my favourites from the past 12 months.

Greenhood Coffee House, Beeston, Nottingham


Greenhood is out in the Nottingham suburb of Beeston, near the university, but is easily reachable by tram/bus/train/bike and well worth the trip. Owned and run by Rory, whom we first encountered some years ago behind the counter of Beeston stalwart The Bean, Greenhood is a beautiful, stylish Sydney-style cafe where you can sit comfortably and enjoy an extremely well-crafted coffee, as well as excellent cakes and light lunches (I recommend the bagels!). Rory also makes a superb matcha latte, for those of your who like your drinks green!

The Speciality Coffee Shop, Nottingham


Lucy and Michelangelo will give you one of the warmest welcomes you will find anywhere in a coffee shop I am sure. Speciality is a bright and airy cafe up on Friar Lane, and being a couple of doors down from the Nottingham Law Society offices I find myself here quite often whenever I am up there on a course! I love watching Michelangelo make the coffee, he puts so much enthusiasm and love into each one, and they offer some fantastically full-flavoured, rich and tangy coffees. You can also get some really great breakfast here – try the smoothie bowls.

Laynes Espresso, Leeds


I’m noticing that it’s a good year for green/blue coffee cups, but this one bucks the trend with a classic pure white. Heading north now, and right into the centre of Leeds to Laynes Espresso. A tiny little coffee bar, but squeeze in and you will get yourself one of the most beautiful, rich, creamy flat whites you can find anywhere in the country. Also, exceptionally good avocado on toast, if that sort of thing floats your ice cream!

North Tea Power, Manchester


Staying in the north for this one, this cute little flat white can be found at North Tea Power, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. A couple of years ago, I found myself regularly up in the North West for work, and often used to retreat here in the early mornings for some toast and a coffee. It’s a lovely, friendly cafe and one of those places that always seems full of interesting people. I also last went there the morning after Cosmosis Festival back in March, and they were playing basically the full Brian Jonestown Massacre back catalogue in their stereo (BJM headlined Cosmosis), which ticks all the boxes in my book.

Caravan, London (Kings X)


Back to the south. I love Caravan for its consistently excellent food, drink, and the generally all round good atmosphere that always exists in the Kings Cross branch. They roast their own coffee and do one of my favourite blends (‘Special-Bru’), which is delightfully fruity. I always make sure I take a bag home whenever I’m there. I’ve included this particular flat white, which I had back in February, because it should at least probably win best latte art of 2016 for that swan!

Small Street Espresso, Bristol


My home city, like my adopted city, has some great coffee. Small Street Espresso is one of my favourites and the one I find myself going back to time and time again. Another tiny little cafe, but with an astonishingly wide range of coffee options. Good cakes too.

Cartwheel Cafe and Roastery, Nottingham


And finally, if there were a first prize in the SLWFW Coffee Awards, I think this would be it. Cartwheel is a pure joy and to my mind one of the best places in Nottingham right now. Owner Alex, also formerly of Beeston’s The Bean, has created a beautiful Australian-European style cafe with a full kitchen dishing up wonderful breakfasts, brunches and lunches, and of course exceptional coffee. This little beauty in the photo bought a little sunshine to a grey day of Christmas shopping in December, but is just one in a long line of wonderful flat whites and cortados I have had at Cartwheel over the past few months. Long may the line continue!

Thanks to all the above for making the awards such a joy this year! Honorable mentions should also go to Outpost (Nottingham), Wired (Nottingham), 200 Degrees (Nottingham), Workshop (London) and Monmouth (London).

Also I should probably thank the Apple Photos app on my iPhone/Macbook, for very helpfully being able to tell me the address at which each of the above photos were taken, and therefore helping me sort between 20-odd very similar photos of flat whites in green/blue coffee cups.