Similar to cows’ milk in appearance and consistency, although with its own distinctive flavour, soya milk is made from the soya bean, a legume native to East and South East Asia. It’s produced by soaking dried beans, then grinding them with water, and filtering the results: such techniques have a long history in China and the surrounding region but, like the beans themselves, are a relatively recent import to Europe. Although it is not a substitute for cows’ milk in every situation, it can be used to make ice cream, milkshakes and sauces such as custard. It is also the principal ingredient in tofu.
A number of different types of soya milk are available, both sweetened and unsweetened, and they vary in significantly in flavour, so it’s worth trying a few brands until you find one that suits you. Alternatively, it can be made at home. It’s available year-round.
Packaged soya milk can be kept in a cool place until its use-by date. But, once opened, it should be refrigerated and used within three days. Fresh soya milk should be kept in the fridge. Most brands of soya milk can be frozen, but check that the packaging hasn’t ruptured before you defrost it.
Soya milk contains roughly the same level of protein as cows' milk, but less fat (roughly a third if compared to whole cows’ milk), all of which is unsaturated. As it contains no lactose, it's a useful dairy replacement for the lactose intolerant.
Article by Felicity Cloake