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Sunday, 30 September 2007

Banana chocolate lassi (Ρόφημα με μπανάνα)

I loved milkshakes when I was young, like my kids do now. I had no idea what went into them, but they sounded healthy because they had the word 'milk' in them. I stopped drinking milk for breakfast form a very young age, so I though I was doing myself a favour to have a milk-based drink; good for my bones, I would get myself to believe. We all know what lured me to them: they contain generous amounts of sugar and fat-based products, so that their taste is nothing like milk, and more like high-calorie addictive junk food. Do strawberry milkshakes really contain strawberries? If it's winter, strawberries will have to be imported (and therefore increase CO2 omissions), so it's going to be expensive, not to mention wasteful, to make. What about a banana milkshake? If it comes particularly yellow in colour, then it doesn't contain banana - banana flesh is creamy white, not yellow.

So what does go into a milkshake? For a start, the invention of milkshakes goes hand-in-hand with the progress in technology; no matter how hard or long you beat milk, cream, butter or ice-cream, you'll never get the lump-free smooth creamy consistency of a milkshake unless you use some kind of machine to do it. So milkshakes, unlike their name suggests, are an artificial drink. Milkshakes always contain a thickening agent like flour. The addition of (high amounts of) sugar also thickens liquids. Ice-cream is an easy option for making milkshakes, because it contains all the ingredients needed to make one: sugar and dairy products (not necessarily milk or cream), plenty of sugar and thickening agents like fat and flour. Worst of all, think how many scoops you need to fill a tall glass, as milkshakes are traditionally served in. Wouldn't you have been better off having one scoop of your favorite ice-cream rather than one milkshake? Although they had always been a treat in my youth - I don't think I have had more than a couple of dozen of them in my whole life - I stopped having them permanently once I became highly weight-conscious. My 5-year-old's having his second chocolate milkshake in his life so far.

Talking about milkshakes, why not try the lassi version instead? The Indian lassi drink is very popular these days. It's so much more trendy to say you're having a lassi than a milkshake. But it's the same thing, really, it's a milk-based shake. We've all heard of mango lassi. It was invented in a third world country, it is not a technology-based food item, and mango was the first fruit to be associated with it. But let's face it, we don't all live in countries where mangos are widely grown. Our mango tree produced just two this year, so I couldn't expect to make mango lassi the whole summer long. So why not try making lassi - or smoothie, call it what you like - with any readily avaialble fruit with a thick consistency similar to that of mango? A cheap and common alternative, despite its undesirably high level of carbon footprints required to get it to our fruit baskets, is the humble banana. I had a couple of over-ripe bananas in the house, the type that grow black spots on their skin, despite having no blemishes in their flesh. Beauty is only skin deep, but my children are too young to understand that, whereas my husband is too childish to believe it; he also scoffs at black-spotted bananas. Here's what I made with one. I did use a blender, because it makes life easier. But if the banana is really ripe, you can mash it up using a fork (I suppose).

You need:
a ripe banana
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup thick yoghurt (of course I used Greek strained yoghurt, but if you can't get that, try using more yoghurt than milk to get the right consistency)
1 teaspoon of honey (or more if you have a sweet tooth)
2 teaspoons cocoa (or children's chocolate milk powder - this is optional; I add it to make a more child-friendly version of a milkshake)
Make sure the banana, milk and yoghurt are very cold. Put all the ingredients into the blender. Blend till the banana leaves no lumps in the mixture. Pour into a tall glass. A straw helps.

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