Overview

Sweet Lassi

Sweet Lassi

Fresh yogurt is nutritious and healthful if used appropriately. It helps to maintain the balance of intestinal flora and promotes good digestion. Commercial yogurt is not generally optimal because it tends to be to old and sour. Fortunately, yogurt very easy and inexpensive to make.

Yogurt is best consumed during the middle of the day when digestion is strongest, or during the afternoon. It should not be taken full strength or cold. It should be avoided in the evening. While it combines well with a wide variety of foods and can be used in sauces, it is not compatible with banana.

When diluted with water, yogurt makes a delicious beverage known as lassi (see below). Lassi is tri-doshic (balancing for Vata, Pitta and Kapha).

In general, all curds (yogurt, cheese, sour cream, tofu, etc.) should be avoided in the evening. Such foods are considered heavy and hard to digest. They are likely to produce Ama and contribute to various diseases when taken in the evening when the digestive fire is weaker. Aged and mold-ripened cheeses are not Sattvic and are potentially damaging to health. Fresh, sweet-tasting cheeses (mozzarella, cottage cheese, panir, etc.) are both Sattivc and balancing for Vata. They are generally OK for Pitta, but are better avoided if there is significant Pitta imbalance. Cheese is most beneficial during Vata season. Cheese is not recommended for Kapha and is less healthful during Kapha season (Spring).

How to Make Yogurt

All you need to make yogurt is some good commercial yogurt for a "starter", fresh milk, and some clean wide mouth jars or drinking glasses. You'll also need a suitable incubator to hold the mixture of boiled milk and starter yogurt overnight at about 100°. Don't waste your money on a dedicated yogurt maker. I've had good results using an Instant Pot Duo mini. It also works well for pressure-cooking grains and legumes. I now set it to run 8.0 hours on low. The default setting (medium) seems to be too hot. The yogurt tends to become too sour within the first week.

But you don't have to spend money to begin. For many years, I just used my oven with the inside light on. A 20 watt bulb puts out the right amount of heat. More than 40 watts and it'll get too hot. You could temporarily adjust for this by venting the door a little with a dish towel, even if it's not the energy efficient solution. If your oven doesn't have an inside light, you can use a shop light plugged into a nearby outlet. You could also rig up a water bath with a small aquarium heater or a sous vide immersion heater that has a wide enough temeprature range.

I've found that both Stonyfield Farms Organic plain lowfat and Greek-style yogurts give good results. I've even used their vanilla yogurt as a starter when the plain versions wern't available. If you can't find time to make your own, Stonyfield Farms would be a reasonable substitute. Of the many other yogurt starters I tested (including Dannon, Chopani, Whole Foods, and Simple Truth) only Organic Valley, Maple Hill Farm (NJ), Fayeh, Carolina Farmhouse Dairy, Green Valley Organics, Liberté and Yoplait Oui gave acceptable results. If you do your own tests, please let me know what happens.

In the evening, boil the quantity of milk needed to make the amount of yogurt that you expect to consume the following 1-2 days. A cup of milk will make about a cup of yogurt. You can add some chopped fresh ginger to the milk.

Let the milk cool in the pot until it is lukewarm. Put a Tablespoon or so of yogurt starter into a clean glass jar for every cup of milk. The exact proportion is not critical. Stir it up a bit and gradually add the milk. Screw the top on the jar and put it in your incubator overnight. In the morning, take it out and put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. At that time, spoon out enough yogurt to serve as starter for your next batch into another clean jar and refrigerate. If you don't have suitable glass jars, just use drinking glasses and cover with plastic wrap.

That's all there is to it. Substitute heavy cream, light cream, or even half and half to make sour cream. I've maintained my own strain of yogurt this way for over a year at a time. If you screw up, leave town for an extended period, or it gets too sour, it's easy to start over.

Sweet Lassi

  • Dilute a part fresh yogurt with 3-4 parts water in a blender
  • Add whole cane sugar to taste: 1-3 tsp. per serving
  • Add ground cardamom and rose water
  • Blend briefly at low speed
  • Skim off the butterfat foam, if any, before drinking

Heavy pesticide and fungicide use is common with conventionally-grown roses. Be safe. Get certified organic rose water, e.g., Alteya Organics.

Mango Lassi

Mango lassi is just sweet lassi made with one part mango puree. Use either fresh mango or soak dried organic mango overnight in the desired amount of water. Puree the mango with at least half the water together with the sugar, cardamom and rosewater. Then add the yogurt and blend a little more.

Salty Lassi

Black salt (Kala Namak) has a sulfurous odor that initially puts some people off, but it is easy to acquire a taste for it. The Vaidya's also recommend natural rock salt. It comes from ancient sea beds including the Himalyan mountains and has a pinkish color. Real Salt is a readily available brand.

For the best taste, dry pan roast cumin seeds until they give off their aroma and just start to brown. Grind what you need in a mortar and pestle. Store the rest in a small jar.

  • Dilute a part fresh yogurt with 3-5 parts water in a blender
  • Add mineral salt or black salt to taste
  • Add ground cumin, a bit of black pepper, and a leaf of fresh cilantro
  • Blend about 30 seconds
  • Skim off the foam (visible in the photograph to the right) before drinking

Peppermint Lassi

This is said to be especially good for the male urinary system. It is made like salty lassi, but instead of water use freshly brewed peppermint tea (cooled) and omit the cilantro leaf.

Red quinoa and vegetables

Red quinoa with cilantro-avocado-olive garnish, baby eggplant in tamarind-coconut sauce, fennel, sweet potato and zucchini in yogurt sauce

Yogurt Sauce

Yogurt can be used to make a rich sauce for cooking vegetables. If you add it straight while cooking, it will usually curdle. The secret is to blend it with some flour from grain or legumes (wheat, rice, quinoa, chickpeas, mung beans, etc.) beforehand. Mix 1-2 Tablespoons of yogurt into 1 Tablespoon of flour and dilute with about 1 cup of water before adding to your saucepan. If you use chickpea (Besan) flour, it must cook for at least 20 minutes. Mung bean flour cooks more quickly and is tri-doshic.

Alternatively you can add yogurt to a dish at the very end to make it creamier. This works well with grains or kichari.

Fresh Cheese (Panir)

Fresh cheese is also simple to make at home. Stir 1.5 cups of milk into 3 Tablespoons of fresh yogurt, bring to a boil, and simmer 5-10 minutes. If the liquid whey hasn't turned fairly clear, add a bit more yogurt. Turn off the heat and let it stand for another 5-10 minutes. Strain off the whey and it's ready to use.

You can also use citric acid (sour salt) or lemon juice to curdle the milk instead of yogurt or as an adjunct to clarify the whey.

For a firmer cheese that can be cut into cubes or sautéed in oil or ghee, it needs to drain longer preferably with some weight on top.

Save the whey for cooking vegetables or as a soup base. Beware that most grains and lentils/beans don't soften properly when cooked in undiluted whey. This is not a problem with bulgur wheat.