While at the market in Catalonia, my eyes became somewhat fixated by a little bag of shrivelled looking nuts at a dried fruit and nut stall. Upon inquiry, I learned that they were xufes (or xufles or tigernuts in English or chufas in Spanish), the little tubers from which the milky drink orxata is made. Lucky for me, the stall had also posted a selection of recipes on their wall, one of them being for orxata so quicker than you could blink, I had my money on the counter and the little package of xufes in my handbag.

Dried Tigernuts

Back home in London, one night I set them soaking in cold water, to be processed into orxata the following night.

Soaked Tigernuts

The next night, I ground those xufes down using my mini chopper (in batches) and then mixed them with water and sugar (the tubers are already a little sweet). I then went to town on that mixture with my stick blender. Afterwards, I strained and bottled the mixture and let it chill in the fridge for a bit.

Straining the Orxata

I was extremely happy with the outcome! It was thick and milky and just as fresh as those I drink at the orxateries in Barcelona. Sure you could buy a bottle of the stuff from shops like Garcia and Sons on Portobello Road but they don’t taste fresh and you can’t control the amount of sugar in the drink. Of course, I can go on and on but the reality is that I have no idea where to buy dried tigernuts in London. Has anyone come across them here?

The Final Drink

Orxata
This will make around a litre. The recipe can be scaled easily.

200g dried xufles
water for soaking
800-1000ml water
100-150g powdered sugar
zest from 1/5 of a lemon (optional)
a little sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Soak the dried xufles in cold water overnight.

The next day, drain the xufles and then grind them together with the new water (800ml – 1000ml depending on how thick you like it). A stick blender isn’t going to do it – you either need a powerful blender or do it in batches like me in the stick blender mini food chopped attachment. Once you have all of it grinded to a paste, you can then continue with a stick blender. Add in the sugar (to taste) and the lemon and cinnamon and continue blending.

Strain through at least 2 layers of muslin and chill the resulting mixture for at least an hour (or even better, overnight). Serve!

Blai went to Barcelona a week earlier than I did and I had to spend that entire week hearing about how fabulous fartons were and how well they went with orxata and how I absolutely had to try them. (Go ahead and giggle at the name like a five year old – we did!)

As I was still in London, yes, it was a very frustrating week.

I made to Barcelona eventually where I got to fill up on these treats. We drank orxata out of wine glasses – ha! Actually, we didn’t want to dirty more glasses and so reused those from lunch.

Orxata in Wine Glasses

We’ll start first with the orxata (that’s in Catalan. Horchata in Spanish). This milky looking drink originated in Valencia (mostly associated with the town of Alboraia) and is made from xufes (in Catalan but also spelled xufles, or chufas in Castilian), or tiger nuts, a little tuber about the size of a large chickpea. It’s a drink said to date back to the Moorish presence in Valencia (8th to 13th centuries). It’s sweetened and creamy yet refreshing and slightly grainy and if you want a drink to compare it to, I’ll say it’s not far off from soy bean milk. Mexican horchata is another beast altogether – that’s made from rice and cinnamon. It’s a very refreshing drink and can be bought all over Barcelona in the summer (along with granissats – icy slushy drinks not unlike Slurpees).

Orxata

This is where Blai’s family purchase their orxata – Sirvent in Gràcia. You can drink it there or buy a bottle home. When you do the latter, the bottle is filled on the spot for you, by hand, using a ladle. This was the 2 litre bottle we bought.

2 Litres of Orxata

This year, Sirvent started selling fartons, which were invented in Alboraia. A fartó is a long pastry that was designed to be dipped into orxata and originated in the Polo bakery 50 years ago. They’ve got a good chew and a spongy texture and it’s the combination of the two that allows it to soak up copious amounts of orxata without breaking. There’s a thin sugar glaze on the surface.

Fartons Polo

When you eat them all orxata soaked, they’re deceptively light. You bite and squish and bite and swallow and bite and slurp and chew and all the while exclaiming how light they are! and the next thing you know you’ve consumed two of the great big things and your tummy is starting to ache with all the food sloshing around in there (mainly because we had this after a big meal already). Whatever. They are delicious.

Dipping the Fartó

In the summer, Sirvent also sells a wide range of homemade ice creams (Blai recommends the very Catalan flavours of llet merengada and turró). In the winter, they sell turró (and that’ll be a whole other post come December!).

Sirvent
c/ Escorial 100
08024 Barcelona
Spain

By the by, does anyone know of a place that sells fresh orxata in London?