The thick, rich texture of evaporated milk without the added sugars, makes it ideal for more savoury preparations and a handful of sweet ones to boot.
If you’re a baking or dessert enthusiast, you've probably used sweetened condensed milk to make some of your favourite pies, puddings and other sweet dishes. But very few people are as acquainted to cooking with its unsweetened version - evaporated milk.
For those living in the UAE, their first introduction to evaporated milk was most certainly a can of Rainbow evaporated milk added to their tea, particularly in the preparation of karak chai.
“For decades our product has been very strongly associated with tea preparation,” says Sumeet Mathur, Managing Director of Friesland Campina Middle East, the company that makes Rainbow. “We remain the preferred tea whitener in the region, but in the last six to nine months we have been opening some new territories for evaporated milk.”
Evaporated milk can also create a special treat when you add it to coffee. Rainbow has a new offering that lends a creamy richness to your favourite drink without masking the flavour.
“The consumption of coffee is rising everywhere and there wasn’t a natural dairy-based product available for whitening coffee,” says Mathur. “We came up with a product that is more suited for coffee. It has been made in such a way that you still enjoy your coffee, but with a nice creamy underlying taste. The strength or bitterness that people sometimes find in coffee is very nicely balanced with this. In the summer, we have realised that people prefer cold coffee to hot coffee and this milk works well with both.”
Not only that! The milk contains lower fat content because higher fat will outshine the taste of coffee. The product is available in two formats – a 185-ml box and portion packs. “Coffee tends to be more of an individual preparation unlike tea, which can be prepared for groups, and this smaller portion packs are more convenient in that sense.”
Friesland Campina has also been hard at educating consumers on the usage of evaporated milk in cooking. The thick, rich texture of evaporated milk without the added sugars, makes it ideal for more savoury preparations (and a handful of sweet ones to boot).
If we look at fresh milk its consistency is too thin to perform well in a dish. Most of these dishes need a slightly thickened form of dairy and that’s where evaporated milk comes in handy.
“In a lot of our dishes whether we are talking about Asian, Arab, or Western cuisine there is usage of dairy in some form,” explains Mathur. “Whether it is butter chicken or béchamel sauce, we use different quantities and kinds of dairy. If we look at fresh milk its consistency is too thin to perform well in a dish. Most of these dishes need a slightly thickened form of dairy and that’s where evaporated milk comes in handy.”
The product is so versatile that it is used in recipes across cuisines – and not just in exotic recipes but even day-to-day recipes.
“We have learnt from some restaurants and tea shops that kneading dough for parathas with evaporated milk makes them fluffier, and they stay soft for long,” reveals Mathur. “This is particularly helpful when you’re preparing parathas for your child’s lunchbox as they will stay soft till the child eats them. We are happy with the prospect that it is being used in so many different applications and are trying to expand this by tying up with some chefs such as Sanjeev Kapoor. We’ve done a series of ads with him and his recipes.”
People in general have at times been very creative with evaporated milk. Research shows that many have used it as a substitute for cream in recipes. It's lower in fat too - heavy cream is 36 per cent fat, while evaporated milk is only about 6.5 per cent. Evaporated milk can also take the heat, while many dairy products curdle at high temperatures.
“You can even make a nice cheesy dip to eat with your Nachos,” says Mathur. “Mashed potatoes are also divine with evaporated milk.”
Besides, it can do a fantastic job as an egg-free dressing for coleslaw, pasta salad, and potato salad. When you combine cold or room-temperature evaporated milk with an acid like lemon or vinegar, it thickens. “Most of the salad dressings are either oil or fat-based and they may not be that great for you,” says Mathur. “This is definitely a better option in making salad dips.”
Now a not very common practise is reconstituting evaporated milk with water to consume it like regular milk.
“You can definitely dilute it, but I feel it tastes a lot better undiluted,” says Mathur. “In the early days of Rainbow evaporated milk in the region, people used to have it just as it comes. In the year1955 there were not many kinds of milk available. The only ones were Rainbow and another brand of powder milk so people used to drink as is.”
Evaporated milk, for no fault of its own, is often misunderstood as unhealthy. If you’re not familiar with what evaporated milk is - it is fresh milk that has been cooked to remove 60 per cent of the water content, leaving you with a creamier texture while It retaining all the goodness and taste of milk. Now what is the difference between sweetened and unsweetened evaporated milk? Both are forms of concentrated milk, but sweetened condensed milk has 40 to 45 per cent sugar added before canning.
“There are misconceptions about evaporated milk because people just don’t know enough,” rues Mathur. “When something comes in a can people are suspicious. They wonder why it has such a long shelf life or if we’ve added something. All these fears are unfounded as the product is as innocent as it can be.”
Friesland Campina, Mathur explains, is not the usual dairy company but a cooperative owned by farmers, who first came together 145 years ago. The farmers bring fresh milk to the factory and within hours (as fresh milk doesn’t stay long) it’s cooked/evaporated and put in a can. “We are trying to change the misunderstanding surrounding evaporated milk. We’ve even labelled our cans as “made from fresh milk.”
“Funnily, you could make evaporated milk at home. My mother makes kheer by cooking rice and milk for two to three hours. Essentially she is evaporating the milk. This is what Rainbow evaporated milk does to you. It makes a great ingredient wherever you want to add dairy to give a rich, creamy taste. We are looking at so many different recipes such as gajar ka halwa, harira (lentil) soup, umm ali, lasagne, handi chicken, shahi murg, and kulfi, to name a few. It can be added to simple scrambled eggs and even omelettes to make them fluffier.”
The region’s favourite
What makes Rainbow the region’s favourite taste enhancement brand in the region? It has been here for 65 years and has become a part of the UAE fabric. “When the brand came here, consumers in the UAE embraced the product and gave it a name Abukos (Rainbow in Arabic). It stayed popular with our consumers because it is made from fresh milk and the quality has remained consistent. We kept listening to the consumers and catering to their needs. We’ve expanded the portfolio with innovations now and then such as the cardamom and the low-fat variants.”
To get their innovations in order, Friesland Campina has a research and development in Wageningen, Netherlands. “In a way this area in Holland is the Silicon Valley of food,” says Mathur. “This city has the right academic environment and it’s great that we have our R&D centre here. We are doing a lot of basic research on milk, which might seem like a simple natural product, but it has over 400 components and some of these are still to be fully understood. Besides a lot of our innovation and development work is happening there.
“We give them feedback on the trends in the market and the product is developed there. They create the product in the centre, but the actual production is done at a different factory.”
While Friesland Campina is mostly known for their Rainbow brand of milk in the region, the company also makes the cheese brand Frico. It has all sorts of Dutch cheeses such as Edam, Gouda, Maasdam, etc. Within these there are many flavours available too. “People here enjoy our cheese with cumin a lot,” says Mathur. “We have something called Herby Dutch with herbs mixed in it, and one with mustard seeds. Just like our evaporated milk this is also pure natural cheese made from fresh milk. To make one kg of cheese we need 10kg of milk. Some of the processed cheese brands use just two to three kilos of milk to make one kilo of cheese as they end up adding a lot of other things.”
The company is about to launch Adani tea, which comes from Aden in Yemen. It is tea made from a combination of cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. And what does the future hold for Friesland Campina? “We need to educate people about the versatility of the product,” says Mathur. “We will continue to bring new innovations such as adani tea and cream to the market.”