Leche merengada or Spanish milk shake is a typical Spanish drink made with milk, egg whites and sweetened with sugar and aromatized with cinnamon. It's served very cold and in some cases part of the drink is frozen and with a texture similar to snow, making it the perfect summer drink. This is why it's normally served in ice-cream parlors in Spanish cities and "horchaterias" (shops where horchata, a typical Valencia drink, is sold in Valencia).
We don't know much about the origins of this popular drink, however it's a favorite of our grandparents, parents and children. It's normally consumed in summer as it's very refreshing.
Many children have among some of their fondest memories, those of when their grandparents took them to the town or neighborhood ice-cream parlor for a cone or a glass of leche merengada and would tell of their week's adventure while their faces and hair got smeared with the dessert.
Not only is leche merengada a tradition in itself, it also has it's own song:
Tengo una vaca lechera
no es una vaca cualquiera.
Me da leche merengada,
¡Ay! que vaca tan salada
Tolón, tolón. Tolón, tolón.
If you want to know the meaning of this song and many others we suggest a Spanish course in Spain. Songs and food are a great way of learning the Spanish language and they are often used as topics on such language courses.
In reality, this drink is considered a milk shake with egg white, although the basic recipe doesn't change, there are some variations. For instance, some cooks add a few espresso drops, lemon juice drops or vanilla. The recipe is really somewhere in between a milkshake and a milk sorbet. Often Spanish mothers will prepare the drink in the morning so that it has enough time to cool in the fridge or freezer before their children tuck into it. After a glass of it though, you might be thinking of making some more in the evening for the next day too!
Leche merengada has been one of the most popular and in demand drink in cafes in Madrid since the end of the 18th century and has appeared in many novels as summer drinks or ice-creams consumed by character, an example of this is Jacinto y Fortuna by Pérez-Galdós. Today it is still a staple recipe for any good Spanish cook book.
Fortunately, like many other Spanish food recipes, leche merengada is easy to make and uses common and easy to find ingredients. This means that it is a great one to make everyday or for special occasions. Furthermore, the ingredients are normally inexpensive which is great if you are on a tight budget yet still want to enjoy a little taste of Spanish cuisine.
Ingredients (6 portions):
Some people leave the milkshake in the freezer for much longer in tubs so that it turns into ice cream. This means that the drink can serve as a dessert as well. In fact, you will find that a number of ice cream parlours in Spain do in fact have leche merengada ice cream in sale. Why not have a scoop!
Naturally, as an ice cold drink, this is perfect for hot summer days in Spain. But when you make it into an ice cream, it makes a great accompaniment to a piece of warm cake or tart, and can therefore be consumed all year round!