This past week has been almost unbearably hot and humid, and the next seems to promise little relief. To beat the heat, I’m turning to Mexico for inspiration, quenching my thirst with aguas frescas. These ingenious “fresh water” infusions combine still or sparkling spring water with a seemingly endless array of peak season fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and even grains. The result? A deliciously refreshing and exotic sounding cooler that tastes every bit as wonderful as it looks.
For my strawberry chia seed version I’m making the most of fragrant, impossibly sweet, in season strawberries. At this time of year our berries might be at their peak, but courtesy of the hot, humid weather, do tend to spoil rather quickly. I love my strawberries ripe, luscious and unbruised, and am always disappointed by that pale fuzzy bloom of mould that can so quickly and insidiously take over a whole punnet at a moment’s notice in the heat. This summer, thanks to aguas frescas, our strawberries haven’t had an opportunity to make acquaintance with mould. We’ve been eating our daily fill of perfectly sweet, succulent strawberries and blending any overripe or squishy specimens with mint and lime to infuse our aguas fresca.
For extra oomph, I add a teaspoon of chia seeds to my tumbler. Apart from a long and trendy list of attributable health benefits, these tiny little seeds have long been a staple of Latin American diets and are a popular addition to traditional aguas frescas. Here’s a little bit of interesting trivia; historically chia seeds were so revered by ancient Mayan civilisations for their strength and endurance, they were dubbed “Indian Running Food” and used by tribes and their warriors to fuel long treks and expeditions.
From a 5-2 fast day perspective chia seeds are brilliantly satiating. One teaspoon added to water imparts just 20 calories and definitely helps keep me feeling fuller longer, holding those pesky hunger pangs at bay. Be warned. Chia seeds swell to absorb up to 10 times their weight in water, so a little goes a long, long way. Essentially they’re rather tasteless, adding texture and a host of nutrients to the cooler. Higher concentrations of seeds to water can produce an almost gloopy gel like texture and impart a mild grassy flavour, palatable to some but not so much to others.
I’ve given quantities for one generous tumbler of Strawberry Chia Agua Fresca at just 52 calories per serve below. There are no hard and fast rules as to the ratio of seeds to liquid, it’s a matter of experimentation and personal preference. Just remember each teaspoon adds 20 calories. Vary the flavours with different seasonal fruits; I’ve used with watermelon, pineapple and mango on several different occasions with delicious results.
Strawberry Chia Agua Fresca
Makes One Large Tumbler (52 calories per serve)
5 medium strawberries (20 calories)
2 fresh mint leaves (0 calories)
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lime (5 calories)
1/4 teaspoon honey (5 calories)
1/2 cup still or sparkling spring water, plus a little extra to top up the tumbler
1 teaspoon chia seeds (20 calories)
ADD strawberries, mint leaves, honey, lime juice and half a cup spring water to a blender. Pulse until smooth.
WHISK through chia seeds and refrigerate for 15 minutes to allow the seeds to bloom and become gelatinous. Stir before serving.
TO SERVE pout the cooler into a large tumbler and add a little more chilled water or ice to fill to the brim. Garnish with a slice of lime and sprig of mint.