The world of vegan cheeses scares me. I’m not sure why. Maybe because cheese is the main reason I feel like I could never become a proper vegan? I love cheese, and as someone who doesn’t eat much meat, cheese becomes a pretty big source of protein for me. Cheese and peanut butter.
There are lots of great cheese alternatives out there, like Daiya, which is one of my faves.
But recently, I decided I was going to dive into (what felt like to me) the strange and scary world of vegan cheese making. Turns out, it’s not so scary after all.
This is one of the easiest vegan cheeses you can make. If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it is most like a cream cheese. It has about the same consistency and spreadability. It lacks the tanginess of a cream cheese, and I don’t know that I’d want to try it in a cheesecake (not a baked one, anyway). I should also mention, this is a raw preparation.
I’ve been enjoying this on crackers, but you could also add it to your wraps, enjoy it on a veggie burger, spread it on cucumbers or celery, use it to dip your tortilla chips in… the list goes on.
2 – 4 tbsp water (reserve from the water you soak the cashews in)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Place the cashews in a large mason jar. Cover with water, place the lid on, and put it in the fridge to soak 4-6 hours or overnight.
Drain the water off of the cashews, reserving some of the liquid. Place the cashews, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper in a blender, and begin blending. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get it to your desired constancy. You may have to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times.
Spoon the finished cheese into ramekins that have been lined with saran wrap, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, peel back the top of the saran wrap, and flip the cheese over onto a plate. Peel off the saran and enjoy.
Here in Vancouver, we’re really lucky to have some amazing local vegan chefs, including Dreena Burton, Aaron Ash and Mérida Anderson, all of whom have recently published cookbooks. I have all three, and will be making recipes from each one in the near future, but today’s focus is Dreena Burton’s Let Them Eat Vegan. Dreena did a cooking demo at The Wellness Show in February, and everyone that tasted her Nutty Veggie Burgers raved about them as being the best veggie burgers they’d ever had.
One thing I like about Let Them Eat Vegan, is that, as a mom, she focuses a lot on foods that kids will (hopefully) like. I’m not certain if Michael would eat this particular recipe, as he’s not a huge fan of potatoes, but pot pie as a concept is not something he is unfamiliar with, nor opposed to, so if you have kids, I’d encourage you to try to sell it to them, and see what happens.
I adapted this recipe from Dreena’s Winter Veg Chickpea Potpie. It’s basically her recipe, except I added the mushroom gravy, which I feel adds another layer of meatiness, earthiness, and just overall yumminess. Getting the texture of the gravy just right was something I struggled with. I added additional thickener, but it never really got quite thick enough. But it was really, really delicious. This would make a great family Sunday-dinner type main course.
10 small new potatoes (I used a variety of yellow, red and purple), quartered
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c fresh green beans, sliced into 1″ pieces
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2-1 tsp each dried herbs: thyme, rosemary, and sage
salt and pepper to taste
For the gravy:
2 tbsps vegan butter
2 tbsps olive oil
1-1/2 c mushrooms (crimini, shitake, portobello or a combination), halved and then sliced
1/4 c flour
2 tbsps chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsps white wine
2 cups vegetarian stock
1-2 tbsps tamari sauce
For the pastry: one recipe Pie Crust (I used a mix of 50% white and 50% whole wheat flour)
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, carrots and celery, season, and cook for about five minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and stir.
Add in the rest of the vegetables, season, add the herbs, and stir well. Partially cover, and allow to cook on low for about 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are mostly soft. Add the beans and chickpeas and stir well.
While this is cooking you can make the gravy. In a smaller pot, over medium heat, heat the vegan butter and the olive oil together until they are melted. Add the mushrooms, and allow them to cook down for 5-10 minutes. Add in the flour and stir well, until the flour is all absorbed into the fats and the mushroom juice. Deglaze with the wine, then add the stock, the tamari and the rosemary. Continue stirring until the gravy gets thick.
Add the gravy to the vegetables in the big pot, remove from heat, and allow to cool while you prepare the pastry.
Place the filling in a deep-dish pie pan or a casserole dish, and top with the pastry. Cut a couple of slits in the pie crust. You may want to brush the crust with some melted vegan butter. Bake 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the insides are bubbly.