What is it about cheese?...The firm, definite push of the knife as it makes its bid to reach liberty on the counter top, and a thick hunk breaks free, topples forward onto the board; the cool hard bite between wholesome spongy bread; the tang amid fiery french mustard and the melting, saltiness of butter? For eleven years this experience had passed me by. For the most part, to be honest, not even missed. The dairy version, to me was a romantic notion. In reality, the pre-vegan experience, left me with an unpleasant aftertaste with the aromatics of silage. It didn't fair in my body much better and left my body via spots on my face or sticky morning eyes (unpleasant I know). I didn't miss the effect dairy had on my body for an instant. But, since my kitchen turned more to a food laboratory than a kitchen, and spending so much time reading food blogs and recipe books, I again became curious about cheese. What was it that I did enjoy about a cheese sandwich on white bread with lots of butter? And why did this foodstuff get cited over and over again as the one ingredient that stopped people from embracing dairy free food? And for those who are already vegan, the more I'm getting to know you I realised perhaps cheese was one of the things you missed the most. My blog is all about making sure you don't miss a thing. I just had to bring you cheese, not creamy or spoonable but HARD, FIRM, SLICEABLE CHEEZE.
So...to work. What was it that I did enjoy about a cheese sandwich on white bread with lots of butter? I guess it was the opposing textures and lively, sapid, sharpness in combination. Real Food Daily..right there in LA, has been serving up vegan cheeze for years. Vegan Angela had tried and tested it..... and now, it was my turn. Real Food Daily cheese recipe here - then follow my instructions in the post to make it A Vegan Obsession stylee, I followed the recipe (mostly) and like Angela, also halved the original recipe. First try came out more like a firm cheezy mousse. Delicious but not the desired slab of dense cheeziness. Second attempt is a rather respectable effort. Firm but not quite up to the 'two hand' test of strength knife plunge akin to your average Cheddar. However, I am a perfectionist but nearly perfect right now is a good interim, so I am happy with it none the less and feel it worth of sharing with you. I shall continue to tweak and experiment and when I do discover the VEGAN HOLY GRAIL of cheeze ingredients to perfect this recipe, I'll be back to lay it at your feet.....metaphorically speaking.
I admit I made some modifications on the original recipe.....first time I used cashews but not enough agar; 2nd time I used the, less expensive, sunflower seed (that I pre-soaked in water for a couple of hours to make easy disgestible) over the cashews, South River Miso supply a miso that is SOY FREE - made from the ubiquitos blonde chickpea as do Great Eastern Sun both USA companies. You could also use 2 tbs coconut aminos and I tbs coconut oil as a subsitute to make the cheeze soy-free. When I go to the store next I shall get some but I am all about getting a recipe perfected with the minimum of cost so I thought I'd give it a go. Having a dairy-free, meat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free diet need not be expensive, and, hell, you save on all the medications you need to make you well from a standard Western diet, by default! I also substituted (to keep it soy free) the soya milk with coconut milk (not cream) and added a couple of tbs of nutritional yeast. I used a 1/4 cup of ground agar flakes. The flavour was awesome. The texture like a firm pate or soyrizo. Vegan Angela was not too ramped up with the flavour characteristics of hers so perhaps the concentrated flavours of dried miso soup added a little something.
½ cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch ground white pepper
1 ½ cups coconut milk (in a carton and NOT coconut cream from a can)this is instead of soy milk
¼ cup ground agar agar flakes
¼ cup canola oil
2 tbs liquid aminos (Braggs or coconut) 1tbs coconut oil (this is to replace the miso if you require soy free..gently melt the oil and mix with the aminos)
1 tablespoons fresh lemon
Method - from The Real Food Daily Blog
1. finely grind the cashews in a food processor ((do not allow the cashews to turn into a paste). Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, and white pepper. Pulse 3 more times to blend in the spices.
2.Combine the coconut milk, agar, and oil in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the agar is dissolved. With the food processor running, gradually pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and into the cashew mixture. Blend for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is very smooth and creamy. Blend in the miso and lemon juice.
For grated or sliced cheese: Transfer the cheese to a container; cover and refrigerate until it is very firm, about 4 hours. Once it is firm, grate or slice the cheese as desired.
For melted cheese: Use the cheese immediately as melted cheese. To make the cheese in advance, cover and refrigerate it. When ready to use, melt it in a saucepan over medium heat until it is smooth and creamy, stirring frequently and adding more soy milk to the melted cheese to thin, if necessary.
The cheese will keep for 4 days, covered and refrigerated.
I'd LOVE to know how yours turns out, and discover if you make any little tweaks to reach 'Cheddar like' perfection or inventive new fusion.
I think next time I may try it with adding chopped walnuts to the puree and maybe, just because it's seasonal, cranberries. A little extra garlic may be nice to make a soft garlic cheeze too. Oh the fun to be had.
* The cheese freezes well and can been used to enliven a soup (so good with brocolli soup) or melted into some vegan milk to make a sauce.