One of the biggest challenges that one has to deal with during the transition to veganism is cheese. Even though I had never been much of a “cheese” person, I was surprised to find out that cheese is a basic ingredient in so many dishes I used to like and one of the most common things I used to eat -usually with some bread and vegetables- for breakfast or lunch.
Luckily, being vegan doesn’ t mean that one has to be deprived of cheese, since a lot of vegan genius chefs work intensively into creating vegan-cheese recipes. So I was happily surprised to find out a fantastic vegan cheese book, the “Artisan Vegan Cheese” (Miyoko Schinner, 2012) which gave me many “uncheese” recipe ideas and helped me develop my own recipes by using my imagination and some basic techniques found in it.
The following recipe, is a completely raw and vegan nut-cheese recipe, in which I combine three different kind of nuts, in order to achieve better texture and increase it’ s nutritional benefits, since every nut comprises different nutritional elements. In order to keep the recipe low-fat I don’t use any coconut oil, but I dry the cheese a little bit, following a traditional method of cheese making. This process allows its natural fermentation which is the key to the cheesy taste and texture I want. All these may seem complex but actually they aren’t! This recipe is so simple that everyone can make it, provided that we have a good blender and of course patience.
Personally I love this recipe, since the taste is fantastic and somehow it resembles that of a traditional Cretan, mostly homemade, goat cheese my grandma used to make.
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked for 6-8 hours
- 1 cup raw almonds (blanched if available) soaked for 6-8 hours
- ½ cup brazil nuts soaked for 6-8 hours
- 1 cup filtered water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. apple-cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp. salt (it may seem too much but it acts as a conservative that protects our cheese from spoiling)
Topping: You can use one or more of the following ingredients:
- finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- finely chopped dried herbs or spices (such as pepper, chives, thyme, rosemary, oregano etc)
- ground dried red chillies
- pesto sauce
- nuts or seeds
- Drain the nuts and skin the almonds if they are not blanched. An easy way to skin almonds is to soak them for 2 minutes in hot water after the 6-hour soaking. The skins get softer and thus it’s much easier to remove them.
- Combine all the liquid ingredients in a jar.
- Add in your blender half of the nuts with half of the liquid ingredients and blend until a smooth, creamy paste has been formed. Stop blending every few seconds and clean the walls with your spatula until all the solid parts are blended. Empty the nut paste in a bowl and repeat the process with the rest of the nuts.
- Add the salt in the bowl and mix well.
- Place a strainer over a bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Sprinkle some salt and 1-2 tbsp of the dried herbs or spices of your choice (e.g. cracked peppercorns) over the cheesecloth.
- Spoon nut mixture into the center of cheesecloth and sprinkle some salt and 1-2 tbsp herbs or spices of your choice over the cheese.
- Fold the sides of the cloth over the cheese and form into a spherical loaf. Twist the ends of the cloth and secure with rubber bands or a strip of cloth or a thread. Set in the strainer over a bowl and let it stand in a warm place for 12 hours (e.g. in a dehydrator or your oven at 50oC or even a sunny, airy room or balcony in a hot, summer day).
- Put uncovered in the fridge for at least 48 hours so that the drying process continues.
- Now it will be easy to unwrap the cheese. Serve it over crackers, bread or with a salad. You can keep it in the fridge for over 2 weeks.
Note: If you want your cheese with a shape, put over a flat strainer a metal ring (use one or two from your small springform pans) and line it with the cheesecloth. The rest of the procedure is the same. Just make sure that your mini cheeses “breath” also from the bottom side.