Okay .. hands up if you love cheese! Hands up again if your skin does not love dairy! When it comes to making dietary changes to heal psoriasis, eczema, acne or rosacea - dairy can be a really problematic culprit.
Out of all the food groups I avoid, dairy has been a toughie. I wasn't too bothered about milk, in fact I actually enjoy the taste of almond and coconut better. Booja Booja ice cream made a fantastic non-dairy dessert replacement and Tesco even do a whipped vegan spray cream now, which you'd never differentiate from the milk version. But when it comes to cheese, the vegan replacements just aren't quite there yet.
The most popular supermarket brand in the UK is probably VioLife. I don't mind their version of Feta, but everything else tastes a bit greasy and of coconuts. Applewood do a pretty decent non-dairy smoked cheese, but it also goes gloopy when melted.
If you're worried you might be missing out on calcium, fear not! Eating a plant-based diet does not missing missing out on calcium. Check this blog post for more info.
My mission this week has been to create a vegan cheese centrepiece for a picnic with friends. I wanted it to look and taste awesome! I also wanted to get the texture just right. I think this cheese board looks just fabulous. I've used
- Seedful bread (this is my absolute favourite)
- Homemade chutney (recipe here)
- Chopped carrots
- Sliced cucumber
The vegan cheeses I usually make are mostly spreadable. They're thick, but more like cream cheese in texture. I decided to use Agar Agar (Japanese seaweed) to get the round to set. Agar Agar is flavourless and acts like gelatin.
My jar of Agar Powder has probably been in the cupboard just a little bit too long, so the cheese is not setting quite as solidly as I'd hoped (it can lose its setting powder after months of storage). The cheese is not at grateable levels just yet .. but I'll work on that. Despite this, the flavour is absolutely delicious, the mustard and herbs are a wonderful addition and it was so good on toasted seedful triangles.
1/2 tsp olive oil for greasing ramekin
150g cashew nuts
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp coconut oil (I used flavourless)
1/2 tsp salt (more if you like it salty)
2 tsp whole grain or dijon mustard
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp agar agar powder (here on Amazon)
1 tsp mixed Italian herbs
I use a ramekin as my cheese mold. You can also use a silicone form of some sort. To use a ramekin, grease it with olive oil by rubbing oil all around the inside. This will stop the cheese sticking to the ceramic when you're setting it
You'll also need to soak the cashews. I do this by covering them with boiling water and leaving them overnight, but you can get away with an hour if you have a decent blender. Drain most of the water, but don't leave the cashews completely dry
Add the soaked cashews, lemon juice, coconut oil, salt, mustard, nutritional yeast to a high powered blender and blend until very smooth, then set aside
Boil a cup of boiling water in a saucepan and add the agar agar powder, stirring regularly. Boil it for 1 minute, it's important the powder is dissolved. If there are still grainy bits of agar floating or sticking to the bottom of the pan, the cheese will not set properly
Pour the water mixture into the blender on top of the cheese mix, add the herbs and more salt to season, then blend until perfectly smooth. The agar agar is the stuff that's going to get the cheese to set
Pour the cheese into the oiled ramekin and place in the fridge to set
You'll need to refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight
Use a knife to carefully score around the outside of the cheese, then gently turn it over so that the finished round pops out onto a plate
Store in the fridge for up to 5 days