When I first changed to a dairy free diet, I had no idea just how strong my addiction to cheese was. Very! There was no doubt that it was super HARD to give up. But it was worth it as my migraines eased when I omitted the cheese 🙂
13 years later, and I really don’t miss it at all. In fact, if I go past a cheese shop or counter in the supermarket, I have to hold my breath as it smells so foul! I used to love the ripest, stinkiest cheeses around; now they turn my stomach.
Having said that, there is something about cheese as an ingredient that makes it very appealing. Which is probably why there is such a huge market for vegan cheeses now. There’s a huge increase in the number of people who want to give up all things cow related. The thing is, there are very few good ones around (in my humble opinion) and those come with a hefty price tag.
The other issue with cheese for me and many like me is the ingredients used. To get the texture and shape, lots of refined oils, particularly coconut oil, are used. Which is no good if you follow a whole-food plant-based diet for health, or programmes like Overcoming MS which avoids high saturated fats. This might sound like we’re being super fussy, but when you’re using food as medicine and, lets face, doing everything you can to avoid ending up in a wheelchair, then these things all count.
Which is why I try to create my versions of ‘cheese’ to share with you. You’ll find a selection on the blog so far:
- homemade dairy free cheese – like a mozzarella
- tofu ricotta
- dairy free labneh
- even a cheesy sauce using cauliflower
You probably won’t find any of these in shops or restaurants (maybe there’s a reason for that…..;) ) but they are easy to make at home.
Here’s another ‘cheese’ recipe to add to the collection. Firm almond ‘cheese’ roll. It is almond based (apologies to anyone with a nut allergy) that is pressed overnight to remove more of the fluid so that it holds it’s shape. It has a lovely creamy texture and with the flavours on the outside it can compete with many rolls of soft cheese you might find on a cheese board! Which is good as it’s delicious on savoury biscuits and crackers. It can also be a star feature on salads.
I have made this ‘cheese’ and taken it for a shared group lunch. It was so popular I nearly didn’t get to have any as I was too busy talking and it nearly all got eaten before I got to the table! No-one could believe it was completely vegan with minimal ingredients and maximum flavour.
The pressing does take a little time so it needs preparing the day before. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment for this though. All you need is:
- cheesecloth or loose-weaved tea towel
- a pot
- something to weight it down like a tin of beans
It’s the same principle as making labneh – the recipe is linked at the top of this post if you want to revisit it.
Place the sieve over a container so it doesn’t fall off and lay the cheesecloth in the sieve. Spoon in the blended almond cheese mix and carefully press out any excess water. Bring the edges of the cheesecloth up to meet in the centre and either tie into a knot or secure with a rubber band.
Finally, balance the tin of beans on the top, pop in the fridge and leave it over night. In the morning you’ll find fluid in the container and firm almond ‘cheese’ snuggly wrapped up in the cheesecloth.
Once this has been done, you can follow the suggestion below or if you like a bit more of a funky flavour, transfer it to a container with a loose lid and leave it on the worktop to ferment a bit. Should take between 24-48 hours depending on how warm the kitchen is. Personally, I don’t like the flavour but it could be the very thing you’ve been missing so don’t let me put you off!
If you make almond milk, the leftover pulp is perfect for this ‘cheese’ – a tasty way to not waste all that fibre.
Make sure you use blanched almonds or soak almonds with skins on for at least 24 hours so the skins come off easily. And if you’re intolerant to nuts, try this with sunflower seeds instead – it won’t be quite so glistening white but cover it with enough herbs and no-one will notice!
I do hope you give this almond ‘cheese’ a go because you might just find your favourite new recipe that so much healthier than shop bought versions. Do let me know how you get on, especially if you have some new or innovative suggestions for the outside coating.
- 140 grams blanched almonds soaked overnight in water and drained or leftover almond pulp from making almond milk
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp mixed herbs
- Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend for five minutes or so until the mix is very smooth. Try not to add any more water, but if the blender is struggling add as little as possible - the more that goes in, the more has to come out!
- Rest the sieve over a bowl. Line the sieve with the cheesecloth. Place the mix into cheesecloth, tie it up and give it a squeeze. Place a weight like a tin of beans on top. Leave overnight to drain in the fridge.
- In the morning open up the cheesecloth and pinch the almond mix - it should be soft but stick together.
- Spread out 3 plates and sprinkle the 3 different coatings on each one.
- Divide the mix into 3 portions. Remove one portion and gently form into a log. Roll it on a chopping board to get it even then place in one of the flavouring and roll it again to coat it. Repeat with the other 2 portions and flavourings so you end up with 3 logs - one black pepper, one chilli flakes and one mixed herbs.
- Transfer to a cheese board and use straight away or keep in a plastic container in the fridge. Use within 3 days.