I keep searching the ‘free from’ and health food shop shelves for a decent ready made cheese alternative, and as yet have failed to find one that works on both taste and texture. So many have a dodgy after tang or a seemingly never ending list of ingredients that I just don’t want to try. There really isn’t any point in trying to eat a healthy free from diet if a product is loaded with additives and preservatives. And since I found out about citric acid and how natural flavours and colours are created there really isn’t anything on the market that I can actually eat!
Recently, I had some friends round for dinner and wanted to give them an inspiring, flavourful plant-based, whole food meal. Whilst in India I attended a number of cooking demonstrations with Dr Nandita Shah from SHARAN; browsing through some of my notes, I came across a vegan boursin recipe that I had forgotten about with “delicious” scribbled next to it. My mouth started to water at the memory so I just had to make it – and I’m so glad I did, as my guests appeared to enjoy it just as much as I did!
Although there is a little soaking time, this is really easy to make and is really adaptable. It’s gorgeous raw and can be used as a dip, dressing or baked potato filling. It works equally well cooked and even browns a little so you get that crispy crunch that I really miss from baked cheese (the crunchy bits on macaroni cheese are always the best!). So either use it stirred in to pasta, as a pizza cheese topping or a savoury sauce. The key is the flavour balance – you want enough garlic to give flavour without overwhelming it, and a nice selection of herbs to complement each other. And it needs quite a lot of salt, certainly more than I would use normally in cooking, to bring it alive, so it’s important to taste as you go.
This dairy free ‘boursin’ is gorgeous stuffed into some button mushrooms and baked in the oven – the mushroom juices and texture complement the salty filling; the flavours just make your mouth sing! Much better than any alternatives I’ve found on a supermarket shelf.
Dairy free ‘Boursin’
200g silken tofu
200g cashew nuts, soaked for a minimum of 2 hours
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, basil etc)
1 – 2 tsps salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tsp fresh lemon/lime juice
First, drain the cashew nuts and discard the soaking water. Place cashews in a food processor or grinder and blitz to get a smooth paste – you may need to add up to 1/3 cup of water, but don’t add too much otherwise your boursin will be too runny. Once your cashew nut paste is smooth, add the tofu, salt and garlic and blend until well mixed and smooth. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and carefully stir in your fresh herbs, juice and season with black pepper. Check your flavours and add in more salt or pepper as needed.
To make the boursin baked mushrooms, simply wash a handful of button mushrooms and remove the stems. Place a teaspoon of the mixture in the centre and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or so until the mushroom has softened and the boursin has browned on the top. Gorgeous!!