On a stormy summer evening we gathered in a couple of vegan group members’ small but cosy living-room to sample a range of vegan cheeses and quaff vegan wines.
For those of you not au fait with the world of vegan cheeses, like most vegan ‘fake’ foods they come in an entertaining array of names resembling the items they are based on. There’s Cheezly, Sheese and Parmazano not to mention No-moo and Creamy-smooth. They are mostly made from a mixture of vegetable fats, potato starch, rice flour and natural flavourings such as yeast, nut butters and spices. Some barely resemble the cheese they are attempting to imitate, whilst others nicely fill the fatty-salty-savoury-creamy role a cheese alternative should.
We’d brought a selection of cheeses to try, with the idea that we would get to try each one and discover which we liked the taste of. Everyone brought something along to nibble with the cheeses and some vegan drinks. There was a great selection of home-made chutneys, pickles, freshly baked bread, crackers, scones, salads, and even a yummy chocolate cheesecake for pudding.
After comparing the many cheeses on offer, most of us decided the No-Moo cheeses, made by Swiss-based company Vegusto were some of the best. We were especially keen on the “mild aromatic” flavour, which some of us felt most resembled what we can remember cheese tasted like (some of us have been vegan too long to remember such things!)
Some of us also like the Blue-style Cheezly made by vegan food company Redwood, as it had a delicious tangy flavour reminiscent of stilton.
As for drinks we had a range of vegan-friendly wines and other drinks. We also enjoyed local bottled beers, made by Stroud Brewery. (Only the botted beers are vegan, the draught beers available in local pubs contain fish swim-bladder clearing agents. Lets hope Stroud Brewery decide it’s worth the extra custom to also make their draught beer suitable for veggies and vegans soon!) As many of you will know finding vegan-friendly booze can be frustratingly difficult due to poor labelling of drinks and secretive brewing industry processes. A comprehensive list of vegan-friendly alcholic drinks is available on the website Barnivore.
Aside from the good taste, perhaps the best thing about both the drinks and the ‘cheeses’ we’ve recommend above is that they are free from the products of animal exploitation.
Recipes from the evening:
(based on recipe from the excellent cook-book Veganoimcon by Isa Chandra & Terry Hope Romero)
Half a cup raw Cashew nuts
Juice of 1 and a half lemon
3 tbsp Olive Oil
A block of firm tofu
1 clove garlic
1 and a half tsp of salt
6 leaves fresh basil or 1 tbsp dried basil
Blend the cashews, lemon juice and olive oil until a grainy paste forms. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until creamy.
Chill until use. Great in baked dishes, with pasta, or used as a dip.
Caramelised Onion Bread
1 tsp dried yeast
2 cups warm water
1 tsp salt
4 cups strong white bread flour
For the topping:
2 onions sliced into fine rings, or 8 shallots
3 tbsp Olive oil
Put 1tsp yeast in a large bowl, and add 2 cups of warm water.
Whisk until the yeast has dissolved.
Add 1 tsp salt and whisk.
Add half of the flour and mix well, then add the following 2 cups of flour.
Cover with a tea-towel and leave in a warm spot for at least 2 hours, until risen and doubled in size.
Then caramelise the onions: Soften in olive oil with a lid on the pan until the onions turn transparent, then remove the lid and up the heat, stirring regularly until the onions are a golden brown.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
Drizzle a little olive oil in a 9inch by 12 inch pan.
Turn the dough out into the pan, and spread it evenly
Drizzle the remaining oil on top of the dough of the and poke lots of holes in the dough with your fingers, then spread the caramelised onions on top
Bake for 25 mins or until risen and golden
(This dough is also great for pizza bases)
8oz rich tea/digestive biscuits
I pack of silken tofu
8oz dark chocolate
Melt the marg and crush the biscuits. Mix them together and press down in a round cake tin to make the biscuit base, leave to cool.
Melt the chocolate. Whisk/blend the silken tofu and stir in the melted chocolate, leaving a little to put on the top. Smooth over the biscuit base, put rest of the melted chocolate on top and put in the fridge till you are ready to eat! Enjoy!
225g self raising flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
50g ‘Pure’ or other vegan marg
pinch of salt
1 tsp dried oregano
about 8 olives, chopped
enough plain soya yoghurt to make a soft dough
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl
Add the marg and rub in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs
Using a knife, stir in the olives and oregano
Gradually add the soya yoghurt, until you have a softish dough
Bring the dough together with your hands and knead lightly on the work surface.
Roll out on a floured surface to no less than 2cm deep.
Cut out your scones, re-rolling the mixture until you use it up
Bake on a baking tray in a preheated oven (200C/400F/Gas Mark6) for 12 – 15 mins until risen and sounding hollow when you tap one on the bottom!
Either serve straight away or cool on a wire cooling rack.
(If you want to make these in advance and freeze them, then you get a better result if you freeze before cooking, rather than after.)