‘cheese’ and some creamy pasta
Most people say that one of the hardest things to give up when becoming vegan is cheese. For me it was agony. I was a true cheese tragic, scoffing cheese platters at every opportunity and hanging out in specialist cheese shops. I even MADE cheese. I had a special cheese refrigerator for maturing. My relationship with cheese was like chocolate is for some people.
I knew I had to give up cheese to become a vegan. I wanted to. I was really giving it a go. But I found it hard. One day when I was losing my resolve (and had become kind of whiny to be frank) my friend bought over a vegan “care package” that included a jar of the Botanical Cuisine truffled walnut cheese. What a revelation! It was possible to get that fermented cheesy flavour without feeling sordid and miserable. This tasted like real cheese and it was delicious, not as some kind of pretend cheese replacement, but in its own right.
A few months have passed now, but I knew I really was over cheese when I sat quite calmly late at night last week, after several glasses of wine with friends, as they devoured the cheese platter and I ate the olives and chilli roasted almonds without feeling deprived. Victory.
Cheese is delicious because it has that mysterious fifth flavour the wonderful savoury umami. Umami tastes good. Cheese also has salt and fat and it melts. A perfect combination.
As a cheese lover I think most of the vegan cheeses out there are just plain horrible or very poor substitutes for the real thing. I know, I believe I’ve tried them ALL. For me there are very few out there that are worth a second taste. I’d rather not eat them.
So to save you the grief and heartache, let’s cut to the chase. You can give up cheese. If I can, anyone can. You might get whiny, hang in there. You just need to find the right replacements.
Cheeses I like:
- Botanical Cuisine – a cashew based cream cheese. Wonderful
- Notzarella – fairly bland but it melts satisfyingly, good for toasties and pizza
- Vegusto Piquant – this is the tastiest, closest thing to parmesan you’ll get
Cheeses I don’t like – everything else. I’ve tried them, Cheezly, Sheese. Shudder. I know some people swear by Cheezly, but all I can say is I can’t see why. Enough said.
I had breakfast this morning and used the Botanical Lemon and Dill as a spread under my avocado on toast. The lemon tang goes really well with the avocado. Delicious.
Botanical cheese is expensive so I use every last bit out of the jar by adding some warm water, shaking vigorously and using it as a creamy sauce with pasta.
Vegusto finely grated on pasta is sensational. It doesn’t even feel like pretending.
Notzarella/Vegusto combined: notzarella for the meltiness, mixed with vegusto for some flavour makes good grilled cheese on toast.
I’ve been experimenting with making vegan cheese, some have been good, others not. The botanical cheese is expensive, so when I am not feeling lazy, I make a pretty good substitute. But more of that in another post soon.
Here’s a recipe from last night. It was unexpectedly wintery and I just wanted a bowl of creamy pasta.
- 200g dry spaghetti (100g per person. Use more or less.)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic (crushed)
- 8 button mushrooms (sliced)
- ½ tablespoon porcini mushroom pieces
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup shelled peas (frozen is fine, so would sliced snow peas or sugar snaps)
- 1 tablespoon classic botanical cheese (mix to a cream with warm water. You can also just use up the remains of a jar by shaking the jar with warm water.)
- vegusto piquant cheese (grated)
- Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water while you make the sauce.
- In a frying pan heat the olive oil and fry the garlic briefly taking care not to burn it.
- Add the sliced mushrooms. keep cooking until they brown up a bit.
- Add the porcini pieces and ½ cup of water. Reduce until most of the liquid is gone.
- Add the peas and put the lid on for a minute or two.
- Add the cream cheese mix to the pan along with the cooked spaghetti and toss.
- Put into serving bowls with grated vegusto over the top.