My father always tells me that happiness is tied up in expectations. If you keep your expectations in a realistic place, you are less likely to be disappointed. I have found this advice to be true in all aspects of life; and I offer it up today when making this cashew cheese. Don’t get me wrong -- this spread is absolutely scrumptious. But if you turn on your food processor expecting this to taste exactly like cheese made from cow’s milk, you might be a little disappointed. Conversely, if you think of it as a raw vegan allergy free alternative to dairy cheeses, or a delicious vegan spread to flavour dishes, you will be thrilled with the results.
Greedy snouts dipping into this “vegan cashew cheese” usually say the same thing when they come up for air - “Oh yum, this is delicious. But it doesn’t taste like cheese”. I should call it cashew spread. Then it would happily be accepted without judgement for the delectable treat that it is. Unlike my vanilla cashew cream and honey cashew cream, which taste pretty close to dairy cream, and have fooled many a cream dreamer at dessert time; I like to think of this cashew cheese as an “alternative” to conventional dairy cheese, rather than a “substitute” meant to replicate the taste and texture exactly.
For those of you not familiar with raw food -- pureed nuts and water are used to make what is commonly referred to as “cheese”. A variety of nuts and seeds are used with different herbs, spices and seasonings. These “nut cheeses” serve as a way of adding a creamy flavour and texture to raw vegan dishes. You can use raw almonds, raw macadamias, raw pine nuts, raw sunflower seeds and raw sesame seeds to make a myriad of raw vegan “cheeses”. But I find that cashews yield the best results when making neutral flavoured spreads; and it is a favourite for most raw foodies and vegans making dairy alternatives.
“Oh, Happy Day” when I can throw cashews into any blend! They serve as a fabulous blank canvas begging for creativity and personality. This very basic cashew cream cheese is another example of this; and serves as a wonderful starting point for those of you who have never made raw vegan nut cheeses. There are hundreds of simple raw recipes out there using a base of cashews and filtered water. Just throw these two things into your blender (I like to use my Vitamix) or food processor and add any herbs, spices and sweeteners for different flavours. The sky is the limit. I have listed some quick and easy ideas underneath the basic recipe to get you started. I like to add lemon juice and nutritional yeast for a slight cheesy flavour with a bit of tang. If you want a really zesty cheese, add in some lemon zest as well. My penchant for garlic always sees me throwing a few cloves in for good measure. You can add in a little more nutritional yeast if you want a cheesier flavour; but too much will result in an undesirable after-taste. Once again, let your snout lead the way. Blend and Taste!
I typically like a rustic consistency for my cheeses, and normally use my food processor for greater control. But you can also use your blender. Just use the pulse setting or you will end up with cream! I like to keep this cashew spread the consistency of hummus or ricotta. It is like a cream cheese that is fantastic served on raw tacos, fajitas, veggie burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads. It also makes a phenomenal dip served with vegetable sticks. It will keep in a sealed glass container in the fridge for about 5 days. There is always some cashew cheese in my fridge begging to be slathered!
Blend up some raw nut spreads next time you want to get cheesy – all expectations aside, you won’t be disappointed.