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“Any professional vegans out there that have any great food spots please help out! Please ha.”. The tweet is signed by Jay Z who, on his 44th birthday decided to take up the 22 Days challenge with his wife Beyoncè: a very fashionable diet programme among celebrities that involves 22 days of vegan, organic and gluten free food. Whether an ethical choice or a fashion fad, the question is of little importance: vegan food is enjoying an unprecedented period of popularity and more and more people want to take up the challenge of a lifestyle that is healthier and more in sync with the environment. And while Beyoncé and Jay Z have recently achieved their objective, the main obstacle continues to be one alone: cheese.
Hands up those who have never thought, at least once, that they just cannot live without: however, the vegan alternatives to cheese do exist and are particularly varied. These products are made from 100% vegetable ingredients and elaborated in different consistencies: mature, creamy spreads, or even smoked, seasoned with fresh herbs, mushrooms or paprika. Never fear: there are no secret or bizarre products in the list of ingredients, no miraculous discovery of the chemical industry but simply soy drink and soy yogurt for the creamy varieties and dried fruit such as cashews and walnuts for those that resemble a good mature cheese in every way. It is then sufficient to add a bit of agar agar or starch (for instance cornstarch) to this base and … it’s as easy as that. The recipes for making them at home are simple, whether it is mozzarella you want, vegan ricotta (an easy and step-by-step recipe is here) or a vegan version of Parmesan to sprinkle over pasta: in the latter case, you will need some nutritional yeast, unsalted cashews and a pinch of unprocessed salt. Just a few seconds in the blender and …. Enjoy.
When tackling an “assiette de fromage vegetalienne”, as they would say in Paris, cholesterol is not on your list of worries: your only concern will be choosing between blue cheese, cheddars, brie, pepper jack, herb & garlic French style soft cheese or a “Ne Chevre” made from hazelnuts and black lava salt. Among the available options on the market, why not try those of Heidi Ho Veganics: our own favourites include the Feta Crumble, for accompanying with cucumber and lemon juice and the Chia Cheeze Sauce for pouring on nachos. Also widely stocked by Whole Food chains are the Treeline spreads aromatized with onion or black pepper. And for those also seeking a hand-made packaging with a retro-hipster twist, the cheese varieties of Elephant in the Kitchen set out to make the aperitif an elegant affair, maybe washed down with a good biodynamic cabernet sauvignon.
And if you want to try your hand at creating your favourite cheese, take a look at the book by Miyoko Schinner Artisan Vegan Cheese or The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak: a perfect way to start experimenting with vegan cheeses, also by making minor variations in flavour to suit your personal tastes.