Alternatives to Vegan Cheese

For those of a vegan mindset i’ve discovered 3 alternatives to processed “vegan cheese” that warrant a serious look. Bearing in mind that directly switching from dairy cheese to one or more of these alternatives won’t fire all the same neurons in one’s brain.
Richness and velvety smooth texture are possible. Subtle, cultured notes too. The convenience of having a dense block of nutritious protein ready whenever you want, maturing and improving whilst you idle, totally do-able. And if you’re vegan already, chances are your taste buds are ready to embrace the new, without needing to compare it to dairy.
Some indigenous non-cheeses.

  • Tofu no misozuke.
  • Kishk / Keckek el Fouqara.
  • Cultured nut cheese

Tofu no misozuke
A creamy, luscious, indescribable joy for all vegans, omnivores and non-labellers. A lip smacking sensual delight.

The good people at Rau Om have developed a recipe, based on a single encounter with tofu no misozuke whilst travelling in Japan, and what’s more they have been good enough to share it on their website. I have had the best results by following the recipe. It’s difficult for me, I like to adapt as I go, but this requires trust. They’ve done the frustrating recipe development so we don’t have to. And for all that it’s actually a very simple recipe, with only 5 ingredients: tofu, miso, sugar, sake (although vodka fills the same function and works well), and time. 

http://www.rauom.com/2011/05/24/tofu-misozuke-recipe/#more-1583
The key to the texture are the enzymes in the miso, breaking long protein chains down into flavourful and rich, unctuous oohs and aaahs…but now we’ve got to wait 2 months for the next batch!IMG_0129 

Kishk
Cooked grain, mixed with salt and a starter culture, then kneaded every day for around 7-10 days, then stored or eaten. I’ve used various grains and cultures. My best batch so far was millet and coconut kefir (made with a water kefir starter). It was tangy, fizzy and absolutely delicious.
It can also be stored in olive oil, which worked well, but i’m not sure it’s necessary if you’re going to eat it quickly.
On the kefir front I’ve dried some water and milk grains to take with me on my travels, to share with folks. I’ve read that they re-hydrate really well, and aren’t too affected by the process. I’ll give that a practise run before I go. Here’s a good link with more info. http://tarantinofoodvice.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/cheese-or-grain-its-kishk/
Cultured nut cheese
Very simply, soak cashew nuts (for example), grind or blend in some way till smooth, then culture, again with kefir, buttermilk or sauerkraut juice. Miso is a great addition. Taste it when thoroughly mixed and add more salt if you like. You don’t want to add too much liquid. Then culture it somewhere warm, and leave it somewhere cool when it’s reached your personal level of readiness.
I use a suribachi, a Japanese mortar with grooves that seem to grind better than a Western pestle and mortar. I’ve also a tried a brazil/cashew/miso cheese, very nice! I’d like to try adding sesame/tahini. As i’m not vegan I might try adding kefir butter to it, for richness and tang.
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