Emma Cullen refuses to accept a life without Cheddar…
It’s not the kind of confession that you would usually divulge over a glass of wine. I was a little bit fuzzy round the edges and after sitting contemplatively in comfortable silence I just blurted it out. I was going to give up all animal-related products and ‘go vegan’. It was a decision I’d already made, but truth be told, I was nervous about other people’s reactions. And I knew exactly what would be the first exclamation – what about cheese?
It was my first thought too. I’d already earned the endearing title ‘mouse’ at home due to the (unhealthy) amount of cheese I could consume. If a morsel of Brie or some gooey, melted Camembert hadn’t passed my lips that day it would be written off as a bad day. So, how could a cheeseaholic be completely vegan and still get a cheese-fix? Well, I was going to tackle the cheese issue in the same way I had embraced all the other elements of my new vegan lifestyle: by experimenting, getting it wrong and making a mess. I was going on my own dairy-free cheese journey.
The first thing I had noticed about vegan eating was that it is far from restrictive. It seemed to open up a whole world of new flavours and methods of cooking. For the first time I was excited about cooking; about researching recipes, buying fresh food and picking up items I had never noticed before. When I leave the office every evening I am itching to get into the kitchen. There’s nothing better than putting on your slouchies, turning on the radio and whipping up a culinary storm (even if it only ends up as a slight breeze). The beauty of this cheesy challenge was that I would be able to make cheese in the comfort of my own kitchen, not something that many people can do with dairy cheese.
So, last night I embarked on my first vegan ‘cheese’ sauce.
From a sweeping Google search it was soon apparent that most recipes are fairly straightforward and it’s actually quite easy to get a cheesy flavour in anything as long as you’re armed with the one vital, magical ingredient – Marmite. This bad boy is the secret to cheesy victory.
When I say it seemed easy, I was surprised to find it actually was. I’m no cordon bleu in the kitchen and usually make more mess than food but it literally took me about ten minutes. I popped two vegetable stock cubes with water into a pan and simmered it gently before adding in mustard, Marmite, chopped garlic and little miso paste. It all dissolved into the water in a matter of minutes. Whisk in hand, I then showered two tablespoons of flour into the mixture, whisking over a soft heat until it formed a paste, then added unsweetened soya milk. I confess I felt a little bit proud of myself as a thick, creamy sauce took shape.
This feeling faded somewhat when I dipped a finger in to try it. Way, way too salty. Glancing around and feeling nervous now, I grabbed a bottle from the shelf. Tentatively I squeezed in some maple syrup, thinking maybe I was mad. Another taste and it was shockingly better. Feeling a bit reckless I squeezed in a bit more and even added some almond milk. They took the edge off brilliantly. I was so excited now about serving this up to my meat-eating boyfriend that I did a little a dance as I poured it over the bowl of pasta and smushed it around, coating everything. Tossing in the roasted vegetables and with another quick stir, before me lay – dare I say – a ‘mouth-watering’ tea. It tasted just like a cheesy pasta bake.
At this rate I’ll be whipping up vegan-style Camembert before you know it. In fact, these are cashews getting a good dunking in preparation for the next cheese-challenge.