More experiments from Artisan Vegan Cheese
Cashew nuts are like a vegan's Swiss army knife: like a Swiss army knife, cashew nuts are useful in all situations, and you're always grateful you if find one unexpectedly in your pocket. Or they come in a bright red plastic casing and are handy for opening tins. One of those, anyway.
For some reason, cashews are stupidly cheap at my supermarket at the moment. I decided to buy a metric truckload safe in the knowledge I would either turn them into new and interesting dishes, or just eat the lot in front of the TV with a daft smile on my face. Either way, we're good.
I duly set about making rejuvelac, that weird fermented jazz that turns the cashews into cheese. In the hot weather that London's been having of late, it didn't take long to do its stuff.
This is only the second time I've managed to make something that looked like rejuvelac: I find it really hard to judge when to stop the liquid fermenting and keep it the right side of the line between sharp and tangy, or weird and a bit too funky.
I'm not sure how well I judged it this time: the cheeses I made with the new batch of rejuvelac were a bit, well, cheesy.
The first one I made was chiefly because I remember a photo on Cadry's Kitchen of Artisan Vegan Cheese open on the Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Cheese annotated 'Holy crap! So good!' I got some basil and sun-dried tomatoes, did the needful, and lo, a mound of creamy cheese was born.
There was just one thing that I couldn't get away from: the cheesiness of it. Maybe it was rejuvelac that was left too long, maybe I was heavy handed on the nooch, or maybe I've just gone off cheesy tastes, but either way, a little less cheesy would have been good – allowing the tomatoes and basil to show off a bit more.
The second cheese I made from the bounteous bag of cashew was the 'piquant brown cheese'. As names go, that one doesn't sing, right? Still, Artisan Vegan Cheese had me at "goes well with beer".
But oh, the sacrifices I had to make to get there. In two words: fermented tofu.
I love the 'fu. Of course I do. And fermentation? I eat sauerkraut with the best of them. But put them
together and it's on a hiding to nothing. Seriously, this is not the 'fu you need to convince your omni-friends vegan food really is gooooood.
Fermented tofu is punchy in the same manner a heavyweight boxer with lead weights in his gloves going ten rounds with your head is punchy. Not in a good way, my friends, not in a good way.
What does it taste like? Evil. Just salty, squidgy, stinky evil. It's the worst thing I can think of putting in my mouth without a gun to my head.
Still, ignoring the unforgivable wickedness that is fermented tofu, the rest of the ingredients are all fun stuff: cashews, umeboshi paste and bits and pieces. Once the cashew cheese is made, you have to let it do its stuff untampered-with for 12 days, flipping it over and playing the b-side every so often to let the air get to it.
There's a lot of flavour in the finished result. And, handily, there's not much of the fermented tofu tang that remains in the tangy finished product.It's highly salty, sharp and toothsome - in short, a really interesting addition to the vegan cheese stable. It's not the sort of cheese you want every day, but it's definitely the sort of cheese that holds its own against chutneys and other strong flavours.
Here's some beetroot chutney it hooked up with the other day - the two were fighting for attention on the taste buds in a good way.