Cheese might be the thing I miss the most you know. Bacon is a close second, but cheese is just in all of my favourite meals and it is the thing I have found the hardest to give up. It is also the thing I have had the least luck finding a tasty substitute for…until recently that is. My husband had been doing some research and found out that there are some companies making ‘real’ vegan cheese using live cultures and nuts to give it a flavour and texture more like normal dairy cheese and less like the stuff you get in the supermarket that is grey, looks like rubber and smells like arse. So I set about trying vegan cheese from companies that handcraft it here in the UK and here are the results.
First up, Nutcrafter Creamery. In their own words from their site:
‘Nutcrafter Creamery is a small, environmentally conscious company developing and creating cruelty-free innovative artisanal food. All of our products are 100% plant based, handcrafted and free from processed ingredients. They are made from wholesome cashew or almond milk and the methods used in our kitchen follow the principles of living and raw food.
The mission of Nutcrafter Creamery is that to cultivate and spread a healthier and balanced lifestyle through nourishing foods, honest words and conduct that is forever considerate to our planet.
Our vision is that of a world where most of the food chain will be produced sustainably and cruelty-free; where a humane community will treat animals with respect and kindness; where using renewable energy and protecting the planet’s ecosystem will be the norm and where every human being will have economic and physical access to food and water sources.’
All sounds great right. But it’s the taste test that matters, let’s be honest. I was sent a selection of samples to try and I can confirm that I have thoroughly tested them. In almost every meal for almost a week. We received ‘Nutzarella’ – a mozzarella like product, Parmavegan – a grated almond parmesan substitute, VHalloumi – cashew based and designed to be just like conventional halloumi and The Opulent – an air aged black peppercorn ‘cheese’.
The Nutzarella we tried on garlic bread to serve with pasta and dunked it in balsamic glaze. It looked pretty much the same as dairy mozzarella and behaved very similarly when we cooked it, except it wasn’t quite as melty. I think if you served it fresh, people would be unlikely to notice much of a difference but on a pizza they might cotton on that it wasn’t conventional mozzarella. That being said, the flavour was mild, tasty and gets a thumbs up from our fussy 3 year old too.
The pasta we made using both The Opulent and we added Parmavegan at the end. I was suprised by how well the black peppercorn cheese melted actually. We managed to create a really thick, rich cheese sauce by mixing it with a little almond milk and seasoning it a little. It was really nice and coated the pasta perfectly. I would love to try the garlic version or the paprika one that they have on their site as I imagine you could create some amazing sauces with those.
Last but by no means least was the VHalloumi, which I have to say was my favourite. In my opinion, it was the one that tasted the closest to cheddar in flavour and it had the most amazing melty, gooey texture with none of the rubberiness you can sometimes get with conventional halloumi. I had it on sweet potato toast with mushrooms and spinach and it was delicious. I pan fried it for just a couple of minutes on each side to make it golden and melty and just lived my best life. It was so good.
Next up is a company called Tyne Chease.
Here is what they say on their website:
‘Our chease making is inspired by traditional methods going back thousands of years. Our entire range is authentically cultured and matured.
We specialise in chease worthy of the finest wines and perfect for a classic cheaseboard, accompanied by crackers, grapes and chutneys.
Whether you love chease, follow a plant-based diet, are lactose intolerant or want to cut down on cholesterol, Tyne Chease provides the chance to taste a slice from the cheaseboard of the future.
We received the Best Vegan Cheese Award at the Vegan Awards UK in 2016′
I went for the Macadamia Truffle Flavour because let’s be honest, it sounds amazing. It also smells amazing. The truffle oil gives it just the most delicate flavour and I could sniff that little pot all day. They have an amazing selection of flavours on the Tyne Chease site and I really want to try the sun-dried tomato flavour or the smoked, garlic cream chease. Because that just sounds like absolute heaven.
We decided to enjoy this on crackers with some red wine (as you can see). We also grated a little on pizza just to see what it would be like and discovered it isn’t very grateable so we only managed to get a few bits off as it is quite soft but it did taste pretty amazing. Especially as we did it with red wine caramelised onions as the topping. What a flavour combination, let me tell you!
It didn’t melt particularly well on the pizza but the texture I think would mean that it would melt incredibly well in something like a fondue or a cheese sauce. In fact, I think I might try a vegan lasagne or something with this in the béchamel because I think the truffle oil would add something amazing to it. I will be sure to pop a photo on Instagram if I do get round to making that, so keep your eyes peeled!
Have you tried any of the ‘cultured’ vegan cheeses that are available outside of the supermarkets? What did you think? Do you have a favourite?
In the interests of full disclosure, we received all of these samples of vegan cheese in return for an honest review, which I have most certainly given. All of the photos and recipes and opinions are my own – as always and as you can always expect from me.