Last year, I bought The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. The reviews on Amazon pretty much convinced me that it was a good idea, and I didn’t change my mind after it arrived. If you like cooking, and you can’t eat dairy, this book is a real eye-opener to new ingredients, and new uses for more familiar ones. I rushed around cooking as many of the recipes that I could source ingredients for. This one is based on one of my favorites from that book. Part of what’s so nice about it, is I don’t feel guilty eating it. Which sounds worse for your health? Cheese, or onions, carrots, and cashews?
The texture of this block cheez isn’t quite the same as dairy cheese (there is no crunch if you simmer for long enough), and it is well worth the effort to make it. The resulting cheez melts best when covered, as in quesadillas. This stuff rarely lasts more than a day in our household, so I usually double up the quantities; my kids eat it straight out of the fridge (and yes, ahem, so do I). A note to the wise, though: if you do double up the quantities, don’t try blending it all at the same time. You might be able to cook it all together, and you might be able to fit it in your blender, but it won’t blend properly with a double batch all together. If you use an immersion blender, however, there’s no problem at all.
You can also add an additional 1/2 cup of fried onions after blending if you want onion strands in your cheez.
2 tsps non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, then diced OR 1 large roasted red pepper, cleaned
1 1/2 cups (24 fl oz / 350 ml) water
5 tbsp agar flakes or 1 1/2 tbsp agar powder
1/2 cup (2 oz) raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (not the same as Brewer’s Yeast)
2 1/2 – 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice)
2 tbsp sesame tahini
2 tbsp chickpea miso
2 tsps onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp honey mustard (or strong made mustard for cheddar cheez)
Melt the margarine in a saucepan and fry the onion and carrot until softened (this adds flavor, and reduces ‘crunch’).
While the onions are cooking, measure out the water in a measuring jug, and then add the rest of the ingredients to the jug.
When the onions are cooked, add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan. Slowly bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often until the agar has dissolved (5-10 minutes).
Lightly oil a 2.5 cup container.
When the agar has dissolved, blend well with an immersion blender. (If you use a surface top blender rather than an immersion blender, the cheez will cool and congeal fairly quickly, so work quickly.)
Pour into the plastic container and refrigerate until solid (>hour).