Cashew and coconut cheese is such a wonderful food to make, I just love everything about it. It’s so easy, and yet so creative, and you can pack it with beautiful, nutritious ingredients. For a soya-avoiding vegan, and a cheese-lover-in-another-life, it’s heaven sent. This cranberry cashew cheese is my ultimate favourite, the sweetness of the cranberries is just delicious against the cheesiness and the garlic, and I love the added finish of rolling in crushed pistachio, which are a joy to use, they’re such stunning nuts, and add a touch of class perfect for a special occasion, or everyday; everyday can be beautiful with such lovely food.I always make my cashew and coconut cheese with the coconut cream from a can of coconut milk, which adds its delightfully rich, smooth, creamy qualities, and which I just LOVE. I have served it here with British Thyme, a favourite variety of mine, its fragrance and taste is just so wonderful. I always wished I had hair like it too, a wild curly mass.
Herbs make everything come alive, they make me feel more alive, when the smell of the crushed leaves in your hand hits you is just one of those wonderful sensory moments. And they’re so good for you, used medicinally for eons. And of course that’s real food, it has medicinal properties, we say it like it’s a surprise so often, how good real food is for our health, but it’s just the reality that more and more people are reaching out to embrace and reconnect with. Serve the cheese with the fresh herb of your choice, another favourite of mine is basil, which never fails to add beauty and vibrancy.
I created this recipe as part of the ‘Vegan Mystery Box Challenge’ (so much fun!), which was created by Andrew, and Sam, in collaboration with a host of other vegan bloggers (as listed with links to their recipes below). We were all given the same three ingredients, cranberry, pistachio and coconut milk (though others can be used also), and it’s so interesting to see the range of gorgeous vegan food that everyone has come up with – that’s Christmas sorted then! I was for a while worried that we’d all do the same dish, but actually, I don’t think that would have even mattered, as everyone has their own way of doing things, and I love that. It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly endless the variation of vegan food is, or indeed most things in this life, everyone is so unique and has so much to offer.
I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, for me it’s been such a good example of how restriction and a bit of pressure is great for your creativity and the standards you set yourself. It sets you thinking about all sorts of things in a way you wouldn’t normally. And this is something to really take on board when following a specialist diet. As I have found, being restricted can open up a whole new culinary world and make you see things in a fresh way, when it is so easy just to tread water with what you eat and have the same things over and over, even if you know they don’t agree with you. Our needs change, it’s so important to listen to your body and recognise symptoms for what they are. So often a change in what we eat can make us feel so much better. And as this exercise has shown, there is such variety available, giving up a food group like dairy, or nightshade-family plants is not as daunting as it may seem. I found the prospect of giving up soya, one of the last things I have cut out, and the benefits of which I am really seeing now, as a highly sensitive coeliac (celiac) and lactose-intolerant, really daunting. I ate a lot of tofu, and processed soya cheese was a real favourite of mine. But I had come to realise that soya wasn’t agreeing with me and aggravated my coeliac symptoms, causing leaky gut, and also that anything so processed wasn’t good for me, or good for anyone, but especially as someone so sensitive to contaminated food. In order to be as well as I can be, everything that I eat should be wholesome and made in my kitchen, where I know how it is handled and that the environment is gluten and dairy free, know exactly what goes into making it, and can control all of that.
I love the process of making cashew cheese, it feels like your own all-natural lab of goodness, you’re the creative master, and it’s so easy to get right. This cheese is, I have to say, my all time favourite and I have completely fallen for it. The fruitiness of the cranberry is so good, and it is just so versatile. The addition of pistachio is a real pleasure too; the colour of pistachio is just so stunning, and I love beautiful food, it makes me feel good and so invigorated as I use it, making cooking a real pleasure.
Alternatively to rolling into a cheese ball you can simply leave the cheese to set in a bowl, turn out and garnish with crushed nuts to serve, which makes for a very pretty part of any lunch or supper spread. Try with my buckwheat bread, walnut and olive buckwheat bread, buckwheat flatbread, or as a topping on squash pizza. Delicious with fresh pickles and a lovely big salad such as this or this ♥
- 1 cup of cashews
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
- 11 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp dried cranberries
- 4 tbsp of cranberry water (made from briefly soaking dried cranberries in hot water)
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp agar agar powder, more for a harder cheese
- 2 med sized garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp olive oil, or coconut oil/ oil of choice
Soak the cashew nuts for at least 20 mins, more is better, soak overnight so they're ready. Cover the dried cranberries with hot water to soften, and crush the pistachios into small pieces, I like a finer dust also.
Blend the drained, soaked cashews with the coconut milk until smooth and creamy.
Transfer mixture to a saucepan adding the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, cranberries (I chop them smaller) and water, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses (if you don't have don't worry, add a tsp more of lemon juice and a few more cranberries).
In another pan lightly fry finely chopped garlic in oil on a low heat for about 30 seconds, then transfer to the cheese mixture, don't allow to brown too much as it will become bitter. Mix thoroughly and add the agar agar powder (if using the flakes you will need to approximately double the amount and cook for 10 mins, stirring continuously), stir in for a minute or so.
Line your bowl or container with the nuts and a sprinkle of black pepper, or leave aside to use as a garnish, and then add the cheese mixture.When cool, transfer to the fridge where it will set more quickly.
For a harder cheese add more agar agar (which is a one ingredient seaweed derived product). Alternatively, if you would prefer a really soft cheese, you can leave the agar agar out, this is also delicious as a dip. While you have the mixture on the heat the liquid evaporates quickly and so you can easily control how wet it is.
If you are not happy with the results, simply reheat and adjust to your liking, agar agar is a very flexible ingredient in this way, which is great! This mixture makes a fantastic creamy cheese sauce with real substance, simply leave out the cranberries and agar agar.
It is also a lovely cheese to use as a topping for any bake, pairs well with onion, browns beautifully and has a wonderful fruity, cheesy flavour which enhances many dishes. This recipe makes a generous amount and so you'll have plenty to experiment with and enjoy.
Check out the other vegan bloggers who took part and their fab creations!
Vegan Cranberry Pistachio Loaf by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
Magic Fruit Cake Bars with White Chocolate Drizzle by One Ingredient Chef
Cranberry Cheesecake & Pistachio Stuffed Vegan French Toast by Connoisseurus Veg
Cranberry Pistachio and Mango Salad by Veggies Save the Day
Cranberry Cointreau Coconut Ice Cream with Candied Pistachios by Vegan Yack Attack
Cranberry Pistachio Donuts by Two City Vegans (Casey)
Cranberry Pistachio Gingersnap Truffles by Two City Vegans (Alix)
Warm Barley Bowl with Roasted Brussels, Sweet Potatoes and a Coconut Curry Dressing by Taste Space
Whole Wheat Cranberry Pistachio Vegan Biscotti by Veggie Inspired Journey
Coconut Pistachio Cashew Cheese Panini with Cranberry Jam by Peppers and Peaches
Toasted Pistachio Rice Pudding with Candied Cranberries by The Lazy Vegan Baker
Pistachio and Cranberry Cream Sandwich Cookies by Love Me Feed Me
Vegan Meringue Nests with Cranberry Coconut Whip and Crushed Pistachios by The Viet Vegan
Vegan Coconut Quinoa Salad by Beets Not Meats
Cranberry Orange & Pistachio Muffins With Vanilla Cream by A Virtual Vegan
Gourmet Lazy Cabbage Rolls by Choose to Cook
Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Cranberries and Pistachios by The Tofu Diaries
Lebanese Semolina Pudding (Layali Lubnan) by Lands and Flavors
Vegan Chocolate Cranberry Cake by The Seasonal Diet by The Seasonal Diet
Jolly Bollywood Holiday Curry by Sexie Veggies
I’ve been listening to… Lady Gaga Applause
I’ve been reading… JG Ballard Empire of the Sun
I’ve been watching… London Spy