Dairy-less cheese can be delicious, try this...
Alright, I have been a plant based eater for only a year and a half but I have done some serious leg work finding alternatives to the almighty cheeses I miss and crave. Ricotta being a major one of them. Here I give you two quick recipes for alternatives that not only taste AMAZING but are easy to prepare and can be used in a multitude of dishes.
This one I invented out of necessity. I wanted to make kale into cannellonis and I needed a good strong filling to fill the centre. It goes like this:
- 400gm firm Tofu
- 3-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2-3 teaspoons of dried/fresh oregano or fresh rosemary leaves
In a food processor add tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic/herbs if using and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to combine, it should look like a ricotta-type texture.
Use to stuff cannellonis or vegetables, stir into pasta sauces or drop in spoonfuls on a pizza in place of fresh milk ricotta.
Almond Ricotta two ways...
UPDATE: I have come up with a probiotic-free almond ricotta, to make things a little simpler (and cheaper!) so I'll put this here, if you like the tang of a fermented nut cheese, scroll further down for my riff on Laura Wright's Almond Ricotta from The First Mess.
Wonderland Food's Almond Ricotta
- 1 ½ cups raw peeled almonds, soaked in filtered water overnight
- ½ cup water (reserve soaking water)
- ½ lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 clove of garlic, smashed
- Sea salt and ground pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Optional* fresh herbs such as tarragon or dill
- Blend almonds in a high speed blender with lemon juice and half the water until broken down to a sandy texture.
- Add rest of ingredients and blend until fluffy.
- Spoon into the centre of a cheese cloth or a fine weave, clean tea towel, gather up edges into a ball and squeeeze as much liquid out as you can over a large bowl.
- Take a long chopstick or wooden spoon and hang the bag over the bowl for about 6-8 hours to drain.
- Store in fridge overnight, giving a little squeeze once or twice.
- Unwrap the ball of cheese and serve as is with crackers, olives and sliced fruit, roll in chopped fresh herbs and drizzle a little olive oil over for a decadent dinner party starter or use in place of fresh ricotta in cannellonis, pizzas, pastas or spread on toast with smashed avo.
The First Mess Almond Ricotta
This second one is taken from The First Mess blog and I have only made it once but I have used it on pizzas, pastas, a snack board and on toast with lemon curd. I can unequivocally say that it was an absolute winner! These types of dairy alternatives are not commonly available in Barcelona so I am prone to making things myself which is time consuming but the payoff over the week when you have it in the fridge to pop on anything is fantastic. It's well worth the extra effort and actually takes little time to make, remembering to pop it in the fridge was the hardest part for me. I used more nutritional yeast and olive oil and extra salt than the original recipe to make it more 'cheesy' and stronger in flavour so I have adjusted the recipe as such. I wish I could just go to a store and buy this, oh what luxury.
- 2 cups sliced or slivered almonds, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
- ½ cup reserved soaking water
- ½ teaspoon probiotic powder (loose or from a capsule)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1 clove garlic, finely grated with a microplane
- 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Drain the almonds, saving ½ cup of the soaking water. Put them into a food processor or blender. Add a ¼ cup of the soaking water. Pulse the almonds slowly until lightly creamy-looking. It should be lumpy and gritty like dairy-based ricotta. Add more soaking water if necessary to achieve the right texture, but less is more.
Scrape the ricotta out into a sterilized glass container and stir in the probiotic powder with a clean wooden spoon or chopstick (metal reacts with the probiotic) until evenly distributed. Cover the container with a clean dish towel, securing it with a rubber band. Place the ricotta in a warm spot and let it ferment for at least 8 hours (I normally set a timer on my phone or an alarm so I remember to check it). Laura Wright's version puts hers inside the oven with the oven light on, but I just use the benchtop, let’s face it I’m in Spain, it’s one big warm spot!
Check the ricotta at 8 hours and stir it up. It should have a slightly tangy flavour. You can let it go up to a full 10 hours. Once it tastes to your liking, stir in the olive oil, salt, garlic, and nutritional yeast. Place a lid or some sort of airtight seal on top, and store the ricotta in the refrigerator. Lasts about 7-10 days in the fridge.
*Recipe adapted from The First Mess blog post: http://thefirstmess.com/2017/05/10/vegan-skillet-lasagna-recipe/
I also made a totally plant based, gluten free version of this dish using flat zucchini noodles, which was just a big delicious pan of wholesome plant based happiness!