One of my favourite things about the winter is that I have time to experiment in the kitchen and with the cold weather, being indoors is no hardship. Right now I’m really enjoying developing my vegan repertoire. Although I’m not vegan myself, I’m finding it a really exciting source of new ideas and dishes which as often as not are better than their non-vegan equivalents. In fact my experiments have meant that we’re moving further and further towards a vegan diet – is there a word for that yet? This vegan cheesecake is a great example of a dish which I think is better than a traditional dairy version and is now our go-to recipe.
A vegan cheesecake seems like a very odd idea, a dish where the main ingredient is dairy. Looking at popular recipes, most struggle with texture and resort to freezing to replicate the texture of a dairy cheesecake. Often those recipes are delicious, but to me they’re more like ice cream than cheesecake, so not really what I was looking for. I used Agar Agar to thicken the topping, which is a little bit fiddly but no problem once you get used to it, although it took a few attempts to get the quantities right.
We’re very keen to cut down the amount of sugar we eat, and this vegan cheesecake helps with that because it contains no added sugar. Of course some of the ingredients contain sugar so the dish isn’t completely virtuous, but I always think natural sugars are better than refined industrial sugar.
The dish is also versatile. I used walnuts in the base because it gives a crunchy, biscuity texture that I really like, but you could substitute any other nut that takes your fancy, or even crunch up some vegan biscuits. You can ring the changes with decoration and fruit toppings. I like to use whatever’s good in our local market that week, but in the depths of winter frozen berries work surprisingly well and are cheap.
I served this cheesecake a couple of weeks ago in my pop-up café and it went down a storm!
So enough of my rambling, here’s my vegan cheesecake recipe.
For the base, blend 200g of walnuts and 150g of dates in a blender until the mixture goes sticky. Push into the base of a 22cm springform tin, ideally lined.
For the filling, put the following ingredients into a blender
300g of cashew nuts, soaked overnight
A tin of coconut milk
140g of coconut oil
100ml of Agave syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
The juice of 1lemon
* 1.5 tsp of activated agar agar
To activate the agar agar put the powder into a pan with 4tbsp of boiling water, and continue boiling until it’s all dissolved.
Blend the ingredients for a few minutes until completely smooth. Pour into the tin, and add the topping of your choice. When you do this, bubbles will appear in the mixture. Bang the tin gently on a worktop and they’ll disappear.
I like to use red fruit or to make nice patterns by dribbling fruit coulis and passing a skewer through the coulis.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
This recipe is vegan, gluten free and contains no added sugar.
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