Better than dairy? – try simple cashew nut cream

Is there a good alternative to dairy cream? Simple answer is yes. As part of my research into making plant based, veggie or vegan versions our favourite dishes I wanted to find an alternative to cream and sour cream. I hit the jackpot and found cashew nut cream and I have never looked back. We use it in every instance we would have used dairy cream, in savoury and sweet dishes. It is delicious, super simple and healthier than dairy cream. It is also handy for lactose intolerant folk!

  • Double cream contains: 50% fat, 31% saturated and 1.5% protein.
  • Cashew cream contains: 33% fat, 6% saturated and 15% protein (based on equilivant thickness to double cream)

This is where I believe being open minded and looking at other approaches to food really gives us the best of both worlds. You don’t have to be a vegan to make use of vegan recipes. In fact why consider it vegan at all, it is simply a nut cream and can be part of any diet.

How to make it – Using plain, wholefood cashew nuts, not the salted or roasted version. I buy Tesco or Waitrose organic cashew nuts https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/266565966 but non organic works just as well https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/271666995 you can also use cashew pieces which are sometimes cheaper.

  1. The quantity of nuts depends how much cream you want to make. 50 grams of nuts makes around 75 grams of cream.
  2. Soak the nuts in cold water for around 2 hrs, (you can leave them for longer). Cover them in water plus some to allow for swelling. They are ready when they have swelled up. If you are in a hurry you can use very hot water and soak for around 30 mins.
  3. Once soaked drain the water and rinse.
  4. Add enough water to just cover the nuts. You can adjust the amount of water depending on the desired thickness of the cream. Remember you can add but you can’t take away.
  5. Add to a blender, the better the blades and power the smoother the cream. I use a Nutraninja  which is the best kitchen gadget we own.
  6. Blend until it is smooth and creamy. 1-2mins. It should not have any bits however small, if it does just keep blending. If it doesn’t go smooth it is because you didn’t soak the nuts for long enough, you added too much water initially or your processor blades are not sharp enough.
  7. Use straight away or store is an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you find it has thickened in the fridge just stir in more water before serving.

We use it in Mexican dishes, to thicken soup, to make a lovely cream curry, instead of yogurt or cream in desserts. I use it just as it comes but you can add flavours if you want to go wild:

Optional savory flavorings:
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Dash paprika
  • Dash onion powder
Optional sweet flavorings:
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons minced, fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom

Needing to gain weight is not a problem that most of us have but if that is the case, especially for someone convalescing, it is packed with calories, good fats and protein and can be easily added to smoothies and soaps to increase the calorie count.

You can use raw, shelled sunflower seeds in place of the cashews for a nut-free version. Pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds will all work with the same amount of soaking time.

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Love veg

It is official, vegetables are amazing! We used to eat peas or broccoli with dinner, the odd carrot, a salad on a hot day. I would add veg as a side dish as an obligation to my ‘5 a day’ and had very little regard for vegetables in their own right.

Now I find veg exciting and I am proud to make them the main event. Swiss chard, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, artichokes, spring greens, beetroot, spinach, pak choi, courgette, leeks, brussels sprouts, fennel, rhubarb, chives flowers, the list go on and on.

Buy fresh and buy ‘real’ varieties, try things you’ve never tried before. We started growing our own veg and as ‘really’ lazy gardeners we found it very easy, you can grow veg in containers or in beds, throw some seeds in or buy some 50p plants from the market and see what takes. The photo below is veg I picked from the garden tonight, picked, chopped, oven roasted for 6 mins, delicious.

How you cook veg is important. I hardly ever use water and my favourite is roasting or dry frying. Try roasting curly kale, it is amazing. Take a bag of chopped curly kale, put in a roasting tray in an oven on about 180C, after 6-8 mins check and toss, it is done when the edges as crispy. Roast a tray of green veg, broccoli, sprouts, leeks, kale, stir spinach in at the end, you will be amazed by the flavours. The great thing is about veg is that you can’t under cook it, the majority of veg can be eaten raw so you are free to play. Pick, chop, cook, serve.

#10adayfeelingsmug

The EOr

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Knock out roast dinner alternative

I made this as a Christmas dinner alternative to the amazing free range goose we had from http://www.goodmansgeese.co.uk

It was truly knockout. Great hot and great cold the next day. I served with roasties, braised red cabbage, roasted brussel sprouts and fig and plum sauce. Really easy to make. I used Jus-rol shortcrust pastry (which out of interest is suitable for vegans)

https://www.bosh.tv/recipes/portobello-mushroom-wellington the website is also very cool as it shows a video for each step which I found really helpful.

I would eat this any time of the year, it was a smash success!!!

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Spud’s shepherdless pie

I have discovered that green or puy lentils make a perfect substitute for beef or lamb mince in dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie, cottage pie, chilli etc. Simply make the same dish using lentils instead of mince, (cooking the lentils as per the instructions – I used dried lentils and cook them first). Or follow a recipe for a lentil version e.g. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10035/golden-veggie-shepherds-pie

As with all recipes most ingredients are flexible, if you don’t have celery or bay it wouldn’t ruin the dish, just add a bit of extra seasoning elsewhere. If you don’t have tomato puree, use some canned tom or passata and if you are really desperate ketchup.. will work. I am not proud a dollop of brown sauce is a winner in a nice cottage pie.

I go further and replace the butter with rapeseed oil and the milk with oat milk, organic cheese or no cheese, but it all works the same. I use Marigold Swiss organic vegetable bouillon powder vegan (doesn’t contain milk) it is perfect stock in all dishes even if I am cooking meat. I also use Season’s all in a lot of dishes for easy seasoning.

Spud is pictured below. A long story about our attempts to raise our own meat and ending up with 14 pet sheep (for another post). Spud was born this year to an old ewe we acquired from the farm next door (Doris), we didn’t know that she was pregnant then out popped Spud. Doris didn’t have milk so we bottle raised him. Hence he is so tame and happy to wear sun glasses!


 

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Rediscover mutton

Version 2

http://www.muttonrenaissance.org.uk

Mutton is sheep that is over 2 years old. Well-grown mutton to be one of the finest meats produced on the British isles. While mutton may be difficult to find in your local butcher, it is widely available on the internet. Whatever you choose, shoulder of mutton requires long, slow cooking to bring out the best results. Don’t be put off by the age, 2, 4, 5 yrs it is all good and in my view one of the most ethical meats you can source, based on the age and outdoor lifestyle a sheep lives. The older the best in our house, the flavour and the texture of the meat is amazing, just ask Charles (HRH)!

Ethical plus side, you are eating an animal that has had a longer life, sheep are still kept as grazing animals in a flock so it one of the most naturally farmed animal remaining. Mutton meat might come from a ewe that has been used for breeding or it might be a purpose meat bred slow growing sheep. The latter is the best but we should embrace both.

Serves 4–6
250g/9oz/1¼ cups salted butter, softened and diced
1 large bunch of oregano or rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped

large pinch of salt
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon or generous squeeze of juice
1 x approx 2.5kg / 5½lb shoulder of mutton on the bone

8 banana shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
2 whole bulbs of garlic, peeled and halved
1 x 750ml bottle of red wine
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 140C / 275F / gas mark 1. Put the butter in a food processor. Add the herbs, reserving a little for later, and then the salt, lemon and black pepper. Whizz to a coarse paste – about 20 seconds will do it.

Slather the paste all over the top of the mutton to a thickness of about 5mm / ¼ inch. Put the shallots and garlic in a deep roasting tray and add any remaining herbs. Lay the mutton on top and pour in the wine; the liquid should just be touching the bottom of the meat – if not, top up with water.

Seal the top of the roasting tray with a layer of baking parchment followed by foil. Place the tray in the oven for at least 6 hours (overnight at 100C / 200F / gas mark 1⁄8 works too), or until the mutton is cooked.

Remove the foil and baking parchment and turn the heat up to 200ºC/400ºF/
gas mark 6 to crisp up the crust for 20 minutes. Strain the juices, discarding
the garlic and shallots, reduce a little in a saucepan, uncovered, over a medium heat, season and set aside to use as a gravy.

This is lovely served with braised red cabbage and mustard mashed potatoes.

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