Nutritionist and home baker give cheese a vegan spin

Updated: Jun 02, 2019, 08:25 IST | Pallavi Mehra

A nutritionist and a home baker are giving cheese a vegan spin. We sign up for their workshop to find out if it can rival the real thing

Nutritionist and home baker give cheese a vegan spin
(From left) Vegan feta cheese, vegan garlic and herb cream cheese and vegan pepper jack cheese were part of the spread

On a summer afternoon, we enter the Foodhall cookery studio, a large, contemporary kitchen, at the Santacruz outpost. We are here to attend a vegan cheese-making workshop launched by nutritionist Neha Ranglani along with home baker Namrata Shastri. After turning vegan a few years ago, Ranglani says they struggled to find a substitute for cheese. After experimenting with non-dairy ingredients, they were successful in developing new recipes.

"We were able to replace milk with almond milk and paneer with tofu, but it was hard to find delicious vegan cheese in the Indian market. This prompted us to experiment and share our learnings," says Ranglani. The duo began teaching vegan cheese-making last year and have held eight workshops so far. Interestingly, out of a group of 16 participants, only three have dietary restrictions and are vegan, or are cooking for a vegan family member. Rest have chosen to attend the workshop out of a desire to learn something different or to be healthier. Health reasons aside, does vegan cheese have the same kick as its dairy counterpart? We dive in to find out.

Vegan pepper cheese
Vegan pepper cheese

More butter, please

The regular pepper jack cheese is usually spicy and leaves a buttery taste in the mouth. The vegan counterpart, made with soaked cashew, almond milk, lemon juice, tahini and nutritional yeast and garlic powder, comes close to the flavours of the original, but lacks the buttery texture.

Hitting bulls eye
The garlic and herb cream cheese is our favourite from all the options at the table, such that it's hard to tell the difference between the vegan version and the one with dairy. The cheese is made by blending soaked cashew, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, pepper and garlic. To give it flavour, chopped spring onion and basil are added. The concoction is kept in the fridge overnight in a muslin cloth. The outcome is a scrumptious cream cheese, light and moist, and ideal for summer.

Nutrionist Neha Ranglani and baker Namrata Shastri
Nutrionist Neha Ranglani and baker Namrata Shastri

Good attempt

The camembert cheese version is denser and less smooth than the dairy version, yet delectable. Soaked cashew — a constant — along with nutritional yeast flakes, sea salt, tapioca flour, apple cider vinegar and water are blended and stirred in a pan until thick and creamy. It is later baked at 180 C for 20 minutes. The result is an aromatic, dense cheese with a fondue like consistency. While the camembert is impressive, the feta is chalky and dry. Last on the checklist is the vegan cheese sauce, one of their most popular recipes. Although on the saltier side, the flavour and appearance gets our vote. Overall, it turned out to be a worthy exercise. It's good to have a tasty alternative
for people with dietary restrictions.

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