The fig that got the cream.
These days I’m not so much the dairy dodger. I’ve found good quality organic dairy, cheese, butter, yoghurt, and cream from happy cows, eaten in moderation, works just fine for me. But as variety is so important, and after my indulgent cheese-for-every-meal Italian holiday this August (the opposite of moderation) it’s been fun to play around with this alternative.
Nuts are such a good resource for the natural chef. In their raw or roasted form, nuts are used in salads for crunch; finely ground as flour in baked goods; soaked, blended, and strained for a milk. Soaked, drained and blended they can also be used to make an alternative cream cheese.
Cashews are the creamiest of nuts, well suited to this recipe. Most nuts boast an array of mineral benefits and eaten in moderation (see – EVERYTHING should be eaten in moderation) can add value to your diet. Cashews are a good source of copper, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. They are also a lower fat, higher protein and carbohydrate source than most other nuts. Macadamia nuts have a creamy star quality too, but with being mainly grown in Australia, the cost in the UK isn’t too purse friendly.
I first played around with nut cheese to create a Tricolore salad for a vegan Italian feast community cooking class I led at Made In Hackney last weekend. I decided to do something different with the leftovers from my recipe testing at home and came up with this fabulous starter inspired by the stunningly delicious figs that are doing the rounds at this time of year. In savoury or sweet dishes, or just for a snack – they will remain in my shopping basket until they go out of season. Here is my favourite way to serve figs (other than in this new dish) – chopped up and tossed with diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes and a touch of mint with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Lovely.
This fig and cashew cheese dish was finished off with some beautiful millefiori honey I bought in Tuscany at Borgo Pignano. You don’t have to go all the way to Tuscany to recreate this dish – just get yourself some local, raw floral honey. Look for raw, unfiltered, on the label.
- 100g cashews soaked for 4 hours (or overnight)* SEE NOTE
- 2 Tbs (30 mls) water
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 figs
- 4 Tbs of cashew cheese
- 8 mint leaves, cut in chiffonade
- 1 Tbs pine nuts
- 2 tsp honey (approximately)
- Place the soaked, drained and rinsed cashews in a blender (or jug of a stick blender) with the rest of the ingredients. Blend and taste. Adjust salt, if necessary. For a runnier cream add more water. Transfer to a ramekin or small glass jar and place in the fridge until ready to serve. The cheese will firm up over time.
- For the dish. First toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan till golden. Set aside.
- Cut the top stem off the fig and make a cross cut in the top. Squeeze the base of the fig to force the quarters apart to make a cavern for the filling.
- Spoon a Tablespoon of the cheese into the fig, scatter the pine nuts and mint over it, and a teeny drizzle of honey.
You can add nutritional yeast to the cashew mix for a cheesier flavor, if you want, – it’s just one of few food things in life I can’t and won’t eat!
There will be some cashew cheese left over, so here are some other ideas!
- Spoon over large tomato slices with a drizzle of pesto for a tricolore.
- Thin with almond milk, toss over courgetti, and top with smoked salmon.
- Spread on gluten free crackers, top with prosciutto and chopped herb of choice.
Ever tried cashew cheese? What would you do with your leftovers??0