Last weekend our friend Natalie invited us to skip the World Vegan Day crowds and eat breakfast nachos at her place. It was an excellent decision - we layered up plates with corn chips and scrambled tofu, black beans, potatoes, avocado and cashew cheese, met her cat, hung out in the shed and did newspaper quizzes. I brought over a watermelon salad as a fresh dessert we could pick at with forks.
The big innovation here is that I made my own vegan almond-based feta. I've had a few vegan feta recipes stowed away for years and I based this on the one at In The Mood For Noodles. Since it was intended for dessert, I skipped the garlic and the marinating in herb oil and relied on just the lemon juice and salt for flavour. I cut some corners, reducing the soaking time and the water involved in the original, but making sure that I got a smooth grind on those almonds.
I was very pleased with the results, though you can see that this baked feta gets a little golden around the edges. (It turns out that I should have baked it at 200°F, not 200°C! Whoops.) It remains a bit softer and more fragile than dairy feta but it captures the smoothness, whiteness, and tang of its namesake.
(adapted from a recipe found on In The Mood For Noodles,
where it's credited to Vegetarian Times)
1 cup whole or flaked blanched almonds
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Place the almonds in a bowl and cover them with lots of water. Allow them to soak for 5-24 hours. Drain the almonds and rinse them briefly with fresh cold water.
Place the almonds in a blender or spice grinder and add the remaining ingredients plus 1/4 cup water. Blend everything thoroughly until it's as smooth as possible.
Place a sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with two layers of clean Chux wipes or cheesecloth. Scoop in the almond mixture, then pull up the fabric corners to parcel up the cheese and tie the cloth ends together with string or a rubber band. Refrigerate the bowl-sieve-cheese parcel setup for 12 hours, to allow some moisture to drip off.
Preheat an oven to 200°C (try 90°C next time) and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Retrieve the almond cheese, unwrap it and scoop it into the tin. Fold the baking paper over almond mixture to fashion it roughly into a little rectangle. Bake the feta block for 40 minutes, flipping it over at the 20 minute mark. Allow the cheese to rest for 30 minutes then refrigerate it until firm.