This is the first in a two post series in a happy collaboration with Vitamix to celebrate the launch of the Vitamix Ascent Series blenders. This unique blender series combines power and precision, future-forward technology and an all new design to ensure fast, consistent results that are bursting with flavour. I have really enjoyed experimenting with this very impressive piece of kitchen kit and I can heartily recommend it. It has won coveted space on my tiny kitchen counter and I now use it regularly.dip
I am dairy free these days. It is temporary for now while we isolate the troublemakers via an exclusion diet. I have known that I was lactose intolerant for a while, at least that is what I thought I was, but my doctor says that we need to do a thorough exclusion and make sure. Because things aren’t right.
When people hear that I am on an exclusion diet, a mild panic flits across their face and they inevitably say: but cheese! I don’t know how you can live without cheese. I couldn’t. The reality is if cheese is suspected of making you ill, you cut it out. (Even if you LOVE it, as I do). I do have pangs, and moments of weakness especially after a glass of wine. But for now, cheese is completely off my plate, and I need to seek alternatives.
I hear your brain clicking, mine too. Why cut something out and seek in alternative? It is like that whole world of vegetarian fake meat which even many vegetarians dismay of (I once was one and I did too). This is different. Cutting out cheese leaves a dietary hole of satisfaction, it gapes and it cries and I keep trying to find something that might soothe it somehow. I have tried many fake cheeses and none cut the mustard. I have tried to make some at home. I miss the milky wetness and the round umami that fermenting milk gives. But many things ferment and many things are creamy, there surely must be a way?
And at Christmas it is the hardest. All those cheeseboards, all those opportunities to indulge. Even if you are not dairy free, make this for the dairy free person in your life and make their Christmas. Cheeseless cheese dip will make a dairy free heart soar this Christmas. It is the perfect thing for festive entertaining, or for gifts.
Most recipes for cheese alternatives (what is the best thing to call these anyway? Cheeze, Sheeze? Cheesish?), call for nuts or seeds soaked until bloated and soft and whizzed. This forms the basis. Then you can flavour and enhance. Cashew nuts, brazil nuts and sunflower seeds seem the most popular. Cashews are not my favourite nut to eat, but I have found that soaked and blitzed for cheese they are wonderful. When I could finally get the texture right.
Enter the Vitamix. Yes, this is a paid partnership, but I have been waxing lyrical to all friends and acquaintances since I started using it. It is extraordinarily powerful and fast and makes quick work of anything you put in it. Soup in less than 6 minutes from everything raw (a pumpkin with skin in one experiment) to velvety and piping hot? Speedy homemade nut butter, made from nothing but nuts (and salt, please) in just one minute. 45 second smoothies, 55 second sorbets and granitas. I was sold immediately.
While playing around with the idea for my cheese dip, I had a friend who is obsessed with mature cheddar come round to try. I tweaked and tweaked adding depth, brightness, made it more smooth, and eventually, when I was very happy with my it-isn’t-cheese-but-it-tastes-like-it-is dip, I got him to try. He thought it was cheese, and he thought it was a lovely cheese dip. He was really surprised when I explained that it was cashew nut based and there was no cheese in there at all.
Let’s break it down:
cashew nuts – body and creaminess, essential to soak them for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight
white miso – deep umami flavour and funkiness
yeast flakes – umami and cheesiness
garlic powder – the good ones are good! And give a little funkiness.
English mustard powder – sharpness and all that lovely yellow
Korean chilli – a little warmth and lift
Vinegar – a little sharpness that all good cheese has
worcester sauce – for some funky fermented flavours and depth
Making it is easy. I grind the soaked cashews using the dip / spread setting until it is a smooth paste. Then I add the rest and finish it using the soup setting which results in a hot creamy and very smooth dip. This eats really well hot or cold.
Note on the recipe: if you are not a beer lover, this works super well with water too (and I make it this way as often).
- 200g cashew nuts
- 150ml light beer
- 2 tbsp white miso
- 4 tbsp yeast flakes
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp English mustard powder
- 1 tbsp Korean chilli, gochugaru, or a similar mild chilli like pul biber
- 1 tbsp worcester sauce
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- sea salt (to taste)
- optional garnish - fried chorizo or bacon