How much cheese did you get through before becoming vegan?
I would eat at least one 400g packet of mature cheddar a week and would live off breadsticks dipped into garlicky Boursin.
As a vegan, do you miss cheese?
Yes! I became vegan because I became lactose intolerant first. I miss eating cheese so much. There’s no real replacement for a good Cheddar.
What do you eat instead of cheese?
There’s this vegan stuff called Cheezly which looks like American cheese but I think tastes a bit like soil. It’s not amazing but I’d love to be proved wrong. Otherwise I just use a lot of pastes and spreads like hummus and tapenade. You can also get cheese made from tofu. Tofu is an incredible find for vegetarians. I eat ice-cream made out of tofu, too. It’s not as horrible as it sounds. Actually, once it’s been flavoured with vanilla, it’s pretty creamy and as good as normal ice cream.
Why is it so difficult to get good tasting vegan cheese?
How is it even possible to replicate the taste of fermenting milk from an animal? That’s why. Nothing can come close to that taste, the bitterness, the tang. A lot of vegan cheeses add substitutes and flavourings, like herbs and garlic, but then you just have a strangely textured block of white stuff that tastes like oregano. That’s what’s so good about normal cheese, is that you let the real flavour sing out. There’s no need for it to be masked because the real flavour is just incredible. I can’t tell you how much I miss it!
Which cheese do you miss the most?
I miss mozzarella. There is no substitute for tangy, sweet mozzarella on a pizza. Other than that, gorgonzola is incredible too.
How do you eat a pizza now?
It’s obviously not the same as before, but in Naples actually they don’t use cheese on pizzas. They see it as a bit of an aberattion the way we put big lumps of greasy mozzarella on it. Of course, some traditionalists say that it started with mozzarella, but other purists are convinced that the pizza is the dough, the most rich tomato sauce you can find, fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil. For me, that hits the spot. Luckily, Franco Manco in Brixton do a pizza like that, and, if I ask nicely, they’ll even throw some olives or capers on for me.
What types of vegan cheese are out there?
Well apart from cheezly, people at Saf (a vegan, GF restaurant) have started making nut-based cheeses like Cashew Cheese. Because they’re fermented they actually do taste a little like cheese, but the texture is impossible to replicate. They’re also really expensive. £5 for a tiny pot.
For more vegan cheese ideas check out Vegangela’s great post about home-made cashew cheese. Or, check out The Stink’s attempt at making Vegan Cheese here. Follow The Stink London on Twitter for more cheesy updates.