I have been dabbling in vegan cooking often over the past 12 months, mostly due to The China Study. I’ve always been a bit grossed out by milk (my mom said I refused it as a child and would pour orange juice in my cereal…don’t try it), but the extremely convincing peer-reviewed studies in that book affirmed my beliefs that dairy just isn’t good for you.
I make an exception for butter.
Anyways, I like the challenge of cooking vegan, especially for people who have an extremely adverse reaction to the concept. People like my boyfriend, whose favourite foods include bacon, chorizo, and cheese.
So, when I read the Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese post on Oh She Glows, I wanted to give it a shot.
I made some tweaks to the recipe. I didn’t have potatoes or carrots, so I roasted pumpkin and sweet potatoes instead. I also didn’t have bread crumbs, so I just grabbed some random seed crackers, rice crispies, dried shitake mushrooms and made it into a crumb.
Grant was late coming home that night, thanks to the unprecedented amount of snow that was crippling Amsterdam, so I knew I’d be able to have everything in the oven by the time he arrived. He wouldn’t suspect a thing.
By the time Grant came home, the flat was filled with the smell of, well, mac ‘n’ cheese. I plated up, handed it to Grant and watched as he wolfed it down.
“Is it good?”
“Yes, it’s really good!”
“What did you put in it? Cinnamon?”
“Why are you watching me eat it?”
“Because I wanted to see if you liked it before I told you it was vegan! There’s no cheese in it?”
Success! Not only did Grant devour what was on his plate, but he was also digging around the casserole dish for more.
Next time I make this, I would use cashew cream instead of just pureeing the raw cashews. It’s definitely a ‘drier’ mac ‘n’ “cheese”, and I think the cashew cream would do a lot to improve that.
Mac ‘n’ Cheats
(recipe adapted from Oh She Glows)
Cashew Cream (must be done a day in advance):
Soak 1-2 cups of raw cashews in cold water, cover, and keep in fridge overnight.
The next day, rinse and drain the cashews. Puree in a blender until smooth, add water until it reaches the desired consistency (you may want it a bit thinner, or thicker for desserts). Pass it through a sieve. Voila. Cashew Cream.
Roast for 45 minutes:
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1.4 small pumpkin, peeled and chopped (about 1.5 cups)
- 3-4 garlic cloves
Add roasted veg to a food processor and puree until smooth.
Add the following to the food processor with the pureed roasted veg:
- 1.5 cups cashew cream (recipe below)
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used oat milk)
- the juice of 2 fresh lemons
- 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp grainy or dijon mustard
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
Puree everything until it’s silky smooth. Taste it. Not cheese enough? Add more nutritional yeast. Needs a bit of tang? Add more lemon. A bit bland? Add more salt and pepper.
Make a fine crumb in the food processor with:
- 1-2 cups of stale bread (or melba toast, or seed crackers, or whatever else you’ve got in the pantry)
- handful of dried shitake mushrooms
- fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp soy or other non-dairy “butter” (Earth Balance if you’re in North America)
Boil your macaroni until it’s al dente (follow the instructions on the package and don’t overcook it), drain and reserve a tiny bit of the pasta water. Add this to your “cheese” sauce and give it a quick blitz to incorporate.
Add the pasta to the casserole dish, pour over the sauce and mix it well to coat. Spread the crumble over top. Sprinkle paprika/cayenne and dried oregano on top. Pop it in the oven at 175 degrees celsius for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.