Life without cheese

One of the hardest things about being vegan is not eating cheese.

Firstly, it’s difficult to avoid, being the go-to ingredient for most restaurants’ meat-free option – try finding a salad without feta, goat’s cheese or halloumi in it, and you’ll see what we mean.

Secondly, it tastes rather good. So good, in fact, that some scientists have claimed it’s as addictive as cocaine! So how to kick the habit?

One method is to fake it. There is a huge range of vegan ‘cheeses’ on the market, from soy-based spreads to mozzarella made from rice milk. We’ve experimented with a good deal of these, with varying degrees of success. So far, we’ve found “No-Moo” to be the best on the market – we grate it onto our classic lasagne for that extra cheesy kick.

However, we don’t kid ourselves that a lump of processed beans is the same as the real deal. The truth is, vegan cheese is always going to leave a lot to be desired.

At Miller Green, we prefer to focus on what we have, not what we lack. Fortunately, there’s a whole world of food out there apart from cheese. Rather than pining after old favourites, we like to retrain our taste buds with new textures and flavours, exploring different ingredients to come up with equally satisfying and delicious dishes.

These two-way pesto-filled filo rolls are a case in point. Canapés can be hard to navigate as a vegetarian, let alone a vegan (who knows what lurks within the vol-au-vents), and we’re often left munching on crisps and carrot sticks. So, next time you’ve got a party to go to, rustle up a batch of these and watch them fly off the napkins. We’ve tested these on veggies and meat-eaters alike, and they’ve turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser every time.

Soaked cashew nuts are a great alternative to cheese, as they have a beautifully creamy texture when they’re whizzed up into a sauce or paste. Throw some punchy herbs or intense sun-dried tomatoes in there, and you’ve got yourself a couple of truly delicious pestos ready to be stuffed into crispy, golden layers of filo, or simply stirred into a comforting bowl of pasta.

 

crispy pesto rolls

 

Crispy pesto rolls 

 

Ingredients 

 

For the herby pea pesto filling:

100g cashew pieces, soaked in water for 1-4 hours

200g cooked peas

2tbsp olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

60ml water

handful of mint leaves

handful of dill fronds

salt and pepper, to taste

 

For the sun-dried tomato pesto filling:

100g cashews, soaked in water for 1-4 hours

10 sundried tomatoes

2 tbsp oil from jar

a few fresh basil leaves

60ml water

salt and pepper, to taste

 

For the pastry:

10 sheets filo pastry

1tbsp soy margarine, melted

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. To make the herby pea filling, blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until you have a thick, creamy sauce (it should have the same consistency as hummus).
  3. Put the sauce aside, rinse out the food processor and repeat the same process with the ingredients for the sun-dried tomato filling.
  4. Once you have made both your fillings, it’s time to assemble the rolls. Take a sheet of filo pastry and lay it out horizontally on a smooth, clean surface. Brush the sheet with the melted soy margarine.
  5. Next, spoon your chosen filling down the lefthand side of the filo sheet. Aim for a neat line, approximately 1cm wide.
  6. Carefully roll the sheet of pastry lengthways so that you have a long tube, pinching slightly as you go to keep the filling wrapped up nice and tightly.
  7. Brush the tube on both sides with the melted soy marg, then cut into 3-4 smaller rolls.
  8. Continue this process until you’ve used up all of your pastry. Any leftover filling can be used as a dip for bread or crudités, or thinned out with some more water for a pasta sauce.
  9. Transfer the rolls to two baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Cook in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry has taken on a nice golden colour. Serve hot or cold.

 

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If your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week for a year it’s the equivalent of taking a typical car off the road for five weeks.

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