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Making nut milks and creams from scratch is quicker and easier and more reasonably priced than buying the prepared, boxed non-dairy milk. Last month I gave you the recipe for cashew nut milk, known for its smooth and creamy texture and great nutritional boost. Now we can make some non-dairy cream cheese and then use that in a number of yummy ways. The most important ‘new’ ingredient, available from the health food section of supermarkets or chemists is nutritional yeast, that is de-activated and which comes in a full-bodied powder or flake form. It is punchy with minerals and vitamins as well as flavour. So, with that in stock, along with raw cashews, you are ready to play.

Basic Cashew Nut Cream Cheese

Soak 1 cup of cashew nuts for a couple of hours. Drain off the soaking water and place softened nuts in your blender – the more high-powered the better. Add a ¼ cup of filtered water; ¼ cup of nutritional yeast; 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; 1 clove of garlic; 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar; sea salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until you have a coarse, grainy mixture, scoop out of the jug and taste to adjust seasoning. You can add a little Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, finely chopped chives or chopped coriander and so on, as liked.

Your Cashew Nut Cream Cheese has lots of applications, making it useful in your kitchen. Spread on toast or little savoury biscuits for a quick snack; use as a dip with crunchy raw vegetables as part of a snack platter; put a dollop onto steamed, floury potatoes, or any combination of freshly steamed veg – it is great on a combo of cauliflower and broccoli flowerets which have been steamed for 2 minutes so they are still crunchy and toothsome.

Place two tablespoons of your cream cheese in a glass jar and add a little extra cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice; a little honey, stevia or maple syrup to balance the tartness; and a tablespoon of oil. Shake well to make an excellent creamy salad dressing. For a lovely sauce to pour over veggies or a pasta salad, use a ¼ cup of cream cheese and thin down with half a cup of cashew nut milk, then flavour with English or Dijon mustard.

Super Cashew Nut Pesto

Store-bought pestos are unreasonably priced and if you have a good blender at home they take minutes to prepare. They keep well in the fridge and can be used in so many ways - you can really get your mileage out of a jar of homemade pesto. The most important ingredient is the raw cashew nuts that make the creamy base for the herbs and other flavouring. The basic recipe stays pretty much the same - it’s the herbs that you use that change the flavour, and so the application. Favourite herbs are bunches of parsley, coriander or basil. Wilted baby spinach leaves or mustard leaves make great green pestos. If you like hot stuff, use the basic recipe and add chopped green chillies. Avoid rocket, as it is bitter.

Place a cup of soaked cashew nuts in your blender. Add a big bunch of chopped herbs of your choice - make sure they are well-rinsed and that there are no stalks. If you use chillies, you might like to de-seed them. Now add the juice of a large lemon; two tablespoons of olive oil (or a mix of seed oil and olive oil); 2 cloves of garlic; salt and pepper. You want a thick creamy texture with well-blended ingredients, so if you need to add a little water to the goblet to get the blender going, make sure you add it a few teaspoonfuls at a time. Place your pesto in a glass jar and drizzle a little oil on top– it will keep in the fridge for at least 10 days.

Pesto is popular on pasta dishes, but as it is such a tasty, creamy sauce, it can enhance any number of culinary treats. Spread little biscuits with Creamy Nut Cheese and place a little pesto on top of each biscuit for a snack starter. Make little sandwiches using pesto as the ‘butter’ and adding finely sliced cucumber or tomato. Toss baby potatoes that have been steamed and peeled in a dressing made of pesto to which you have added extra oil and seasoning. Stir pesto into the Creamy Nut Cheese for an extra special dip for raw veggies. It’s delicious and guilt-free!

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