This past weekend, I decided to live a little and bought us all a round of bagels. Baby Green was extremely enthusiastic while Mrs Green was a little surprised by my outlandish behaviour. I even had one of the bakery’s peanut butter filled bagels (which I am sure was not a 100% peanut butter). This outlandish behaviour will probably not become a regular occurrence, but its nice to know that the "indulgent" option is just around the corner.
We live, at a toddler’s pace, no more than a 10 minute walk from the iconic rival bagel shops of Brick Lane. Yet we have not had their bagels in over three years. One of the reasons for this gaping hole in our "local and seasonal" culinary habits is the fact that, to the extent possible, we are trying to eat plant-based whole foods, and as of yet, the bakeries do not have a wholegrain option, even if sporting some creative/marbelised/tie-die coloured options.
We are also quite reluctant to consume highly processed plant-based alternatives for popular or common meat and dairy-based foods, as they can be unhealthy and fairly processed. A case in point is non-dairy cheese, here, cream cheese. The commercially produced plant-based versions of cheese typically include a list of complicated ingredients so unappetising that it makes a simple organic two or three-ingredient small producer cheese seem a better option (still not for us, though). In this instance, cream cheese was the culprit.
There is nothing wrong with a home-made and organic replacement, though, so I resolved to some experimenting, and gave home-made soya milk cream cheese a go. It is so easy, I am reluctant to even call it a recipe, but it is really worth a try and I want to share it with you. While we are generally disinclined to rely on soya products as the go-to dairy replacement (other alternatives often work and taste better, plus it is important to have variety in the diet), in this instance soya lends an authentic, slightly chalky lactic flavour, which seemed appropriate. So, with that in mind, don't let prejudice about soya stop you from trying this out. Get a carton or a few of the most natural, least processed, additive-free, organic, non GMO soya milk you can find, and an organic lemon. You will also need a cheese cloth, or an old, CLEAN, thin T-shirt.
Below is the basic recipe, so go ahead and experiment with flavour additions and combinations, such as sea or herb salt, cracked black pepper, roasted garlic and chives, or dill and lemon zest. The texture will vary according to how much moisture you retain- Mrs. Green likes this cheese slightly drier, with almost a cottage cheese-type consistency, and I like the more conventional creamy consistency. Experiment to see what works for you.
- 1L plain soy milk (flavour and additive-free)
- Juice of 1 X lemon
- Large heavy based pot
- Cheese cloth
- In a large saucepan bring the soya milk to a gentle simmer on medium heat. The milk should be stirred often so that it does not burn. Do not let the milk come to a boil.
- Remove from heat and add the lemon juice (and any other flavourings or ingredients you are introducing).
- Stir for a minute until a curdle forms and then let rest for a few minutes.
- Place a sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with the cheese cloth.
- Pour in the curdled milk.
- Allow it to cool and then gently squeeze out liquid to desired consistency.
- Flip it upside down out of the cheese cloth and into a bowl or plate for a nice "finished" look.
- Do not worry if the cheese comes out too dry or crumbly for your liking, you can always add back some (1 tsp at a time) of the strained liquid and blend in a food processor until creamy.
- Spread the joy!