I have just been asked by a friend with a dairy allergy for my recipe for vegan almond cheese. She said, and I quote, “you served me an excellent almond and garlic vegan cheese – could I have the recipe please? I tried one I found from the internet but it wasn’t anywhere near as good and I have made your blue cheese recipe a few times which works brilliantly.”

So I thought I would share it. Each year I find I get more and more dietary requirements for my tastings which throws up challenges as it isn’t just a question of replacing or omitting, but replicating the exact same match, flavour and weight as the other dishes with the chosen wine. Vegans still tend to be in the minority but the number increase every year. Living in the Corbieres the range of quality vegan cheeses on sale is non-existant! So I make my own, I like a culinary challenge! I make three types: a soft cream version that replicates a youthful goats’ cheese, a baked version to replace an aged goat, and a blue cheese. I don’t know that they would fool anyone in a blind tasting but they are very tasty and have the correct umami flavour that I am looking for, so that’s all that matters!

Below is the recipe that I sent to Marion, as you can see it is very adaptable.

Ingredients and Method:

200g whole almonds with their skins on (you could also substitute for cashews or hazelnuts to give a richer, warmer flavour), put in a dish and cover with water, refrigerate over night.

The following day drain and slip the skins off. Then in a food processor or blender, put the almonds, a large clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of flocons de levure maltée ( I can’t remember what it is called in English, some sort of vegan yeast to add a cheesy flavour you find it in the bio shops), a squeeze of lemon juice and water.

Blitz it and adjust the seasoning to suit your palate. I would add a tablespoon of water to start and then add more as you go you don’t want it to be too liquid. Also don’t overdo the lemon as it is hard to disguise it if you put in too much!

When you are happy with the balance of flavour scrap it into a cheese cloth, tie it and suspend it over a dish or a sink, preferable over night. You don’t need to put it in the fridge but you can if you prefer.

Remove from the cloth and pat it into your preferred shape and you can either eat it as is, you can bake it is a very low oven (100C for a couple of hours to form a crust) with a drizzle of walnut oil to try to give a more ‘aged’ character or you can flavour it. I like to roll it in some fine herbes, or you could try crushed pepper corns or toasted and chopped walnuts.

The herby version goes really with my courgette carpaccio served with a crisp aromatic white such as the Celliers des Demoiselles Blanc 2019. Try the baked “aged” version with a richer wine such as Olivier Pithons’ Cuvée Laïs 2017.