Ok, it seems like everybody has been going vegan for January as part of the ‘Veganuary’ campaign, and it’s pretty impressive! I mean, coming from a family that eats steak on the regular, I’ve always said that I’d find it hard to go vegetarian, let alone vegan, so the thought of cutting out meat, dairy and all other animal products from my diet has always seemed unimaginable to me!
However, now that I find my Instagram feed full of yummy looking vegan recipes, I’m not going to lie… I am a little bit curious.
Don’t get me wrong, a whole month still seems like a big commitment, but it has got me interested in figuring out how I would turn some of my favourite meals vegan. You know, if I were to try it for a day/week. Maybe it’s the scientist in me that relishes the challenge of having to research, experiment and trial new ingredients, techniques and recipes? Yeah, I know. Nerd.
Anyways, I figured I’d start with something that I eat far too often and yet never get tired of eating…
Mac and Cheese. (Ang’s Ultimate Comfort Food.)
Now, when I make mac and cheese I usually add a ton of cheese and bacon, so I knew this would be a challenge. I also wanted to steer clear of specialist ingredients that I wouldn’t normally buy or have in my kitchen, e.g. vegan cheese or vegan bacon… because that would make it too easy!
Whilst researching, I’d seen a number of recipes that used a creamy cashew “cheese” sauce, flavoured with various savoury, umami ingredients which seemed to work a treat. So that’s what I did. Added as much umami as I could! I also decided to fry some red peppers with smoked salt and smoked paprika, as an alternative to the smoky taste of bacon.
I was super impressed with how cheesy the “cheese” sauce turned out! I mean, look at the image below! Seriously, cashews are a game changer if you ever need to make a creamy yet dairy-free sauce!
- For the “cheese” sauce:
- 150g cashews
- 400ml almond milk,
- 1tsp garlic powder
- 1tsp onion powder
- 1tsp mustard powder
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 2tbsp lemon juice
- 1tbsp yeast extract (Marmite)
- 1tsp turmeric, optional (for colour mostly)
- salt and pepper to taste
- To serve:
- 400g macaroni pasta
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 1 green chilli, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1tsp smoked salt
- 1tsp smoked paprika
- a handful of panko breadcrumbs
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
- Soak cashews in boiling water for minimum of 1-2 hours. Drain and place in blender.
- Pour in half of the almond milk and blitz to a smooth paste.
- Add the remaining almond milk and “cheese” sauce ingredients and blend to combine. Season with the salt and pepper to your taste. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix the red pepper pieces with the smoked salt and smoked paprika to coat them. Tip into a lightly oiled frying pan and fry till they start to crisp and char. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- To the same pan, add the panko breadcrumbs and fry till golden in the smoky, peppery oil. Season with smoked salt and pepper as necessary. Remove from the pan and set aside also.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions till al dente. Add the broccoli florets to the water for the remaining 2-3 minutes.
- Whilst the pasta is boiling, pour the “cheese” sauce into another saucepan and warm up on a medium heat, continuously stirring.
- Add the spring onions, green chilli and smoky red peppers. If the sauce becomes too thick on heating, add a little water to let it down to the desired consistency.
- Once the pasta and broccoli is cooked, strain and add to the warmed sauce. Stir to combine and serve immediately, topped with the breadcrumbs.