Whilst not a vegetarian or vegan, I find myself increasingly taken by ideas and tricks those who follow these diets have come up with to make meals tastier.
Being a meat eater, I have only just really realised that one of the best tricks vegans have up their sleeves for creamy dairy-free sauces is to make cashew cream. And because I have only recently acquired a blender I’ve so far been unable to make this delightful sounding sauce – but I can now confirm it tastes as beautiful as it sounds.
I’m a serial cashew nut snacker and this sauce is my dream. Simply flavoured with nutmeg and garlic it tastes like a slightly nutty bechamel, that lovely cashew flavour oozing through. Meat-eaters, dairy eaters you’re missing a good thing if you decide this vegan idea isn’t for you!
The recipe I decided to try this with is a sort-of aubergine parmigiana, made with aubergines and courgettes, a red wine and tomato sauce and basil. No cheese although it would be nice topped with parmesan for sure.
Thanks vegans, hope you don’t mind me steeling your idea!
You will need:
2 aubergines, sliced lengthways into thick slices
2 courgettes, halved and sliced lengthways into thick slices
For the tomato sauce:
1 tin plum tomatoes
3 crushed garlic cloves
3 tbspns olive oil
100ml red wine
1 tspn oregano
Handful basil, torn
1 tspn sugar (if needed)
For the cashew cream:
200g cashews, soaked in water for 3 hours (min.)
1 whole garlic clove
1 – Start by making the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Cook very briefly until fragrant but not brown and tip in the passata and plum tomatoes. Stir well.
2 – Stir in the oregano, seasoning and red wine. Leave to simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes until reduced. Remove from the heat, taste and add sugar if needed, plus any additional seasoning. Stir in the torn basil and set aside.
3 – Next make the cashew cream. Drain the soaked cashews and tip into a blender along with the nutmeg, while garlic clove and seasoning. Add enough water to not quite cover the cashews, maybe 50ml and blend. Add more water as required to reach a thick consistency like that of greek yoghurt. Check seasoning and set aside.
4 – Now move on to the veg. Brush the aubergine and courgette slices with olive oil and fry in batches in a griddle pan, allowing each slice to develop charr marks before turning. Season as you go.
5 – When all the veg are done you can build your dish as you would a lasagne. Brush a 20cm oven dish with oil and spread over a little tomato sauce.
6 – Layer 1/3 of the veg over the tomato sauce, then about 1/3 of the remaining tomato sauce. Next smooth over 1/3 of the cashew cream. Repeat this until you’ve used all your ingredients.
7 – Bake in an oven preheated to 190 degrees for 25 mins then leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.