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Recipe: Make our very tasty vegan lemon, basil and coconut cheesecake with lemon sherbet

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 January 2019

Make our vegan lemon, basil and coconut cheesecake with lemon sherbet  Picture: Archant

Make our vegan lemon, basil and coconut cheesecake with lemon sherbet Picture: Archant

Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis has the perfect dessert for Veganuary 2019 - a dairy-free, egg-free cheesecake

Fads don’t sit well with me. Take, for example, the whole clean eating thing that everyone’s jumped on in recent years. Sure, it’s made lots of young people especially take a long hard look at their diets, but on the flipside there are concerns it’s triggered faddy eating and even eating disorders in extreme cases.

Casualties of clean eating seem to be gluten, butter and sugar. While none of these can be considered a health food (although butter is rich in essential Vitamin D), I’m a great believer in ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’ and see no problem with cakes, sweets, crisps and other ‘naughty things’ as an occasional treat.

The cost of clean eating can also get very out of hand. I once made some crisped rice treats for my kids which required coconut flour, coconut butter, maple syrup and raw cacao powder. Altogether that lot set me back nearly £15 and let’s face it, they still contained vast amounts of sugar and fat, despite the raw ingredients being ‘natural’, ‘unrefined’ and whatever other garble talked me into making them.

Unrefined golden caster sugar is a perfect swap out for maple syrup (around £8 a bottle, or £2.99 if you can find it at Aldi). Coconut flour can be swapped out for ground almonds or finely ground oatmeal.

And dates can be very expensive – why not use raisins instead?

Baking shouldn’t cost the earth! Anyway, let’s get around to this week’s recipe (containing some of the aforementioned ingredients) which is for all you vegans and wannabe vegans this Veganuary.

Until last year I was quite suspicious about vegan cheesecake. I’ve eaten too many versions of the dessert laden with avocado, which only gives the pud a weird banana-like, gone-off-in-the-fridge kind of taste.

But I ate two exquisite cakes doing my rounds of food reviewing. One was a chocolate and Oreo cheesecake at The Walnut Tree in Thwaite. The waitress talked us into trying it despite my trepidation it contained tofu (surely that doesn’t belong in anything sweet) and I have to say, it was rich, satisfyingly creamy and oh so chocolatey.

The other cheesecake that hit the spot was a coconut and passionfruit version at Casa in Bury St Edmunds where I literally had a spoon fight with my mate over the last bite.

For my own cheesecakes I’ve left out tofu and avocado and made a base of cashew nuts, enriched with coconut, vanilla, fresh lemon and a touch of basil. On top is a sprinkle of fresh, homemade lemon sherbet which brings the whole thing together, leaving a pleasant tingle on your tongue.

The method is simple (a high powered food processor or blender is your friend here) but it takes a long time to make so ideally start the day before or early on the morning on the day of eating.

I’ve given alternatives for cheaper ingredients where they can be substituted. And I recommend you use broken cashew nuts which work out much better value.

What can I say? These are delicious. Very creamy. Not too sweet. And totally vegan. They aren’t cloying like a dairy cheesecake either.

But don’t be fooled that they’re healthy. These babies, while lower in sugar than regular cheesecake and packed with nutritious ingredients, are still high in fat, so enjoy…as a treat!

Vegan lemon, basil and coconut cheesecake with fresh lemon sherbet

(makes four individual cakes or one 20cm round tin)

Ingredients

For the base:

75g walnuts

50g coconut flour (or ground almonds or ground oats if you don’t have this)

2tbsps raisins – plumped for 20 minutes in boiling water then drained

2tbsps coconut oil (or firm vegan spread)

1/4tsp salt

For the filling:

250g raw unsalted cashew nuts (broken ones are cheapest)

125ml coconut milk (freeze the rest or use it in a curry for dinner)

115g golden caster sugar

100g coconut oil melted and cooled to room temperature

2 lemons

1tsp vanilla bean paste (or 2tsps vanilla extract)

8 large leaves basil finely chopped

For the topping:

Zest of 1 of the lemons

1tsp golden caster sugar

1/4tsp citric acid (available from pharmacies and large supermarkets)

Method

Pop the cashew nuts into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for three to four hours or (even better) overnight.

For the base pop all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz to a course powder. Add cold water, a spoonful at a time, to the mix and bring it together into a sandy dough that’s not wet but will press together and hold.

I used four bottomless dessert rings to make mine, but you could use 8cm-10cm wide mini loose bottomed tart tins, a 20cm loose bottomed tart tin or even cupcake cases!

Whichever you choose, divide the base mixture equally and press firmly to completely seal the bottom.

Put the drained, pre-soaked cashew nuts, coconut milk, sugar, coconut oil and vanilla bean paste in a blender or food processer and blend, blend, blend until silky smooth. Scrape the sides down from time to time. It will take a little while but it will eventually look nice and creamy.

Now finely grate the zest of one of the lemons and add to the mix. Set the zest of the other lemon to one side. Add lemon juice to taste. I like mine quite tart so used one and a half. Finally, add the basil and stir.

Spoon the filling over the bases and pop into the freezer for three to four hours to set.

While setting make the fizzy sherbet topping. Simply combine the rest of the zest, sugar and citric acid.

Once the cheesecakes are set, remove from the moulds 20 to 30 minutes before serving and sprinkle a little sherbet and perhaps a few fresh basil leaves over.

Without the topping, the cheesecakes will be quite happy in the freezer for a couple of months.

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