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REVIEW: The Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit

"But I can't give up cheese"

This is one of the most common excuses you hear from vegetarians or meat-eaters who would like to be vegan but just...say they can't. I do sympathise, to an extent, as I was once a major cheese lover. In fact, I didn't make the full switch to veganism until Violife came onto the health food shelves. But since then many other brands have also launched new cheeses, some very similar to the dairy versions.

But if the (many) shop versions aren't doing it for you, there is another option: making your own.

A while ago the makers of the Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit* got in contact asking if I'd like to try their product. Obviously, I said yes. Between being a vegan who does miss cheese and someone who loves to experiment in the kitchen, this sounded up my street.

The kit comes with six cheese recipes - and another six recipes showing you how to use the cheese in regular dishes! The six kinds of cheese this kit can make are mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, halloumi, feta and parmesan. The kit also includes a muslin cloth, a thermometer, and some of the ingredients you'll need: Anhydrous Citric Acid, Organic Sea Salt, Agar Powder, Tapioca, Nutritional Yeast, Dried Basil, Dried Paprika, Lemon pepper. All the cheeses are nut-based, and you will have to buy the cashews and macadamia nuts yourself (along with plant milk).

The cheeses themselves are simple enough to make, but you do need to be above intermediate in the kitchen and own a powerful blender. You also need to set time aside because you will need to soak the nuts overnight to soften them (or quickly boil them in hot water, that does the trick).

Out of all the cheeses, my favourite was the feta. In fact, when I crumbled the feta into my Greek Salad (a recipe that came with the pack) it tasted the same (and I used to love a Greek Salad!). It's probably because feta has a dry, savoury taste anyway so this nut-based recipe worked well as a substitute.

The parmesan was a close second, as it was very believable.

I also liked the mascarpone and ricotta recipes but (there's a but here) I can't remember eating the dairy versions. So I'm the wrong person to ask.

I also enjoyed the Halloumi. But (big but here) it didn't resemble dairy-based halloumi, as it lacked the squeakiness. Saying that it was still delicious - but in its own way.

The only cheese I didn't enjoy was the mozzarella. Not only did it not really resemble mozzarella but it also didn't really work as its own unique thing.

Now, I love cooking and experimenting with tricky recipes but the negative of this kit is that it was just a bit of a fuss. I have made each recipe only once and it is a bit of a novelty. And there are more and more pre-made cheeses coming out that are very believable and tasty. In fact, the only time I'd whip out this kit in future is if I was wanting to show off at a dinner party or was making something for someone with allergies where I wanted to be really sure there were no harmful ingredients.

Do I recommend this kit? It depends. You need to really love cooking. And have a bit of time on your hands. Maybe if you're retired, or you have a partner who you split up the household chores with (someone marry me and take on all the cleaning, and I'll cook every meal for you for the rest of your life). As mentioned, it might also be a good shout for people with allergies who really want to be sure their cheeses have no trace of dairy. As a vegan, I think there are some really good cheeses on the market now so I'd only go for this kit if you really don't like anything store-bought and like to know what's in your food.
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