Our resident chef Katy is on hand to answer any of your plant based food-related questions. Got a question you want answering? Write to email@example.com for the chance to get your question on these pages.
- Are different plant milks better for different recipes?
As vegans we are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to milk options!
That can, however, prove a little confusing when it comes to choosing just one for a particular recipe or purpose. Cashew or soy? Homemade or shop bought?
For some uses, such as on cereal or on its own as a drink, the choice is solely down to preference of taste, but for uses where the milk is to be heated, or added to other liquids and ingredients, some do the job better than others.
Soy is a really good, all-round milk with a mild flavour. Many people favour soy milk for tea, white sauces and custards. Nut milks, such as almond, cashew, and macadamia add flavour and nutrition to smoothies, cereals and drinks. Oat and rice milks are especially good in porridge and custards, due to their creamy sweetness.
Coffee can sometimes be a tricky one to find the perfect milk for due to curdling. I find that letting the coffee cool for a few minutes and stirring well whilst adding the milk usually solves this problem. Using a professional or ‘barista’ style milk solves the problem as they are developed to withstand higher temperatures. Single soy cream is also a tasty addition to coffee.
- Should I always soak cashew nuts before cooking with them?
Cashews are one of the most versatile nuts around. They have a mild flavour, a creamy texture, and are readily available.
Whether you need to soak your cashews depends entirely on the recipe you wish to use them for. Cashews are extremely good, as they are, in salads, stir fries, curries, and stews. They are also great when used ground or chopped in a cheesecake base, energy balls, biscuits, and so on. For all of these uses there is no need to soak your cashews.
However, these nuts are also fantastic for creating silky smooth dressings, sauces and homemade ‘cheeses’, in which case they do require soaking in advance. This can either be achieved by soaking in fresh, cold water for several hours or overnight in the fridge, or in freshly boiled water which reduces the time dramatically to as little as 15-30 minutes.
- What is the best way to press tofu?
Tofu is a staple ingredient for many vegans, but the difference between tofu well prepared, and tofu not so well prepared can be huge.
Firstly, not all tofu needs pressing. Silken tofu, for example, is generally used for sauces and puddings and does not require pressing. The firm type of tofu, which is generally packed in water, needs a little preparation, and there are two ways to achieve this.
A traditional and easy way to press tofu, which doesn’t require any special equipment, is to fully drain it, squeezing out as much of the excess water as possible with your hands. Pat the block of tofu as dry as possible with paper towels and then wrap it in more clean, dry paper towel. Placed the wrapped tofu on a plate, place a chopping board on top, and weigh the board down with tins of beans, cookery books, or other heavy weights. Press for at least 20 minutes, but ideally 2 hours or more is even better.
The alternative method is using a tofu press which is an easy and reliable way to get consistent results. Simply drain your tofu and place into the press according to the instructions. The press with the tofu inside can now be placed in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight, and will be ready to use when you need it.
- What is the best substitute for honey?
There are many natural sugars we can use as an alternative to honey and these are, luckily, readily available. Which one you choose depends largely on personal taste as well as the type of dish it is being used for.
Here are a few of the most popular alternatives:
- Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is a sweet, smoky and fairly liquid substance, usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees.
- Agave Syrup: Is a commercially produced sweetener made from the same plant as tequila (try it in a tequila cocktail!) Mostly originating from Mexico and South Africa, Agave is sweeter than honey and slightly less viscous.
- Coconut Nectar: Made from the reduced sap of the coconut palm. Coconut nectar is sweet, although it doesn’t taste like coconut!
- Molasses: Made from refining sugar cane or sugar beet. Like other plant syrups, molasses has several varieties and flavours. Barbados molasses is lighter and blackstrap molasses has more of a black treacle quality.
There are also ways of making your own fruit honey at home! I think that apple or pineapple is best for flavour and colour.
To Make Apple Honey
- 1 Cup apple juice
- 1 Cup sugar
- Place the juice and sugar into a non-stick pan and cook together gently, over a medium high heat, stirring continuously. Continue to simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until desired consistency has been reached. Allow to cool a little and seal in a warmed, clean, glass jar.