Becoming a vegan definitely makes it harder to socialize around the festive season. Theres always the obligatory cheese and charcuterie platter at the company Christmas do, and everyone (in Cape Town at least) rediscovers our incredible wine region, celebrating the holidays with a a winery crawl, which often include cheese pairings.

Enter vegan cheese! All the good stuff, none of the cholesterol and the perfect contribution to your next Christmas event. Vegan cheese can get a bit of a bad rap, as supermarket versions tend to contain a fair amount of coconut oil, are heavily processed and contain additives to get that optimal gooey texture.

These little moreish bon bons are made with whole, recognizable ingredients, and enriched with probiotics. They are also vegan and gluten free! The recipe requires a little planning ahead as the almonds will need at least 4 hours to soak, but the active time is minimal at just 30 minutes.

If you try this recipe, let us know how it goes! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag your photo #theculinarycartel on Instagram so we can see what you come up with. Happy cooking!

Vegan Ricotta Bon Bons

Makes 40-45 bon bons

Ingredients:

2 cups almonds

3/4 cup – 1 cup water

2 probiotic capsules

1tsp nutritional yeast

Suggested toppings

½ cup Chopped roasted and salted pistachios. Finished on the plate with a vegan honey drizzle

⅓ cup chopped parsley, mixed with 1tbsp finely grated lemon zest

½ cup roasted walnuts, mixed with ⅛ cup chopped dried cranberries or cherries

Method:

Place the almonds in a bowl, cover with water and soak for at least 4 hours.

Once the nuts have soaked, drain them, and place them in a food processor along with 3/4 of a cup of water, the nutritional yeast and the probiotics. Blend on high, adding up to another 1/4 cup of water if the mixture struggles to blend, until the nuts have completely broken down (aka there are no whole nut pieces).  Bear in mind that the nuts will never become a silky smooth paste and some texture is to be expected.

Season the nut cheese to taste with a little salt.

Place a sieve over a large bowl, and line the sieve with a cheese cloth, a nut milk bag or an old T-shirt. Place the nut cheese into the lined sieve. Gather the material over the top of the cheese mixture until it is covered before placing a heavy object onto the cheese mix. The object will press down on the cheese mix, and allow any excess liquid to drain through the material, into the bowl below.

Leave to culture in a warm place, like a sunroom or a cupboard next to the oven, for at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours, so it gets light and aerated. Taste as you go until you are happy with the resulting cheese like tanginess. The warmer the place you leave it, the quicker it will culture.

If you are making our full Christmas menu, be sure to save 1/2 – 3/4 of a cup of vegan cheese for your Crispy Sweet Potato Bites!

To finish pick one or all of the toppings above.If you decide to do 3 flavoring like we did, you can reduce the amount needed.

You can either roll the mixture into balls or get really fancy and quinelle them with two spoons. You can find a step by step guide on how to quinelle, here. Don’t be put off, after the first 2 you will quickly get the hang of it.

Once you have portioned out the almond cheese bon bons into your desired shape, scatter the toppings onto a plate and mix to combine. Roll the bon bons in your topping of choice. At this point you can pop them in the fridge, where they will last 4-5 days, or you can serve them immediately! I like to serve the pistachio flavor with a drizzle of vegan honey

Enjoy with crackers or vegetables crisps. Turn the platter into a cheese board with the addition of some grapes and preserves.