I'm not exaggerating when I say my life changed when I realised I could make cream out of cashews!
Growing up in north of Sweden with its long cold winters and not-so-hot summers, I was used to cream, and dairy in general, being a kitchen staple: meatballs with cream sauce .. creamy oven gratins .. sour cream and all its different varieties .. desserts with whipped cream! All good as long as my developing body needed to keep active in a tough climate, but moving away from the north it seemed I no longer needed it, neither did I like the heavy sticky feeling a regular diet of dairy brought to my body. And so, over the years I got used to simply not craving creamy food.
Until the day I first soaked and blended cashews!
Cashew cream adds delicious creaminess, and easy to digest plant based proteins, fats, carbs and all the goodness typically associated with 'nuts and seeds' to both sweet and savoury food. Cashews have amongst the lowest fat, and highest carbohydrate content of all nuts, which makes them naturally sweet with a starchy 'thickening' effect. Along with being plain tasting when not roasted or flavoured – read: blank canvas – they're the perfect nut to 'cream'!
For a successful Cashew Cream:
Soaking: All nuts need to be soaked before blending (unless you have a high-speed professional blender). Soaking is easy, just cover your cashews in fresh water and leave them either at room temperature or in the fridge overnight, or for at least 4 hours. Drain the nuts before using. Generally speaking, the longer the soak, the softer the nuts and the creamier the result.
Hot water soaking: Nobody – well at least not me – will always have the foresight to have cashews soaked and ready to go. Luckily, hot water will speed things up and the result can be just as good! Use boiling water (from the kettle) and within 20-30 minutes your cashews are ready to use. You can even get away with using them after 10 minutes but the flavour may be a little more 'waxy' and you may need a little more water when blending.
Blending: You need a jug blender – a stick / immersion blender won't make the cream smooth enough. The smaller the jug and more powerful the blender, the better. You also need a reasonable amount of cashews – a minimum of 100 ml for a standard size blender jug. Depending on your blender, you may need more than this to get the blender blades working the nuts into a cream. I use the spice mill attachment on Magimix LeBlender – a tiny, concentrated jug – with the regular blender blades that came with the big jug. This works really well.
If you make 'too much' cream, it's not really a problem – simply keep it in your fridge for 2-3 days and use in breakfasts, smoothies or curries. See below for a chart of how to dilute it for milk, as well as suggestions for use!
RECIPE: CASHEW CREAM
Makes 200 ml thick cream
200 ml cashews (120 g), soaked. I use organic cashew pieces
100 ml water to blend
For a sweet cream, add:
2 soft dates (ca 15 g). If your dates are not soft, soak them along with the cashews
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder* (ground up whole vanilla pod) or 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
*I recommend using vanilla if you are planning to use your cream for sweet foods. The vanilla takes the slightly 'waxy' edge of the cashews' flavour.
1. Drain your soaked cashews. Add cashews, dates, vanilla and water to your blender.
2. Blend on highest setting for at least one minute. It really makes a difference to blend it for a while – you’ll notice the cream thickening when you get close to a minute. If you notice after blending for a few moments that the cream looks thick / dry, add a little more water!
One batch easily lasts for 2-3 days in a lidded glass jar in the fridge.
Making cashew milk
Cashew cream is basically concentrated cashew milk. So in any recipe you would normally use some kind of nut milk, you can use a spoon of cashew cream and some spoons of water to make instant, delicious milk:
1 part cashew cream + 2 parts water = thick cashew milk
1 part cashew cream + 3 parts water = normal cashew milk
1 part cashew cream + 4 parts water = light cashew milk
HOW TO USE CASHEW CREAM
I don't really view Cashew Cream as a 'substitute' for dairy cream as I think it has its own place in any kitchen – plant-based or not! However it helps thinking of how dairy cream is used in traditional dishes while dreaming up recipes with cashew cream.
Let me know your own favourite way of using cashew cream in the comments! :)
Oats: To make breakfasts more delicious and filling, I use cashew cream in the same way you would yogurt or nut milks. Add while you make porridge or overnight oats – eat your oats with a dollop of cashew cream – it's so delicious and your breakfast will fuel you for longer! For example, Sunday Overnight Oats and Blueberry Cashew Cream.
Raw parfaits: Simply add or blend together with flavouring like raw cacao, matcha, fruits, berries, optional natural sweetener for a sumptuous power snack or dessert. Like the Raspberry Cashew Parfait or Mini Marble Salted Cacao Cashew Pots.
As 'yogurt': Add a good squeeze of lemon juice to get a yogurty flavour. It's quite rich, so use more sparingly than yogurt, with fruit, muesli, granola. You can also stir in berries, honey or stewed fruit.
As a sauce for dessert: With fruit crumbles, as topping on chocolate puddings or cakes. Delectable with any type of grilled fruit!
Ice cream: Blend with frozen fruit and optional liquid natural sweetener for an instant ice-dream.
Smoothies: Self-explanatory and creamily delicious!
Soup swirls: Dilute with a little water, add a few drops light coloured vinegar or lemon and quality salt to taste, plus optional seasonings; herbs, chili, garlic, paprika .. Drizzle on top of soups for a pretty white pattern.
'Cheesy' noodles or pasta: Mix with a little light coloured vinegar or lemon, deactivated yeast flakes, a generous dash of tamari and quality salt. Stir through rice noodles or pasta. You can top it with Fakon for a Carbonara-like dish!
Soups and curries: Makes the flavour a little more rounded and delicious, and thickens the consistency. Add a little, or a lot, to almost any curry or soup: lentil, pumpkin, carrot, greens ..
One thing to consider when buying cashews is to buy Fairtrade as far as your budget allows, and if it is at all available to you! Next best is organic certified, as to certify a production to organic standard means stringent checking on every step of the process and even though human working conditions is not part of these checks, my feeling is that if your production line is seriously dodgy, you would not apply for organic certification. Only my hunch though, don't quote me on it!
To extract cashews is a labour intensive process and it's mostly done by HAND. Yes that's right, nut by nut, by workers on low wages. Do a search for cashew production plant and you'll see what I mean! There is no easy solution on how to even out wealth distribution in the world but in my opinion Fairtrade certification is a step in the right direction. To be Fairtrade certified means producers can get a better price for their crop and are less likely to be exploited by huge multi-national companies. It does mean that WE as consumers have to pay more for these products, but it is a price that actually reflects the actual value of the product better! And, in a small way, paying this truer price counteracts the wildly unfair economical exchange between 'rich and poor' countries.
I'd love to hear/see what you make with your cashew cream! Tag #ShisoDelicious
Much love, Sara ♡