It's getting cold and that means comfort food to me. I try to keep my salad intake up once the days start shortening and the nights draw in faster, but I usually make sure something hot is going in my belly too.
In my pre-vegan days, likely a jacket potato laden with a cheese and onion, plus some side greens and sweetcorn, would have been a typical lunch or dinner. And while the cheese craving I used to get has gone altogether (because cheese is actually properly addictive, didn't you know?!), I have recently been craving that kind of 'stodginess' of carbs that this sort of meal would provide.
Anyhow - it occurred to me I could make up my own yummy dairy-free version of jacket potatoes with a cheezy topping that would satisfy every bit of my comfort food craving for chilly days. And even better, what I have come up with is much more healthy and nutritious.
Plus, as well as avoiding the terrible cruelty of the dairy industry, this cheezy sauce recipe avoids the fat content of cheese, and the general fact that dairy cheese is not very good for you (as is the case for all dairy foods). Nevertheless, it is flavoursome and fabulous, even if I do say so myself. And it would also be good for other dishes too, such as to be used as a pasta sauce or even in lasagne.
I have discovered - as you can see from this recipe - that ground almonds make good bases for cheezy sauces. Cashews seem to be typically used in vegan cooking, but you often have to soak them a few hours, and they are more expensive than ground almonds (or almond flour, if you live in the US). So, using ground almonds is a great alternative when you have less time (though they tend to be slightly grainier than soaked, blended cashews).
Apologies for only giving cup measurements in this one - it's not really a 'rocket science' recipe so a Brit without cups should be able to get by using a small mug or similar! The cups I have used for this recipe are 240ml volume, to give you a gauge if you do not have cups.
Mushroom & Sweetcorn Cheezy Jackets
1 baking potato per person
½ cup (1 small) onion, finely chopped
½ cup ground almonds
Up to 1½ cup soya milk (you may only need a cup)
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
½ cup sweetcorn, canned or frozen (and defrosted)
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (optional but provide added cheesiness)
1 tablespoon yellow miso paste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coconut oil (or some olive oil) for frying
Black pepper to season
1. Bake your potatoes as you prefer. I prick the skins of mine, then cook on both sides in the microwave (about 3-4 minutes each side depending on the size and how many there are) and then I bake in a preheated to 200 C/400 F oven to crisp up the skin – usually around 20 minutes.
2. While your potatoes are in their final 10 minutes of baking, make your sauce. Melt the coconut oil in a medium-sized saucepan on a medium-heat, then sauté the onions for a few minutes until softened, but don't burn. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté another minute or two.
3. Add two thirds (1 cup) of the milk, and then stir in the ground almonds, miso paste, onion powder, white pepper, sea salt, lemon juice and sweetcorn. Simmer for about 5 minutes and the sauce will thicken naturally. If you want the sauce to be a thinner consistency, add more milk as required. If you're adding the nutritional yeast flakes for extra cheesiness, stir them in now.
4. Remove the baked potatoes from the oven and split the skins. Pile the sauce between them, and serve with a salad and some black pepper.