Around the World in 80 Dates is a blog series designed to take me (and Tom) out of our comfort zones and force us to cook food from other countries. Each week, we use a random country generator to tell us where we will be cooking from. We have to cook at least one dish from this country, the more traditional the better. We alternate who’s cooking each week, this week is Tom’s turn.
I said it last week, but I’ll reiterate because this is worth saying twice: trying to cook vegan while trying to cook from other cultures ain’t easy. The wiki page for most cuisines is just a long list of animals. Bahamian cuisine is no different, it’s incredibly rich in seafood and pork. Like, incredibly incredibly.
It being Tom’s turn to direct the operation this week, it was he that had to trawl the internet for a suitable recipe. He discovered swiftly enough that macaroni cheese is a huge mainstay of the Bahamian dinner table, ever present for weeknight meals and buffet spreads alike.
After some searching he found this, a recipe for mac and cheese that was both plant based and Bahamian. I have to admit my initial scepticism. I always start my cheese sauce with a roux, and this recipe seemed to just blend ingredients together without gradually thickening them.
However, Tom quite rightly reminded me that it was his week, he was in charge and has plenty of kitchen experience of his own, so I shut my mouth and got out of the way.
This recipe presented us with the chance to try another of Sainsbury’s vegan cheeses. More specifically: cheddar style with chives (£2.45). As you may have seen from one of my recent Instagrams, I was impressed enough the garlic and herb soft cheese, but I was nervous to try any of their harder cheeses thanks to rumours that they smelled like death or feet or dead feet or something.
Upon first peeling the lid back, the scent was not as offensive as either of us were apprehending. Perhaps the rumours weren’t true. Perhaps the rumours were about a different cheese. Either way, we were grateful.
It didn’t taste half bad, either. Tom – who isn’t taking part in Veganuary and therefore doesn’t even need to try and convince himself that vegan alternatives taste good – genuinely liked it.
It’s coconut based, and is more similar in taste and texture than I was expecting. Vegan cheese is coming on leaps and bounds at the moment, I’m definitely gonna keep experimenting with it..
So, that sauce I was unsure about: mustard, garlic, soya milk, oil, nutritional yeast, paprika, salt, thyme and vegan cheese into the blender and whizzed until smooth. I was worried that without a thickening agent it wouldn’t get all delicious and gooey in the oven, but deliciousness and adequate thickness were both achieved in the cooking process.
Obviously, it wasn’t quite on the same level as your average gourmet, four cheese, heart stopping mac. But for a vegan alternative, this was the absolute bangers. It was creamy, it did taste cheesy thanks to the nutritional yeast and chivey plant based cheese from Sainsbury’s, and it delivered the comfort hit you’re looking for from a big old beige plate of food.
We both agreed that it’s something we’d like to eat again. Which, I’ll be honest, is not something I expected to say about a vegan mac and cheese.
Shout out to Tom, this was definitely his best week yet – and I think my favourite meal he’s ever cooked – not bad under the constraints of plant based cooking, right?
Next week is my turn again and I’ve landed Georgia, Asia. Got any suggestions? Hit me up in the comments, I’ll be glad to take them.