I feel like the flower growers and the chocolatiers have Valentines Day way too easy with their seductive red roses and their delectable confectionery. For the vegan cheesemakers of the world though, Valentines Day can seem like a bit of a challenge. We really need to stretch some creative muscle to sell the romance of cheese! Fortunately, I love a challenge, and research is my thing, so I’m prepared to put in the effort to show all you vegan cheeselovers out there just how romantic cheese can be!
The first thing I discovered (which is not cheese related at all) is that there was nothing much romantic about the original St Valentine. February 14 is in fact the day of his execution, around 370 AD, by order of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. At that time, Claudius II was busy imprisoning Christians for not worshipping Roman gods. He also thought married men made worse soldiers than single men, therefore he banned marriages. Valentine disagreed with this and he began secretly conducting Christian marriages between men and women. I don’t think he and I would have seen eye to eye on things but after his actions were discovered and he was imprisoned, he did restore sight to the blind daughter of his jailer, which was nice of him but did not prevent his untimely end.
The romance part of the Valentines Day story is thought to have come in to play about 1000 years later when medieval English poet Chaucer wrote a poem linking February 14 to a tradition of “courtly love”. Some say this was an attempt to divert folks attention away from the pagan festival of Lupercalia which did promote fertility, but at the cost of animal sacrifices and some pretty dreadful treatment of women. Absolutely not vegan and I’m glad we have moved on from that one.
Fast forward to the current Hallmark era and it is all cards and gifts, but no mention of cheese. There are of course many mentions of chocolate, so my obvious thought was to consider combining the two. Chocolate and cheese. Cheese and chocolate. Now I am certainly not the first to think of this particular food pairing but I might be the first to consider it from the perspective of the vegan cheese and chocolate lover. We all know our options are a bit more limited for both of these items, but again, in the interest of research, I was willing to make an exhaustive effort to come up with some options.
The art of vegan cheese and chocolate pairing
I have selected three Artisa cheeses, and paired them with some beautiful artisanal, hand-crafted Tasmanian made chocolate to create some very romantic and memorable culinary experiences.
Combination No. 1: Coal River cheese with Federation Chocolate 74% Dark cacao chocolate truffles.
100g chocolate, chopped finely
75g coconut cream from top of the can
60g Coal River plant based cheese
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp Pernod (optional)
Make a ganache by heating coconut cream until almost boiling and pouring over the finely chopped chocolate. Allow to sit for a minute or two then stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
Blend the ganache and the Coal River cheese together using a spatula. Fold in icing sugar and Pernod if using.
Chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes, form into truffles and roll in cocoa.
Tasting notes: These truffles were smooth, creamy and luxurious, with just a hint of fennel. As delicious as they were, I think in this case, the fennel was a little bit overwhelmed by the chocolate. There is great potential in this combination but maybe a little more tweaking next time around.
Combination No. 2: Relbia with Cocobean chocolate bark.
Melt 100g Cocobean Chocolate 52% dark chocolate. Spread onto baking paper, sprinkle over chopped dried Tasmanian cherries, hazelnuts and Tasman sea salt before it sets.
Tasting notes: Here, the savoury nuttiness of the aged cashew cheese was perfectly complemented by the shards of smooth creamy chocolate bark, with bursts of sour cherry, crunch from the hazelnuts and the tang of the sea salt.
Combination No. 3: Launceston Blue with House of Anvers dark chocolate
The secret here is to take a small nibble of cheese, then a small nibble of chocolate. And repeat. I chose the House of Anvers Fortunato No 4 to go with our extremely popular Launceston Blue.
Tasting notes: This chocolate is almost but not quite too lovely to eat and this particular combination was sublime. To me, this chocolate has an unusual savoury note which cuts through the creamy richness of the cheese, without overwhelming it. The flavour of the cheese carried right through the tasting experience showing great balance between the two components.
I am an absolute convert to pairing cheese and chocolate. The standout for me was the Relbia with the Cocobean chocolate bark. They just complemented each other so perfectly that the combination became greater than the sum of the parts. The Launceston Blue with the House of Anvers Fortunato No4 was a combination of two sensational parts that were senational together.
If you haven’t tried cheese and chocolate before, get hold of some Artisa cheese right now and start experimenting! Let me know your favourite combinations.
Valentines Day for cheese lovers (Plan B)
In the unlikely event that you aren’t in the mood for cheesy romance of the culinary variety, I have your literary Plan B sorted as well. Below, according to www.goodreads.com are the five cheesiest romance novels around:
by Stephenie Meyer
2. Fifty Shades of Grey
by E.L. James
3. The Notebook
by Nicholas Sparks
4. The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
5. The Selection
by Kiera Cass
Now I must confess that I have read No’s 1 to 4. Has anyone read No 5 and would you recommend it?