Nuts to allergies!

looking for dairy free alternatives instead of nuts
Cashew nuts

Now I love a challenge. I love creating vegan dishes that are tasty and nutritious, appeal to the whole family - either as a close copy of a "mainstream" dish, or as standalone loud and proud vegan creation. As if this wasn't already a test of my culinary imagination, my youngest daughter has a nut allergy....doh!

As a relative newbie to all things vegan, I have only recently sampled the delights of creamed cashew nuts as an alternative to a creamy dairy sauce - absolutely loved it! Used it in Cheeseless Mac, and as a base for a garlic mushroom sauce with pasta..... but only when my precious snowflake isn't eating with us, so began the search for a dairy free, nut free alternative.

Being the nerd I am I was interested to see what the comparison was in calorie and fat content between cashew nuts and double cream. If you are looking for a lower calorie option than dairy, then look away now....

After a bit of research, I found that the calorie content of 100g of cashew nuts, which is about the amount I would use to make enough sauce for a dish serving 3 people is around 553. Funnily enough, 500ml of double cream, which is roughly what I would have used to make the same amount of sauce equals to a very similar amount of calories. That is where the similarity ends. If you look closer at the nutritional facts, in cashew nuts there is 18g of protein per 100g, as opposed to only 1.5g in double cream. The cashew nuts contain 44g of total fat, the cream 50.5g. This is where the big difference occurs. The cashew nuts have only 8g of saturated fat, whereas the cream has a whopping 31.4g! So to me, given all the fibre and other vitamins and minerals in the nuts they are a clear health, if not low calorie, winner.

So, begs the question, what to use in place of cashews when The Snowflake is eating with us.... Sunflower seeds...that appears to be the answer!

Nutritionally, they come in tops for calories - 584 per 100g, big in protein though, 20.7g. Total fat is top of the pops too at 51.4g, but just a teeny 4.3g of saturated fat which surprised me.

So, regardless of food stats, how did they shape up on the dinner table? Truth is, I don't know yet as I have only been dabbling in a base sauce and haven't incorporated it into a meal, so there lies another blog. As the seeds are generally huskier, I left them to soak in water for 4 hours before draining, and blitzing with fresh water, thyme, salt and pepper and that good old go to, nutritional yeast.

sunflower seeds dairy free sauce
creamed sunflower seeds

The result, an ever so slightly greyer and grainier cream. The cream isn't as sweet as the cashew cream, and has a slightly nuttier taste. I now need to apply it to a recipe and see how it performs!


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