Dairy-free chocolate cheesecake

Dairy-free chocolate cheesecake
Dairy-free chocolate cheesecake
Makes 4 portions

130g digestive biscuits
60g dairy-free spread

90g raw cashews, soaked for 48 hours in the fridge
20-25ml lemon juice
2 tblsp liquid coconut oil
150ml full fat coconut milk
100g dairy-free dark chocolate, melted
2 tblsp soft brown sugar

Crush the biscuits with the end of a rolling pin in a bowl, or place in a strong zip-lock bag and using the rolling pin to squash them. They should be fairly finely crumbed.  Meanwhile heat the spread in the microwave or a small pan, until just melted.  Stir together with the biscuits until well mixed, then press down into four small individual greased dishes.  Put in the fridge.

Drain the cashews thoroughly and rinse.  Place in a blender with all the other ingredients, and blend well for about two minutes, scraping down the sides with a spatula half-way through. If you prefer, melt the chocolate while blending the other ingredients, then add it and blend again.

Divide the topping between the dishes, and then put back in the fridge for three to four hours before serving.

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It's not, of course, real cheesecake. But in my quest to find a dairy-free equivalent, this is our favourite so far. I don't remember where I found the recipe on which I based it. Searching now, I've seen similar recipes on several sites. Inevitably I have tweaked it to suit our tastes, and what we can find readily available.

The original recipe used a healthier base using dates and nuts. I've done this, and it's delicious and makes it gluten-free as well as dairy-free. But it's more complicated and rather more expensive than good old-fashioned digestive biscuits (similar to American graham crackers, if anyone from the US happens to see this) and Flora or Pure dairy-free spread.

If you forget to grease the bowls, it probably won't matter as you eat this directly from the bowl. But it comes out more easily if you use a few drops of coconut oil to grease them.  I did try making this recipe in a spring-form cake tin, all in one rather than individual portions. But it didn't cut very well. Perhaps I hadn't refrigerated for long enough.

The first time I made this, I only soaked the cashews for 24 hours, and although the flavour was good, the texture was a tad gritty. Perhaps if I had a super-high-powered blender it would be fine with 24-hour soaking, or even just overnight, but with my ordinary 400 watt blender, I've found that two full days of soaking makes cashews perfect for blending into milk, cream or - in this case - pseudo-cheese.

The lemon juice is what gives it the hint of cream cheese flavouring. If you don't in fact like cheesecake you could miss that out, and perhaps add a little more coconut milk, and you would get quite a good dairy-free mousse. Don't miss out the coconut oil; that helps it to solidify, as coconut oil becomes quite hard at fridge temperatures.

The chocolate needs to be melted but not too runny. If, when you blend it, the mixture becomes grainy rather than mixing thoroughly, you can scrape it all out of the blender, put it in the microwave for thirty seconds or so, and then blend again. I know, I've done it.  But I had used a frozen lemon cube, and some previously frozen coconut milk (from a can) and they hadn't fully thawed, so they chilled the chocolate too quickly.

If you don't want added sugar, you could leave it out, or substitute carob syrup. I originally tried golden syrup (the recipe I first found said agave syrup, but we don't use that) but it was a bit runny. I prefer the texture that comes with soft brown sugar.

It's very easy to halve all the ingredients and make this as a dessert for two; the only problem is that it's not quite enough for a regular blender, so when I did that, I had to scrape down the sides and encourage ingredients into the middle several times.