“ Brand: Mamma Cucina / Type: Cheesecake „
About a year ago a product appeared on the pages of my favourite on line whole foods retailer "Goodness Direct" which caught my eye.
It was a vegan cheesecake which I thought sounded absolutely delicious. I love cheesecakes, have a vegan daughter, and also know only too well that these traditionally made desserts with cheese and double cream are normally calorie loaded, and not an everyday treat if you want to keep a reasonable waistline.
A little more research at the time prompted me to place my first order for these, since I soon discovered they were the brainchild of a girl called Jodi Anderson who was a student at The University of Glamorgan. She had set up her own company called "Govindas Foods" during her placement year on the business course, the name being that of her father's vegetarian restaurant in Swansea.
Her idea was to take his home made cheesecakes into local hospitals and universities to see if they would buy them, as it was the most sought after item on his menu. She thought there could be a market for them in the ready made dessert area, certainly in my experience she was right since vegan cheesecakes were, until now, the responsibility of a very dedicated cook in her own kitchen.
At first her overheads were prohibitive in terms of paying for local drivers and of course the cheesecakes, which are frozen, had to be kept at the correct temperature which added to the costs.
It was then that with a good customer base established locally she knew it could be launched nationwide, and so she contacted a big distribution company "Triano Foods" who agreed to take this side of the business.
Eventually the company grew too large to operate out of her father's restaurant, and so she then moved to purpose built factory, where she now manufactures the product under the name Mamma Cucina.
Following on from the success that the first local sales had, and those of Goodness Direct, she was able to secure an order with Holland and Barrett, so now these cheesecakes languish in the freezers in all their stores. She is also now in negotiation with other major retailers to secure even more high street presence for these cheesecakes, which have really filled a gap in the market.
So for £3.99 you can treat yourself to one of these delightful puddings. There is strawberry, or mango and passion fruit to chose from, but this review is for the strawberry version but both are equally delicious.
This cheesecake will serve 6 people or 4 if you prefer large portions.
You can't miss the product as it is a bright pink box and a picture of a cheesecake adorns the front. Inside the box the cheesecake sits in a foil tray, with no plastic wrapping, so everything is recyclable including the box, so it is ethical and good for the environment.
The cheesecake is made with a lovely biscuit base which is covered with a topping made from Tofutti which is a vegan soft cheese. It is a pale pink shade, and to use it you simply defrost for about 2 hours in room temperature, or for 3 hours in the fridge.
Topping - water, sugar, cold pressed natural oil blend (soybean, palm fruit and olive), maltodextrin, soy protein, strawberries (7%), tofu, lemon juice, non dairy lactic acid, stabiliser (carob bean, guar, cellulose, xanthan and carrageenan) natural strawberry flavour, emulsifier (vegetable mono and diglycerides) agar, salt.
Base - water vegetable oils, sugar, gram flour, pounded yam, rice flour, salt, natural vanilla flavour, vitamins A, D and E, citric acid, emulsifier (vegetable mono and diglycerides), colour (beta carotene).
Per 100g: Energy 318Kcal/1330Kj, Protein 3.5g, carbohydrate 35.4g, of which sugar 28.7g, fat 18.1g, of which saturates 4.6g, mono unsaturates 4.9g, polyunsaturates 6.3g, cholesterol 0.0g, fibre 4.0g, sodium 0.2g.
The entire cheesecake is 550g so if you serve it to 6 people it will be approx 291 calories per portion.
It has no cholesterol and is dairy and is lactose free, so it certainly is good for all sorts of food requirements and diets and so on, but the taste is the biggest attribute as it is heaven on a plate. It's rich and creamy, and everything a traditional cheesecake is, and I have been delighted with every purchase. It has an intense strawberry flavour, and the inside is decorated with a trio of strawberry pieces in the centre.
To make this even more special you can cover with strawberries, which I have done in the summer time when they are in season. It isn't necessary, but this cheesecake does not have that traditional layer of fruit in a sauce you often get with cheesecakes on the top, so for a special occasion this does add something. It teams up really well with fresh Alpro Soya Cream which you can purchase in chiller cabinets in many supermarkets now, and it then becomes a decadent rich dessert which you don't have to be vegan to enjoy!
I think it only fails on one small point and that is the biscuit base can be a little soft, if you like those crunchy digestive biscuit bases so often seen in these type of desserts. I think this is due to the rather unusual ingredients used which include powdered yam and rice flour. I think it would be improved if this was a crunchier base, since it would then be more of a contrast to the creamy topping which blankets it so beautifully.
I love this dessert and even more I love how it came into being. This year Jodi is predicted to have a turnover of £400,000 and a profit of 140,000 in only her second year of trading. In these dark days of recession I think it is wonderful to see a young person able to fulfil a business idea and to take it this far. On top of this it is a delicious product and one which is well worth trying even if you are not a vegan!
As I say my daughter and her boyfriend are both vegan, and although she is a brilliant cook and makes her own cheesecakes, she feels this is an excellent product and well worth trying, as it is delicious and in her opinion as good as any traditional cheesecake.
To think it started off as a treasured end to a meal in a restuarant, and is now available nationwide, I think it is proof that anything is possible even in these days of economic challenge.
When I first saw Mamma Cucina's 'Sumptuous Strawberry Non-Dairy Cheesecake' in Holland & Barrett I hesitated to buy it because I wasn't sure it was vegan. The next time I visited I picked up the box to have a closer inspection and as soon as I discovered it was then I knew I -had- to try it! Especially as it was the last one they had in stock; the cashier said they've been selling really quickly since they first started stocking them a few weeks back so they must be good!
The cheesecake cost me £3.99 which is the same price as Sainsbury's best non-vegan cheesecakes so I thought the price was fairly reasonable.
It comes in a cardboard box and the cheesecake itself is in a tin foil case but there is no plastic film over the top of it so it's very easy to recycle the minimal packaging. The front of the box has a picture of the cheesecake with a picture of Mamma Cucina (a young, vibrant young lady!) in a chef's outfit. It says has the slogan "Mamma says...healthy indulgence with no fears!" which appealed to me as I'm lactose intolerant so if I'd eaten a normal cheesecake I'd be worry about the after effects! (You don't want to know!)
When you take it out of the box it looks just as lovely as the picture on the front although a bit lighter in colour, with little flecks which I assume are strawberry bits.
I had a good sniff and it doesn't really have any distinctive smell, or maybe I'm getting a cold!
I found it quite difficult to get it out of the tin foil base to start with and not all of the base came with it but I'm beginning to wonder if I left it a bit too long to defrost (the box says 2 hours at room temperature or 3 hours in your fridge but mine had travelled on a warm bus to get home). Also, after defrosting, I found the dried strawberries that look wonderful on top of the cheesecake tend to have a bit of a slimy texture if left for too long.
Other important information from the box: It's 550g. You need to keep it frozen at -18 degrees C until you're going to eat it because once defrosted you need to eat it within 24 hours, you can't refreeze it. It's made from Tofutti and is cholesterol free, diary free, lactose free, gluten free, GMO free and, of course, suitable for vegetarians and vegans. The only allergy warning is that it contains soy.
Now to the taste! It definitely tastes just how I remember cheesecake tasting. The texture of the topping is the perfect thickness, smooth and creamy and delicious! You can really taste the strawberries too. The base is very soft and crumbly, maybe a bit too soft but my over defrosting could be the cause of that. I'm sure I remember cheesecakes having a base that was more like flapjack while this base was more like a soft biscuit, but it was still very tasty.
My one criticism is that after being defrosted for a few hours the cheesecake had a sort of film across the topping but this was only noticeable at the edges and didn't harm my enjoyment of it at all.
The box doesn't say how many people it's supposed to serve but I managed to cut mine up into six very generous portions so I think it'd happily feed eight if necessary.
Overall, I LOVE this! I will definitely be buying it again and I may decide not to share it!
Topping (80%) - water, sugar, cold pressed natural oil blend (soybean, palm fruit and olive), maltodextrin, soy protein, strawberries (7%), tofu, lemon juice, non-dairy lactic acid, stabiliser (carob bean, guar, cellulose, xanthan and carrageenan), natural strawberry flavour, emulsifier (vegetable mono and diglycerides), agar, salt.
Biscuit base (20%) - water, vegetable oils, sugar, gram flour, pounded yam, rice flour, salt, natural vanilla flavour, vitamins A, D and E, citric acid, emulsifier (vegetable mono and diglycerides), colour (beta-carotene).
of which sugar 28.7g
of which saturates 4.6g