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Cheese and chocolate

Vegan cheese is having a bit of a moment, it feels like - I love seeing new vegan cheese brands every time I pop into the local health food shop or veg*n store, and seeing Gary on supermarket shelves. (Mr Flicking the Vs has developed a strange and unshakeable taste for Sainsbury's vegan cheddar, despite its unpleasantly pungent smell, a bit like the sort of odour unwashed socks might have in hell. Still, he seems to like it. Chacun à son fromage, I guess).

Being somewhat partial to nut based cheeses in particular, I decided my birthday was a fine time to invest in a load of dinky Tyne Cheases - ten little pucks of cashew cheese, each with a different flavour.  Heaven.

Since then, I've been finding lots of interesting things to do with those little cheeses. One such option is putting them into French toast batter when I'm making a lazy, elaborate brunch, and then topping it with fried garlic, tomato and chard. 

Vegan cheese and green vegetables were meant to go together, especially midway through a Saturday morning when you've got a good cup of tea in one hand and a copy of the London Review of Books in the other, no particular place to be and a whole weekend stretching ahead of you. 

Another fine breakfast food ideally suited to warm embrance of vegan cheese is croissants. Yep, the day Jus-Rol decided to make their bake-at-home croissants vegan was a good day for plant-based eaters everywhere.

I'm very fond of experimenting with Jus Rol croissants (love you, Jus Rol, don't ever change your vegan recipe), and can confirm that Speculoos and Marmite both make great fillings if you're of a mind to add something extra to your dough. But if you're really looking to make some solid-gold, extra primo good croissants, then may I suggest reaching for a bit of smoked vegan cheese and a few sticks of asparagus, chopped into croissant-sized lengths.

There's something about the sharp cheese and the yielding grassy asparagus go together than makes this really simple breakfast into something really special.

But mostly, I just like using the cheeses to make up little cheeseboards - each cheese is just the right size for making into a light lunch with some crackers or oat cakes, fruit and salad.

I'm having a bit of thing for charcoal crackers at the moment. I think it might just be the colour - if you put them on a white plate, they make everything look like one of those beautiful Dutch still life painting from the 17th century. Maybe all the cheese is going to my head with rhapsodies like that - can you still have fevered cheese dreams with nut cheese?!

Tyne Chease hasn't been my only foray into cheesy goodness of late: I've been dusting off my underused dehydrator to make kale chips. I don't care whether they're still on trend or not, I love their iron-heavy crunch, especially when they're made with lots of cashew cheese sauce.

Experienced kale chippers, I have a question: have you devised a way of keeping kale chips so they don't go a bit soggy after a day? I've tried sticking them in Tupperware or similar, but they seems to start losing their crispness when I get hold of them the day after. All top tips for kale preservation gratefully received.

And from cheese to chocolate - and the best kind of chocolate at that, chocolate when it's in a cake.

Look at the size of this brownie I picked up in Whole Foods - it's the size of a house brick. I think it cost about £3, which isn't outrageous, given you can get two good sized brownies out of it. It was made by Elizabeth D Bakes, which is not a brand I wasn't familiar with before.

I couldn't decide if I loved it or otherwise - it was lovely, dense and fudgy, as a brownie should be, but I think it might have lent a bit too heavily on flax as a binder as there were little pip-type bits in every bite.

From unfamilar chocolate cake to that most familiar of vegan cake sellers (well, familiar to me): Lola's Cupcakes. I love that in central London I'm never too far away from a Lola's, and that means I'm never too far away from a range of vegan cupcakes and brownies too. (It does make me laugh though when you order a vegan cupcake and the staff feel duty-bound to say 'it's vegan, is that OK?' in the same way that they might say 'but, it's boobytrapped, is that OK?')

Recently, Lola's levelled up with the addition of a chocolate, cherry, and pistachio cupcake to their range, which was great and generally raved about by vegan and non-vegan friends alike. Now, they've done a great thing by making vegan versions of their tiny cupcakes.

I found tiny versions of the chocolate and the pistachio vegan cupcakes at the Liverpool Street Lola's and treated myself to both. They're cupcake perfection that you can finish off in two tiny bites. Useful for making yourself feel like Gulliver in Lilliput, or just when you want something sweet but a whole cupcake feels like too much commitment.

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  1. I wanted to try the Tyne Chease selection at Christmas, but they'd sold out by the time I got around to it - maybe I'll treat myself in summer. You've really sold me on the French toast in particular! Have you tried the Nutcrafter Creamery ones before? I tried three at Christmas and really loved them. I'm yet to get my hands on Sainsbury's Gary though, more's the pity.

  2. Sometimes a cupcakes is too much (usually when topped by towering frosting) so I like these cutsie cupcakes. And I think a 10 pack of cashew cheese sounds perfect for birthday fun - esp with charcoal crackers - haven't seen these around here but am now hoping!

  3. There used to be one or two vegan cheese choices, then three or four, and now when I go to the store I'm overwhelmed by the selection. I tend to choose a cashew cheese because those are usually the ones I like best. A collection of 10 cashew cheeses would be a treat! Tiny cheeses and tiny cupcakes — perfect.

  4. I admire your self-control, I would have sampled the whole lot of tiny cheese in one go. I prefer nut cheeses too, love all the ways you tried them out. Those croissants are to die for. You have leftover kale chips? Mine are gone within the hour, no need to worry about storage. :-) The kale chips from the store comes with that little packet of silica gel, a moisture absorbent chemical. Maybe store yours with something that does a similar thing, maybe rice??

  5. I haven't seen the tiny vegan cupcakes in Lola's yet but do love the new pistachio flavour! I like the sound of small ones - more flavours in one sitting :D

  6. those little cheeses look amazing - and I love the idea of including them in savory french toast!! So elegante!! All the different flavors of the cheeses make me think of fun ways I could flavor the homemade cashew cheese from Miyoko's book. Wouldn't that be a fun xmas present for a vegan friend?

  7. Um, wow! Look at those stuffed croissants! I have not tried enough of the new versions of nut cheeses, so I'll have to assign myself some soon. Ha ha

  8. What a great gift. I'd love to try those dinky cheeses too that way you get to try diff. flavours. I keep meaning to make some nut cheez myself, but think it would be way too much for just the two of us, but who knows I may give it a whirl. I have had charcoal crackers, a different brand. I did not like, it was just too gritty for me, perhaps the brand you have may fare better. I hav emade kale crips, they don't last very long but the one success I have hadis putting them in a glass jar, they last longer than tupperware.


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