It is not often that meat eaters come across vegan cuisine they consider “enjoyable.” I’ve heard complaints of texture, lack of flavour, or even more simply: “it’s just not meat” or “that’s not really cheese.” I suppose for a long time too I was one of those sceptics, sticking to what I knew best – animal-sourced protein. What it boiled down to however, was simply that I had not found the right vegan food. After being lucky enough to attend a 100% plant based supperclub hosted by the wonderful Ellie – blogger and creator of Kind State of Mind – I can now say that fabulous vegan cuisine exists and I’ve tried it.
Many of you reading this will have come across Kind State of Mind before, on Instagram and beyond. Ellie is known for her innovative sweet treats, healthy meal ideas and even vegan “junk food”- all of which are stunningly photographed for our viewing pleasure. More recently however, Ellie has ventured into the world of vegan cheese making. “As a previous cheese aficionado I wasn’t willing to accept that I would just have to go without one of my favourite foods so I began experimenting,” Ellie told me, adding that after receiving great feedback from vegan and non vegan friends alike, she began to make more.
Ellie has been so successful in her attempts to find a vegan’s answer to camembert, brie and other favourites, that she will soon be selling them to the public. “I realised there was a real opportunity, not just to provide vegans with a tasty food product, but to offer an alternative to my fellow omni buddies,” she said, explaining that cheese is too often quoted as the main “barrier” people have to switching to a vegan diet. Kindaco was launched this summer and was the star of the summer supper club, which was held at 10 Cable Street: a chic, vegan space tucked away in East London.
While most of Ellie’s dishes aren’t naturally gluten free, I was given the all-star treatment, and offered an entirely me-friendly version of the menu that night in East London. “Cooking food that is vegan and gluten free is not hard at all,” Ellie confirmed, pointing to the fact that many foods are now marketed as being both vegan and gluten free, which indicates there is a clear overlap in the two dietary needs.
To start the evening, we were greeted with welcome cocktails and a selection of cheese dips, crudites, tortillas and a helping or charred Padrón peppers for good measure. This is the moment at which I made a brand new friend: Vegan Nacho cheese. Particularly tangy and moreish, this potted dip is surprisingly made from cashews – an ingredient which I, in my ignorance, never suspected could be turned into something so reminiscent of that overly indulgent sauce, often dolloped on Doritos at cinema refreshment stands.
The starter that evening was a homemade Italian Panzanella Salad – a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes, particularly popular in the summer months. Ellie prepped mine with a gluten free loaf which was delicious, having soaked up the homemade tangy dressing. The salad was topped with a herbed feta cheese, which is almond-based and cultured, helping give it that cheesy tang that is usually associated with Greek feta.
Already starting to feel happily full, we moved on to the main. A real treat not only for the vegan diners that night but for me too – Brie en croute with cranberry and fig jam – enveloped by a perfectly crisp and flaky gluten free pastry. This was served alongside garlicky kale Caesar and a fresh, flavourful potato salad with caper and dill dressing – the main component of which is a homemade vegan mayonnaise that you can make yourself at home by following Ellie’s recipe.
Now well and truly stuffed, I managed to find room for dessert immediately upon spotting Ellie’s beautiful array of meringues topped with coconut whipped cream and fresh berries. The meringues are made using aquafaba or chickpea water – an ingredient that has swept across the vegan nation like a storm. The meringues were perfectly crunchy on the outside, with a soft, chewy centre, set off perfectly by the lightly whipped cream and tangy fruit.
The evening culminated in a smorgasbord of cheeses, served with gluten free crackers, which were not only picture perfect but unbelievably delicious.
My praise for Ellie is by no means halfhearted. The whole experience served as proof of just how great a cook and recipe designer she is, no matter what your dietary or lifestyle preference. I urge all of you to go and try the cheeses yourselves, which will soon be available to order online via the Kindaco Facebook Page. For any of you wanting to attend a supper club, follow Kind State of Mind on Instagram for updates and news about the autumn event, which is sure to be a highly enjoyable evening, for not only you and your friends, but your taste buds too.
Ellie will be teaching cheese making masterclasses at Made in Hackney this Autumn.