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NUT CHEESE WITH CHILLED BLACKBERRY SOUP

You’ll be amazed how much this nut ‘cheese’ tastes just like a soft Cheddar. Although it may seem like a bit of work to make the cheese, I have really come to appreciate the art of making nut cheeses and I recommend giving it a go.
Serve for a dinner party starter or as a simple weekday lunch. This soup is suitable for simplicity or celebration.

SERVES 2

FOR THE NUT CHEESE
100g (3½oz/heaped ¾ cup) cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours, drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon probiotic powder (you can use the powder from 2–3 probiotic capsules)
1 teaspoon white miso paste
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
sea salt and cracked black pepper
FOR THE CHILLED BLACKBERRY SOUP
450g (1lb/3½ cups) fresh or frozen blackberries
½ large cucumber
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped basil

2 teaspoons balsamic glaze
2 teaspoons maple syrup
60ml (2fl oz/¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
TO SERVE
a few pinches of store-bought dukkah
crackers or crusty bread
Begin by making the nut cheese. Place the cashews, probiotic powder, miso paste and yeast flakes in a food processor and blitz until very smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Place a fine sieve over a large bowl and layer 2–3 pieces of kitchen towel into the sieve, or use a cheesecloth or muslin if you have one. Scoop the cheese mixture onto the kitchen towel or cheesecloth, then wrap it in a tight bundle and tie with a rubber band. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and let sit in the sieve at room temperature for 24–48 hours, so the cheese can ferment.

After fermentation, place the cheese (still in the bundle) in the fridge for at least 2 hours, so it’s easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to its lowest setting (approximately 50°C/120°F). Transfer the cheese to a bowl and stir in the chives. Spread the cheese into moulds of your choice, then turn out onto a baking sheet. Remove the moulds and place in the oven to dehydrate for 3–6 hours, or until dry to the touch.
Meanwhile make the blackberry soup. Combine the blackberries, cucumber, thyme, basil, balsamic glaze and maple syrup in a blender and blitz until smooth. Now blend for a further few minutes on a lower setting and drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour through a sieve to remove the blackberry seeds, then chill for at least 1 hour, ideally longer.

To serve, place one cheese round into the middle of 2 shallow soup bowls. Pour the soup around the cheese and serve with a sprinkle of dukkah over. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.

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