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So just why were excited people queuing three deep to bulk-buy jars of Chocoreale at a stall last year? I was intrigued to know, so fought my way through the melee, grabbed one of the last remaining pots & read the label to see what all the fuss was about.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * CHOCOREALE - WHAT IS IT? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It's a chocolate hazelnut spread, which sounds very tempting for starters. Made with organic cocoa, guaranteed Fair Trade & GM-free, which all seems extremely good. And then I spotted the key info: DAIRY-FREE! Brilliant! As some of you here may have gathered, I'm vegan but still look longingly at various chocolate goodies on the off-chance that I can enjoy some luxury sweet treats.
Despite the price (about £2.50 for a 350g jar) I knew I'd have to try it, so queued patiently for 10 minutes before making my sole purchase. The cashier seemed quite surprised I only wanted the one item & I left them unloading more boxes of the stuff as the happy hungry hoards rapidly cleared the shelves...
That was a year ago & since then I've discovered several more Chocoreale varieties exist. They come in clear glass jars & are all labelled slightly differently:
* Chocoreale Chocolate Spread (gold lid & browny label with a grassy field in the front panel).
* Chocoreale Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (gold lid & green label with hazelnuts in the front panel).
* Chocoreale Duo: Stripy White Choc & Choc-Hazelnut Spread (red lid & red label with hazelnuts in the front panel again).
And, for anyone who doesn't like chocolate, there are two very similar products from the same manufacturers made with carob (the nicest things I've had using it, as it can be a bit of an acquired taste), called Carobella. These have totally different,
plainer label designs to Chocoreale:
* Carobella - Carob Spread.
* Carobella - Carob-Hazelnut Spread.
(I'm not reviewing Carobella here but it's very similar to Chocoreale & the main difference I found was that you sometimes needed to stir it a bit as it separated out)
~~~~~~~~~~~~ * TASTE TEST ~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh well, if I must force myself...
Using the age-old generous-spoonful-of-chocolate-spread technique (so as not to taint my palette with other tastes, obviously), I dig into the unblemished, slightly yielding deep brown surface of the Chocolate Spread variety, which cracks just a little as the spoon dips in.
The texture is smooth, soft without being runny & reminiscent of a good chocolate fudge cake filling. I've always much preferred milk chocolate to plain (hence why it took me over eleven years of vegetarianism to finally become vegan, I reckon!). This is definitely a good quality tasting cocoa product, without being as bitter as pure plain choc so I find it a nice balance between the two. It's sweet (you can't eat too much) but not sickly, like some of the old brands of children's spreads I remember. Something to be savoured & enjoyed at your leisure.
My second pot tonight is the Duo. This stripy creamy-white & brown variety is simply heavenly. First time I tried it I kept re-reading the label, as I was convinced it must have milk in it after over a year without dairy! This one's much softer, depending on how much of each flavour you get on the spoon. It combines Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread with White Chocolate Spread.
The Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread is just a tad lighter brown than the ordinary Chocolate one but I like it more, as the smooth praline quality really works well & I love nuts. The White Choc part is like a velvety melted Milky Bar but not quite as sugary. This really melts on your tongue & is the softest of the three varieties. Very decadent when the contrasting two mix together...
I found that the first jar I bought of this disappeared very rapidly as it's completely addictive, so I didn't need to heed the optimal storage temperature of 18 - 22C too much!
Duo's label boasts that it's high in oleic oil (a 'good' monounsaturated vegetable oil thought to be a beneficial agent in the prevention of coronary artery disease), but, tempting as it might be, I wouldn't really use that as an excuse to eat more of this spread!
Despite the high organic, Fair Trade & GM-free standards, these are proper, luxury items - no "holier than thou" heavyweight tasteless wholemeal stuff here. These are pure pleasure foods: I really don't think you'd know any of these were dairy-free unless you were told, as there's no compromise on taste. They will suit both children & adults alike & are well worth trying.
~~~~~~ * USES ~~~~~~
Well, I must admit I just keep periodically sneaking spoonfuls of the stuff out the jars, but they are versatile enough to try in a few different ways:
- If you're using them as a spread on your favourite bread or crackers, I can certainly recommend adding sliced strawberries on top for a stunning combination.
- They also work well as a cake filling or topping to liven up a plain homemade or bought in sponge.
- Drizzle on top of (vegan) ice cream or fresh fruit & crushed biscuits/nuts to add a new twist to your desserts.
I'm sure you can come up with many more imaginative ideas.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * INGREDIENTS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There's no nutritional listings either on the labels or the manufacturers' website, so if you really need a detailed breakdown contact them on the details below. I wouldn't recommend these products to people with nut or soya allergies.
A Dutch firm, Natuproducts, makes Chocoreale, Carobella & a large selection of eco-friendly products, many of which you'll recognise from your local healthfood stores. These include Ecover cleaning items, Promavel soya products (milk & cream substitutes, yoghurts, desserts etc), Panda liquorice sweets & Tartex tubes of veggie sandwich spreads.
Contact details are: - Natuproducts BV, PO Box 376, 3840 AJ Harderwijk, Netherlands - http://www.natuproducts.nl/index.asp?Lang=uk
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * AVAILABILITY ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Various wholefood & healthfood stores or online (eg Vegan Store - http://www.veganstore.co.uk/chocoreale.html)
~~~~~~~ * PRICE ~~~~~~~
It seems to vary quite a bit, so do shop around. Expect to pay between £2.25 - £3 a jar (let me know if you find any cheaper sources!). Although this sounds pretty dear, to be honest it lasts me much longer than 2 or 3 decent bars of organic chocolate, so it's not really that bad.
I hope you enjoy trying these as much as I have!