Hazelnut macaroons (Swedish nöttoppar).

Google Photos reminded me this week that it was four years ago since we made our first visit to Rosendals trädgård – Rosendal’s garden – in Djurgården, formerly a royal hunting domain, nowadays Stockholm’s largest and lushest park, its greenest lung right in the middle of the city. Although we lived in Stockholm for 2,5 years and visited Djurgården many times, it was only during the stretch of our final months there that we managed to pay this cosy flower garden / vegetable garden / orchard, with a small playground and renowned garden café a visit, for previously we never made it beyond the confines of Skansen, the open-air museum quasi next door to Rosendals trädgård. Our children were extremely eager visitors of Skansen (if you ever plan going there, it’s great to know that its traditional bakery sells some accidentally vegan sweet buns) and the place still holds a magical place in their memories. You might imagine that it was quite a task getting them to Rosendals trädgård along Djurdgårdsvägen without them noticing that we were actually passing by Skansen. But we actually managed that on that warm day in early June 2014.

Then half a year ago, when me and my husband were paying Stockholm a visit by ourselves, we biked from Slussen to Djurgården, and entering the domain of Rosendals trädgård, vivid memories of that day instantly resurfaced, and it felt as if our once nearly 3- and 5-year-olds could emerge right there, clamping first the trunks and then the branches of fruit trees, performing a balancing act on a wooden structure, giggling on the swings, and indulging in a cup of Lily & Hannah’s ice cream.

We did not have this raw ice cream this time, which in 2014 was still newly launched, and had at the time of our last visit in 2017 already made it to mainland Europe and our local Loving Hut‘s freezer. No, this time we decided to have a look at what that day’s buffet had to offer, and we unanimously settled on gigantic nöttoppar, hazelnut macaroons, that is. Ever since taking my first bite of that perfectly balanced piece of wonder (crunchy on the outside, tender and moist on the inside), packed with flavour and overwhelming my taste buds with pure hazelnut pleasure, I was determined to set out on a quest for recreation once we got home.

As things often go, that plan got snowed under. Autumn came, winter came, spring arrived, and no nöttoppar had emerged from my frequently used oven yet. But when I found some priceworthy packages of ground hazelnuts at a Lidl in Normandy during our Easter vacation, I picked some of these up, and knew what their destiny would be. Never mind that in Germany, Haselnussmakaronen are a typical Christmas treat, to me they can be baked and eaten all year round, be it May, August or September.

As I had previously experimented quite satisfactorily with aquafaba in coconut macaroons, I decided to sub the egg whites which you will find in regular hazelnut macaroon recipes by aquafaba here as well. As my previous subbing had yielded coconut macaroons that were perhaps somewhat moister than the result I had aimed for, I added some chia seeds here as well, hoping to achieve a more viscous liquid. A succesful thought, that was. Lo’ and behold the result and the recipe below.

 

 

 

Hazelnut macaroons.

  • Servings: 12 pieces
  • Difficulty: very easy
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Ingredients

  • 50 g vegan margarine
  • 200 g ground hazelnuts
  • 1 dl (1/3 cup + 1 TB) powdered sugar
  • 4 TB aquafaba
  • 1 heaped tsp chia seeds

Directions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celcius
  • Mix the aquafaba with chia seeds and set the mixture aside until the seeds have reached a jelly-like consistency
  • Melt the margarine
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl and form about 12 equal and slightly pointed mounds. Insert a full hazelnut in the middle, if you wish.
  • Bake for about 18-20 minutes
  • Let cool completely
  • Optional: decorate with chocolate

Double chocolate peanut butter-filled cookies. Or date caramel-filled, if you may.

Yesterday I came across this recipe for double chocolate peanut butter-filled cookies. I wanted to make those on the spot, and I immediately knew exactly how I wanted to veganise them. Forty minutes later these beauties were lying on my cooling rack, but I had to hide them until this early evening from the rest of the family so as to safeguard them for a quick photoshoot during daylight. Otherwise I don’t think there would have been any left!

For the filling, I used a combination of peanut and banana, but you could easily sub this with peanut & maple syrup, or even date caramel (which I plan to do next time, as I love date caramel and am curious about the result). Certainly to be baked again, judging after the children’s chocolate-smudged mouths after dinner.

Double chocolate peanut butter-filled cookies.

  • Servings: 10 cookies
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

For the filling

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (do use pure peanut butter, and avoid the processed kind containing palm oil)
  • 1/2 banana
  • A few drops of vanilla extract

For the cookies

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 dark cane sugar (or use regular cane sugar in combination with a teaspoon molasses)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (either pure vanilla, or vanilla essence)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 4 TB aquafaba
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 agave or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup peanuts: for garnish

Directions

Pre-heat your oven (175 degrees celcius)

For the filling:

Mash the banana thoroughly with a fork and mix with the peanut butter (and vanilla) until it gets a smooth consistency

For the cookie dough

Mix dry and wet ingredients separately, then combine. Knead until you get a non-sticky dough. If it sticks, add a little flour.

Divide the dough into 20 equal parts, and roll them into walnut-sized balls. Each time flatten one ball (I find a flat-botttomed glass works fine), then scoop a teaspoon of the peanut fill in the centre, then place another flattened doughball – in which some peanuts have been pressed – on top, then seal the edges. Proceed like this until you have 10 temptingly looking cookies on your cookie sheet, ready to be baked. Transfer to the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes at 175 degrees celcius.

Za’atar tofu bowl with mint-pomegranate pesto.

The sight or thought of pomegranates always catapults me straight back to the summer of 1999, the year when Prince’s major hit from 1982 again hit the charts after its re-release. The song, in a way, exuded that time’s atmosphere of anxious anticipation of the new millenium to come, which was generally left unspoken, except for the loud buzz around the supposedly looming Y2K bug, predicting inevitable chaos.

We could all die any day/ But before I’ll let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.

The song never failed to be played at parties in those days, at which my friends and me danced away, nearly imperceptibly already shedding the thinnest outer layers of our carefree student selves, gradually exposing our eagerness to embark on the terrifyingly exciting adult life ahead of us, not knowing where it would take us, as any direction still seemed possible. Which in a way was true.

In that summer of 1999, before embarking on our final year of study (or at least before obtaining our master’s degree, as in 2000 we all decided to extend our period of study to varying degrees) my friends and I decided to enjoy some of the final weeks of our 3-month summer break in Crete. Of course we had a wonderful time, for Crete was

  • abundant sun, every single day (as opposed to our habitual capricious climate back home) – and sunburns
  • sea and beaches
  • swimming pools (including the pool from the next-door hotel – fancier than ours – which we once sneaked into)
  • impressive historical sites
  • magnificent landscapes
  • walks in the rough countryside nearby (an activity regarded by Cretans as utterly outlandish, as we were offered rides several times, obviously assuming we were in need of transport)
  • both lousy Dutch beer in more touristy stretches and excellent Greek wine elsewhere
  • great Greek food (although quite monotonous after ten days, since the range for vegetarians – which I still was back then – was restricted)
  • dancing hassapikos with locals during wedding parties taking place at our hotel (as the management preferred inviting its hotel guests to join these parties and offering them free grapes and wine to receiving complaints about excessive noise and sleepless nights)
  • taking roadtrips, sitting in the back of a 4×4, the wind blowing through our long hair (yes, mine was pretty long back then too)
  • and just great fun

It was on such a roadtrip, taking us to Sitia, Vai and Agios Nikolaios, that I saw and tasted pomegranate for the first time. One has to remember that this was 1999. As odd as this may seem now, pomegranates had not made it to the average Belgian kitchen back then. Our car had just conquered a scarily steep slope in Vai (which I felt compelled to photograph – see below), when we decided to take a break and have something to drink. There was a café around the corner, where our youthful entrance – and of course the fact that we were tourists -apparently disrupted the clientele’s usual composition. Only old male Greeks of a very respectful age where having their coffee there. So the five of us (4 women and 1 man in their twenties) got some particular attention and were lavished with hospitality, which showed itself for instance in the fact that we were instantly offered some pomegranate kernels, from a freshly cut fruit, which I found quite intriguing. Today, meticulously picking out the pitch-red arils from a pomegranate fruit, some part of me always floats back to those early September days under the Cretan sun.

In this za’atar tofu bowl, pomegrate features in two ways: the arils in the salad on the one hand, pomegranate molessas in the pesto on the other. In this version, I prepared some couscous and incorporated this in the salad, but you might just as well have this salad, topped with za’atar tofu and mint-walnut pesto, with some pita bread or flatbread instead. Either way it will be lovely.

Crete & a perfectly azure sea, 1999

Crete & me, 1999

Steep street in Sitia, Crete, 1999

Za'atar tofu bowl with mint-pomegranate pesto

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

    For the za’atar tofu

    • 400 g tofu, pressed, drained and cubed
    • 2 TB za’atar spice mix (*see recipe below if you can’t find it at your grocer’s)
    • 1,5 TB harissa
    • 1,5 tsp agave syrup (or another sweetener)
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 3 TB olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 TB lemon juice
    • For the finishing touch after frying: 1 TB cornstarch or arrowroot, 1 tsp harissa, 1 tsp agave syrup

    For the mint-pomegranate pesto

    • 1 cup loosely packed mint
    • 1 cup loosely packes flatleaf parsley
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup walnuts
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1 TB pomegranate molasses
    • 2 TB water
    • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • za’atar spice mix
    • 3 TB sumak
    • 1,5 TB toasted sesame seeds
    • 1 TB oregano
    • 1 TB thyme
    • 1 TB marjoram
    • 1/2 tsp salt

    For the salad

    • 2-3 tomatoes, cubed
    • 2 cups flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, pressed
    • 1 (roasted) bell pepper, cubed
    • 1/2 cucumber, sliced and chopped
    • Handful of toasted almond slivers
    • Pomegranate kernels of 1/2 pomegranate (or an entire one, if you wish and feel up to pinching all the kernels out of the fruit at once!)
    • A decent splash of both olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Salt to taste
    • Some mint leaves and olives if desired
    • Optional: couscous or flatbread

Directions

For the tofu: mix all ingredients and pour over the tofu cubes in a container (with lid). Shake the container and let marinate at least overnight. When frying the tofu, sprinkle some TB of cornstarch over the cubes, and make sure all cubes are evenly coated. Fry until nicely browned. For a final touch, add a tsp of agave syrup and harissa, and add a final coating layer.

For the salad: mix all ingredients

For the pesto: mix all ingredients in a food processor