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
  • Print

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.

Advertisements

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 fatoush 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
  • Print

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

Watercress cream soup with spinach & sorrel.

Whereas France’s major rivers (the Loire, Rhine and Seine) probably ring a bell, chances are quite low you might ever have heard of la Veules, the country’s shortest river, its source and mouth only a little over a kilometer apart in the small, picturesque village of Veules-les-Roses along Normandy’s Alabaster coast.

During our Easter break, we paid Veules-les-Roses a visit on a day when an impermeable wall of dense fog only allowed the sound of rumbling waves falling onto the pebbly beach and the taste of salty sea air to slip through to where we stood on the boardwalk. The sea audibly and nearly palpably present, yet totally invisible. Luckily, once inside the village, there was plenty to be seen. Such as the pretty sight of la Veules’ riverbed full of watercress next to one of the village’s watermills. Watercress has been cultured in this shallow, clear watercourse since the 14th century until the present day. Someone was right in the middle of harvesting some watercress at the very moment when we were passing by.

But what to do with it once it’s been cut? Watercress is most frequently used in soups and salads, but can also be turned into a lovely pesto. Since I am an ardent soup lover, it is a soup recipe I came up with here, in which the peppery taste of watercress is paired with – but not overwhelmed by – crisp spinach and tangy sorrel, and smoothened by some silky soy cream.

Watercress cream soup with spinach & sorrel

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1400 ml (about 5 to 6 cups) vegetable stock
  • 250 g celeriac, diced
  • 150 g watercress (stems included), finely cut
  • 100 g tender (baby) spinach
  • 40 g sorrel (stems removed)
  • 1 TB herbes de Provençe
  • salt and pepper
  • 150 ml soy or other plant-based cream

Directions

  • Fry the onion until transclucent, add the cubed celeriac and fry 2-3 more minutes
  • Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil
  • Once the celeriac is tender, add in all the chopped greens and the herbs
  • Once wilted, blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth
  • Finally, stir in the cream

Lavender ice cream with dandelion honey.

Let me first break the bad news: lavender ice cream does not boast a precious purple hue, despite what your imagination might have lured you into thinking (I admit I am projecting here). Lavender ice cream is just a plain off-white. Unless you use (preferably natural) food colouring or some blueberry or other purplish berry juice). I had neither at hand, and did not find them necessary either. The good news, however, is that if you have been critical of using lavender in sweet food items – for let’s be honest, don’t we all associate the scent of lavender rather with soap and air fresheners than with ice cream, chocolate or biscuits – you might be in for a very pleasant surprise here.

Apart from the delicate, refreshing taste, I was even more surprised by how smooth the texture was. Usually my homemade ice cream is at its best about two hours freezing time after having been churned. After that, it’s best to wait 5-10 minutes after having taken the ice cream from the freezer before scooping it. This time, it was perfectly smooth even after 24 and 48 hours (“an ice cream a day keeps the … “) in the freezer. I attribute that to the aquafaba I used. I have tentatively done so earlier, by folding in a few tablespoons, but this time I increased the amount to a quarter of a cup, and that must have done it. Definitively to be retested soon with other flavours.

Lavender ice cream with dandelion honey

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dandelion ‘honey’ – I used the HEENI from the brand Außerperskolerhof
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 1 tsp dried lavender flowers (in a tea strainer)
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 TB coconut butter
  • 1 cup oat milk
  • 1/4 cup aquafaba
  • 1 TB arrowroot

Directions

Bring all ingredients, except for the arrowroot and aquafaba, to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, then remove the teastrainer with the dried lavender flowers). Mix the arrowroot with the aquafaba in a small container. Make sure there are no kumps of arrowroot left. Turn off the heat below the ice cream mixture. When the mixture stops bubbling, whisk in the arrowroot/aquafaba mixture. Let cool completely for a few hours, then churn according to the directions of your ice cream maker. I have a basic one from Philips and 30-40 minutes are usually sufficient.

Fennel salad with spinach, apple, avocado & avocado dressing.

Up until now, salads have constituted quite an underrepresented category in my recipe index. Not because I do not regularly make or eat them, rather because I usually revert to either a classic salad/tomato/bell pepper/avocado/scallion/seeds and nuts combination splattered with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or because I make a salad hailing from one of my cookbooks. The first option isn’t worth blogging about, as it does not require much originality to come up with this basic salad, the second would mean copying another person’s recipe onto my blog, something I’d rather don’t.

But last week I decided to rely on my own inventiveness for once, and a fennel salad is what I came up with. And when the only other person in the household besides myself who eats salads (I haven’t been able to kindle the kids’ enthusiasm for raw vegetables yet) takes seconds, thirds and even fourths, exclaiming how delicious it is, then I think it is fair to conclude that I might have come up with something that is actually worth sharing.

Fennel salad with spinach, apple, avocado & avocado dressing

  • Servings: 3 to 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

For the salad

  • Half a small fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 5-6 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 apple (I used a sweet jonagold)
  • Half an avocado (you’ll need the other half for the dressing)
  • A handful of balsamic toasted sunflower seeds (it takes only a couple of minutes to toast them, with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and salt. You may even add a tsp of toasted sesame for a more intense flavour)

For the dressing

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) vegan mayo, or if you don’t have that at hand, then 40 ml of olive/rapeseed/canola/sunflower oil and 20 ml soy milk (it’s important to use soy milk here, otherwise the oil-milk mixture won’t thicken into mayo)
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp agave syrup or another sweetener
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp vadouvan, or if you don’t have this spice mixture, then just use 1 TB Italian herbs. I do highly recommend vadouvan, though.
  • Half an avocado

Directions

For the salad: toss all ingredients in a salad bowl.

For the dressing:

  • When using ready-made mayo: blend all ingredients with an immersion blender.
  • When starting from scratch: blend all ingredients except for the avocado. After you have done that, add the avocado and blend until smooth.

Chives spread

Today is the first day of winter, yet my freezer still preserves some remnants of summer. There’s the figs which I harvested from the too rapidly growing and ample fruit-bearing tree in our front yard, there’s rhubarb, stemming from gigantic stalks in the new garden of friends who moved house in spring on the one hand, and from the rich and robust rhubarb plant from my parents’ green and colourful garden on the other, there’s the sorrel which also found its way from my childhood home to our home, along with a huge box and a bag of already chopped up chives.

Figs are for jam, rhubarb as well (and for chutney! And for rhubarb sauce!), sorrel is for soup (and sorrel mashed potatoes). And chives. Well what to use chives for, except for garnishing dishes?

At least that is what I thought until I found a jar of chives pesto in an organic foodmarket. I started using this pesto in pasta, with string beans, with zucchini,.. But then looking at its price tag, and at all the chives in my freezer, I thought I might as well try and make it myself. So that is what I set out to do a couple of nights ago. Taking all listed ingredients from the jar’s label and blending them on high speed, I ended up, however, not with a pesto, but rather with a spread. Obviously I used too many cashews. That’s the downside. The good news is that the spread tastes wonderful as well, and is even more versatile in use (on bread, crackers, as dip, in sauces,…), due its mellower, softer taste compared to the sharper pesto.

So that’s how a failure turns into a success!

And oh, this spread works wonders when added (instead of some TB of vegan cheese) to the tofu ricotta filling in these cannelloni (tried and approved of by the entire family).

Chives spread

  • Servings: NA
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 120 g chives
  • 10 g pine kernels
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 1,5 tsp salt
  • 80 g cashew nuts

Directions

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Coffee-Cardamom Bites

This is a post dedicated to A.

1 December was the first day of a world without A, a befriended mom whom we got to know through school three years back, having just moved back from Sweden. Her oldest and our oldest were in the same class, just as her middle kid and our youngest. We got along well, our husbands and children got along well, and last year we started going on excursions during weekends. That is also what we did two weeks ago, making further plans for get-aways during 2018.

And then only 4 days later she found herself biking at the wrong place at the wrong time. Plain bad luck, with terrible consequences.

So this recipe is dedicated to her.

Only days before, she had finally found my IG-account (having misspelled it earlier in her searches, due to bad oral communication), and was ❤-ing one food picture after another, followed by a text message that she wanted a signed copy of my cookbook. That cookbook was one of the many plans – both hers and mine – we had discussed during earlier conversations. I don’t know if I will ever succeed in publishing one – she was, however, an ardent believer and supporter. She also generally thought that dreams are there to be realised, and she truly lived to put her own ideas into action and stimulated others to dare and dream bigger. But in case I never get to publish one, then at least there is this.

Besides our plans for the future, we regularly discussed food as such (me being a vegan, she being an advocate of low-sugar food), and this recipe for naturally sweetened raw bites would no doubt have been totally right up her alley. The combination of flavours -coffee and cardamom- is derived from a Dutch vegan ice cream brand, Prof. Gruenschnabel, which is now finally widely available over here.

So these are to you, A.

I wish I could have served these alongside a cup of tea or coffee after the dinner I intended to host for you and your family. They will have to serve as one of the many vehicles to remember the wonderful person you were instead

Coffee-Cardamom Bites

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • Pinch of salt and vanilla
  • 1 tsp coffee (ground coffee)
  • Ground seeds from ca. 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 TB cacao

Directions

Blend everything in a food processor until you end up with a sticky dough, then roll into walnut-sized balls.

Coat with melted chocolate if desired.


 

 

 

 

 

Fragrant tajine with cinnamon & apricots.

spoonsandsplatters_vegan_tajine.jpeg

Being vegan or even vegetarian allows for a broadening of one’s culinary world and a more densely than average stocked spice rack. I remember being 23, entering my 4th year as a vegetarian, living abroad, and slowly expanding my cookbook collection. That year I bought several ones, including one on Indian cuisine which I still use every so often, and one on homemade schnaps, which I, contrary to friends who bought the very same book at the very same moment, but also had access to cheap alcohol in a university lab, never used (but never say never). I also remember compiling grocery lists with spices that at that particular time were totally exotic and new to me, but which I needed to finally start cooking up those dishes in my new cookbooks. It’s weird to realize how foreign cumin, coriander and curcuma once were to me, since I now use them on a nearly daily basis. In this tajine served over couscous, for instance. 

This is the kind of dish which is easily integrated into one’s rotating menu, because it’s easy to make, it doesn’t require any weird ingredients from specialty stores (I often make it when travelling, as I then usually only have access to limited vegan ingredients (aka veggies and pulses)), it’s sweet, spicy (as spicy as you like), and filling. And the kids eat it without much fuss.

Once I cooked a tajine assisted by a visiting friend who has an Algerian husband (yes, the same friend whom I mentioned in my post on Ratatouille and more). In Algeria, Friday equals couscous, so the recipe below should come quite close to the ‘real’ thing. At least that is what this friend contended, and if it doesn’t, it’s still worth making anyhow ;-). You’ll notice the many ‘handfuls’ below. That’s simply cooking tajine isn’t exact science. Use the amount of veggies you want, season as hot as you like it, use cilantro or don’t. It’s all up to you, regard the recipe below as a mere guiding framework.

Tajine

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 sweet potato, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 small potatoes
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1-2 bell peppers
  • A handful of string beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes + the same amount of vegetable stock
  • 2-3 TB tomato paste
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained (don’t throw out the chickpea liquid, use the aquafaba to make curd cheesecakemadeleines or crêpes or something)
  • A handful of dried apricots, finely chopped
  • A handful of raisins
  • 1 – 1,5 tsp curcuma
  • 1 – 1,5 TB ras-el-hanout (a North African spice blend)
  • 1-1,5 tsp cumin
  • 1-1,5 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 TB paprika or 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp or more harissa (North African chili paste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • A handful of almond slivers, roasted, for garnish
  • A handful of cilantro, for garnish

Directions

  • Fry the onion until translucent, then add the garlic and fry one more minute
  • Add the spices and then veggies one by one, starting with those that have the longest cooking time (i.e. the carrots and potatoes). Then the tomatoes and the renaining ingredients. Let simmer. Hold back the chickpeas, though: they shouldn’t end up in your casserole until the very end of the cooking process, when the vegetables have softened. 
  • In the meantime, prepare the couscous according to the directions on the package. Add in a TB of za’atar spice blend if you like that as much as I do.
  • When the dish is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Then serve over couscous and sprinkle with almond slivers and garnish with cilantro.

Ratatouille.

spoonsandsplatters_cauliflower chickpea ratatouille_vegan.jpeg

So here we are again!

When I posted my recipe for strawberry-rhubarb crumble pie, I hadn’t got the faintest idea that as many as five months would elapse before I’d be picking up on my kitchen adventures in a next blogpost. But that is what ultimately happened, and an entire summer (and half an autumn) was as such left blank in terms of blogposts, yet proved itself all the richer in terms of living life to the fullest and creating cherishable memories.

This is not to say food did not play any part in this. Rather on the contrary. It’s often the pebble that, softly hitting the surface of memory, ripples out, touching upon a variety of recollections. Food is a social connector, and reliving what was on and who was gathered around the table goes hand in hand.

Reminiscing this summer is reminiscing

  • the birthday pies I made as a treat for my colleagues at the onset of summer, and right before going on vacation.
  • the succulent dates and delicious oil-cured olives which we enjoyed during a stopover with German friends when we were on our way to the Alps. Last time we had seen these friends, a German-Algerian couple, we were traveling with a 9-month-old and they were expecting their first child. Now each of us had two boisterous kids ranging from 5 to 8, happily playing together despite the language barrier. We departed with a stash of Algerian dates and Moroccan olives (imported straight from Oran by our host – we learned that Moroccans are better at curing olives than their neighbours) and some bottles of Moroccan vinegar.
  • what must have been the first time in over a decade that I enjoyed the luxury of not having to touch any kitchen utensils for an entire week (no matter how much one loves cooking, being able to have break from it is something precious too), thanks to the hospitality, flexibility, open-mindedness and wondrous cooking skills of a high-school friend who now runs a family guesthouse on an idyllic Carinthian mountain top (with a panorama stretching as far as the Slovenian Julian Alps) together with her husband. If you’re ever considering a (family) stay in Austria, both during summer or in winter (there are alpine ski facilities practically around the corner), look no further than Gasthof Fernsicht! And oh yes, we continued our journey to the South with homemade elderberry syrup, books to kill time on the road, loads of Slovenian travel tips and refreshed spirits. And a cooler full of vegan stuff from Merkur (an Austrian supermarket chain with a gigantic range of vegan products).
  • the incredible Italian ice cream we had in Trieste at gelato Marco , where about half the (gigantic) counter consisted of vegan ice cream. This must have been one of the best, if not the best ice cream servings I’ve had, and if my husband hadn’t deemed it way too decadent, I think I really would have gone for seconds.
  • the joy of being able to order vegan pizza in Portoroz, Slovenia, before going for a swim in the Mediterranean. Pizza, sun, an inflatable dolphin, ample wind and a kite – what more do kids (and grown-ups) need to find happiness on a summer day?
  • the exchange of food when again staying over at our friends’ place in Bavaria again on our way back home. They had cooked a simple but lovely and hearty German potato soup for dinner (our son even had three large servings!), we had brought a decent portion of leftover Indian curry. Both the soup and the curry were gone by the end of the meal. We finished the soup, they finished the curry.
  • the counter full of Mediterranean-style dishes I had cooked for a family gathering, half of which cooked according to recipes from Yasou, the second cookbook by Miriam Sorell which I had finally purchased after it had been on my wishlist since its publication date. A book very much worth its money.
  • the scents and tastes – both familiar and new – that accompanied us on our trip down memory lane to vegan mecca Stockholm: vegan pizza (with aragula and figs – marvelous combo!) at Feca (where they even have an elaborate separate vegan menu) followed by an ice cream from 18 smakers glassmakeri, a Szechuan noodle lunch at Lao Wai, perfect nut cookies (cripsy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside) at Rosendals trädgård, the copious and utterly delicious Sri Lankan dinner – including a savoury kiwi dish – at the home of fabulous friends and former colleagues who are always spoiling us (and the home made Sri Lankan spice blends which I got as a present; the lovely scent of which permeated my travel bag until we got home and I could store the precious gift in jars) , the mezze lunch at Babel Deli (the muhammara! the roasted sweet potato! the parsley salad!), a burger lunch at Kafé44 following a visit to Fotografiska, the fika with peanut cheesecake we had at Los Vegos  in Uppsala (the city’s vegan scene has obviously been expanding the past couple of years), the fingerlicking good Thai inspired sweet potato stew  (I think its secret to success is the wine! – and the good cook) we had with dear Swedish friends in Uppsala – our friendship dates back to Germany 16 years ago -, the fast fajita lunch at one of the Zócalo restaurants you will find in Stockholm (in between shopping… of course I also bought a new cookbook: Mattias Kristiansson’s Välkommen till Vegoriket), a cinnamon roll (more specifically a Leobulle) from Vete-katten, again pizza and ice cream (see above) – this time with a Stockholm friend (we go back to Vienna 2000) to whom these places were a pleasant discovery -, dinner at good old Chutney (with the very same good old friend) before heading off to cinema Victoria and Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (that is what German philologists do), lunch at Herman’s, catching up with a Belgian expat friend, and then finally another lunch at Babel Deli (reaching the same conclusion that their muhammara is to die for).
  • The Sri Lankan cookbook The Lotus and The Artichoke, which I bought so that I could try and discover even more tasty food from this part of the world (now that I have some authentic spice blend in the house). My first attempts were a success; the curry I made, for instance, resembled my friend’s extremely well, which speaks for the book.
  • The huge pile of donuts, the Boston cream pie, fruit tart, chocolate Bundt cake and cinnamon rolls I made for both my daughter’s and my son’s birthdays. The donuts are a keeper for parties; they were immensely popular!
  • The stash of tomatoes and rhubarb which I got from friends, resulting in rhubarb chutney, rhubarb-strawberry jam, rhubarb sauce, and tomato chutney.
  • The goodbye pies for my colleagues, before embarking on a new professional adventure.
  • And much more.

What better recipe to write about after such a jumbled enumeration of separate memories that blend into one and all make up my great summer of 2017 than a chunky pot of ratatouille, which is basically a mishmash of ingredients. That – hodgepodge or mishmash –  is also what the Dutch word for ratatouille, namely ratjetoe, boils down to.

Ratatouille is one of my favourite comfort foods, and over the years I have developed my own version of it. It originally started with the traditional eggplant and zucchini kind of ratatouille, but then over time I first left out the eggplant (that just happened, probably because I at one particular moment didn’t have any in the fridge) and started adding olives, preferably well marinated ones (with herbs and/or spices), then suddenly the idea came to me to mix in some cauliflower florets (which was, frankly, a great idea!), and eventually I ended up with a version that usually also contains chickpeas. To me, that’s the perfect kind of ratatouille. And this is approximately how I make it (I never measure anything for this dish):

Ratatouille

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 to 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (pick a colour of your preference – I usually take a yellow one, because of the colour contrast with the remaining ingredients)
  • 1 can cubed tomatoes OR 2 fresh tomatoes and about 4 TB of tomato paste
  • 2 handfuls of cauliflower florets
  • a handful of sliced olives
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 TB herbes de Provence and some fresh basil, if you have some
  • some roasted pine kernels

Directions

  • fry the onion until translucent, then add the garlic
  • after a minute, add in the bell pepper, cauliflower and the zucchini; when they have softened a bit, add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients, except for the chickpeas and basil
  • when the content of your pot has turned into a stew (with the consistency of your preference), add in the chickpeas and basil
  • garnish with some pine kernels
  • serve with roasted potatoes or (my favourite!) potato mash (preferably potato mash with roasted garlic and rosemary)
  • enjoy!

spoonsandsplatters_cauliflower chickpea ratatouille_vegan2.jpeg

Donuts.

spoonsandsplatters_vegan donuts 3.jpeg

Last weekend did not only feature my udon noodle soup premiere, but also my first time ever for baking donuts. My daughter was going to a birthday party (actually two that weekend) and I always give something along, so that she has the option to eat something vegan. Now the (first) birthday boy in question had been announcing in class that there would be donuts at his party. With little time on my hands on a Saturday morning, I looked for the quickest donut recipe I could find. The first recipe (more or less) looked easy and tasty enough, but in the midst of making the batter I realized that donuts are supposed to be yeast-based, whereas this recipe contained baking powder. I had crossed the point of no return, so I just went ahead and fried the donuts. They were extremely dense and heavy, but my daughter was totally thrilled nonetheless at the prospect of getting 3 donuts (yes, I always tend to exaggerate). And a bit in tears at pick-up time that two boys had each taken one of her donuts (as it turned out, hers were ironically the only (wannabe) donuts at the party, where waffles and cupcakes were served), so that she was left with “only” one (it did count for at least two).

I quickly consoled her with the promise that I would be baking new ones the day after to take with us as a coffee table treat when visiting vegan friends. And even better ones this time. And so I did.

I found a recipe on a blog called Darth Vegan, and I decided to give them a try, despite one of the ingredients listed being coconut milk. There was the minor fear that the taste of coconut would be overpowering, but I decided to go for it anyhow. Looking back I certainly do not regret doing so! These were totally easy to make, the dough was a charm to handle, and the donuts tasted, well, like REAL donuts. Needless to say all vegan kids around the table were totally thrilled and devoured them in no time.

If it weren’t for all the fat (I fried them in coconut oil), I’d make a batch of these every week. But as it’s the plan to spend some of our summertime on Italian beaches, that wouldn’t be the best plan I guess. At least not when speaking for myself. So this will be just a once-in-a-while treat from now on.

Donuts (Darth Vegan style)

  • Servings: 15
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 TB lukewarm water
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (the kind I buy, the home brand of Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize, is very rich and creamy and hardly contains any liquid. Good value for money.)
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (this is roughly the amount one apple yields; you can quickly make apple sauce in the microwave)
  • 2 TB vegan butter or oil
  • 2 1/2 cups flour

Directions

  • Mix water and yeast and let sit for a couple of minutes until foamy.
  • Take a large bowl and combine coconut milk, sugar, salt, applesauce, and oil/margarine.
  • Add the foamy yeast/water mixture, the flour, and stir until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it’s to sticky.
  • Let rise until doubled in volume.
  • Roll out the dough to 2 cm thickness and cut out donut shapes (I used a glass and the piping piece of a piping bag for the centre).
  • Let rest until doubled in size.
  • Heat the oil in a pot.  To test whether the oil is hot enough, test with a small piece of dough: if the oil is sizzling when you add the lump of dough, then it’s ok to start frying.
  • Fry the donuts for 30-45 seconds on one side, until golden, then turn and fry them on the other side.
  • When done, transfer to a plate lined with paper kitchen towels and let cool.
  • Decorate them. (I decorated them with either a chocolate ganache (vegan chocolate + soy cream), partly with strawberry icing (half a strawberry mixed with icing sugar), and with vegan sprinkles).

     

 

spoonsandsplatters_vegan donuts 1.jpeg