You know how sometimes everything magically falls into place? Well, sometimes, it also doesn’t. We were hoping Alessandro would be able to transfer to a position in Brussels or nearby once he finished his course in Turin this past month (so we could finally put an end to flying halfway across Europe to see each other). We had high hopes while we were waiting to hear back on his transfer request even if we knew that the likelihood of him having his request accepted were not exceptionally high. Alas, in the end he was transferred to a new position in Rome. And while Rome is a magical city, and arguably a great place to be for an Italian army officer, it is not really a place for commercial lawyers that aren’t Italian like myself. So we have been having a lot of long conversations over the last few weeks as we try to figure out our next steps. Trying to work out where we would want to settle in the future, Alessandro’s options for moving to Brussels in the future with his job (and how soon that may be), my options for moving back to Rome with my job etc. And some of these conversations have been hard. When both of you care about your work and your careers yet to pursue those careers you are best placed living in different countries, how do you come to a solution? Should both of you compromise your careers for your relationship? If not, who should compromise? And while all these questions are going through my head, questions to which we don’t yet have an answer, I am baking. And cooking. And baking some more. And yet, I haven’t picked up my camera much lately or been able to find the words to write until now. I had had a long week at work and a painful ear infection had kept me up 4 nights in a row. I was exhausted and irritable. But then Alessandro came to visit for the weekend and after a day of glorious sunshine and a daytrip to Ghent where we finally sought out De Superette for brunch, took a tour on Ghent’s canals, shared a box of chocolates from my favourite chocolatier in Ghent, Yuzu, and tried the beer at Gruut, somehow things started to look up again. And while for now we only have questions, we are both confident that we will find a solution that will make us happy in the long term. Enough about me. Let’s talk about cookies. More specifically these Flourless Walnut Butter Cookies. I don’t really do cookbook reviews in this little space. And this isn’t one either. But it would not feel right to talk about these Flourless Walnut Butter Cookies without talking about the book that inspired them. The foundation of these cookies is the Vanilla Espresso Walnut Butter from Tara O’Brady’s debut cookbook. Tara’s book is truly stunning. The pictures are glorious. And then there is Tara’s beautiful writing – she is witty yet authoritative and a few pages into her book you will trust her to try recipes that you don’t think should work. A fresh curry sauce involving a granny smith apple and heaps of fresh coriander? I hesitated. And yet, I loved it so much I think juice bars should be adding an apple coriander juice with a bit of heat from fresh chilies to their menu. Tara’s book has found a place in my home because the recipes mimic so clearly how I like to cook and eat. Her recipes also make the most of my pantry which refuses to be shoehorned into a particular culinary tradition and where mirin and pomegranate molasses wrangle for counter space next to the bottles of olive oil, rose water, argan oil and oyster sauce. Tara’s walnut butter is incredibly delicious thanks to the addition of ground espresso and vanilla. I am generally more of a plain nut butter person but will have to make an exception for Tara’s walnut butter in the future as it is just that good. And all that deliciousness translates into these cookies – thanks to the bitter espresso I like to think of them as the grown-up version of flourless peanut butter cookies. And while the cacao nibs I added are purely optional, I like a bit of crunch for texture when eating softer cookies like these. Flourless Walnut Butter Cookies Note: This recipe is no different from your typically flourless peanut butter cookie, except that it uses walnut butter instead of peanut butter. They are perfectly chewy and not overwhelmingly sweet, thanks largely to the slight bitterness of the walnuts, the ground espresso and the cacao nibs. While these are soft cookies, I think a short stay in the freezer would firm them up enough to smoosh a scoop of your favourite ice cream between two of these cookies, thereby making a fabulous ice cream sandwich. Makes 12 medium-sized cookies Ingredients 225g Tara’s Vanilla Espresso Walnut Butter* 75g caster sugar 75g brown sugar 1 tsp baking soda Generous pinch of salt 1 egg 25g cacao nibs *I used the recipe that is in Tara’s new book. If you do not have Tara’s book I suggest you use 190g plain smooth walnut butter, increase both the caster and the brown sugar to 90g each and stir ½tsp ground espresso and the seeds of two vanilla beans into the cookie dough. Directions Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl whisk the walnut butter together with the caster sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and salt until combined. Beat in the egg until well blended with the rest of the ingredients. Fold in the cacao nibs. Using oiled hands, shape the dough into 12 walnut sized balls and place them on the cookie sheets, leaving ample space between them (as the cookies will spread in the oven). The dough will be very soft – if you are having difficulties shaping the dough into balls, just place the dough in the freezer for ca. 10 minutes to firm up. Bake the cookies for ca. 15 minutes until puffed up and just starting to colour. Cool on the sheet until firm enough to move to a cookie rack (ca. 10 minutes)– while cooling, the cookies will buckle and flatten. Repeat with the remaining dough.