Pujarini Gudny Jonsdottir co-manages Café Gardurinn, a vegetarian restaurant in Iceland’s capital. The restaurant opened in August of 2000. On a recent trip, I sampled a vegetarian almond loaf. Meatloaf is a quintessential comfort food and for non-meat-eaters this savory recipe will treat you well. It’s thick, it’s rich, it’s moist. It’s salty and savory and I could eat a whole loaf by myself. To learn more about the café and get the recipe I interviewed the co-manager.
Coogan visiting Iceland’s volcanic crater—Kerið.
Photo by Ryan McGhee
“Prior to the restaurant I had been working in different fields for 20 years. Mostly, I had been working as a secretary or proofreader and in daycare centers for children, and became a kindergarten teacher at the age of 40,” Jonsdottir says.
But none of these jobs were satisfying to her or purposeful. So, when she got the opportunity to do something new she jumped on the chance. Sri Chinmoy, a meditation teacher, who at the end of his career had 7,000 students in 60 countries, gave her the inspiration. He had students around the world opening vegetarian restaurants and other stores that promoted kindness and oneness.
“By running our own business—my whole family works here—we could create the atmosphere that was inspiring to us and hopefully others, too,” Jonsdottir explains.
“I think meditation has helped me in many ways. It gives me inner confidence and peace which is something solid to build on, as opposed to questions, doubts, and insecurities that can be found in one’s life. Somehow, I feel that this inner peace has given me the courage to grow or expand,” she adds.
The café has more than 30 main dishes that rotate and more than 20 soups.
“I try not to have the same dish more than once a month and every now and then we create something new, but time does not allow us to do it as often as we would like. All our soups are vegan, so there would always be a vegan options. But of late we also offer a vegan option of the main dish, if it is not vegan already, to meet the increasing request for vegan food.”
If you are a vegetarian and concerned about finding meals in Iceland, don’t worry.
Jonsdottir says, “To eat and cook vegetarian in Iceland is like drinking water.” It’s everywhere.
Although Iceland’s main exports include fish, fish products, and animal products Iceland imports many vegetables that cannot be easily grown in their greenhouses.
“This is big change since when I was growing up the main vegetables were potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas.”
Enjoy this meatless nostalgic meal. The easy to find ingredients are quick to combine and taste great.
Two homemade almond loaves from Garðurinn’s recipe.
Photo by Kenny Coogan
Almond Loaf Recipe
Serves: 4-6 people
• 1.5 cups finely chopped onion
• 1.5 cups finely chopped celery
• 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
• 1 tsp. dried basil
• 1 tsp. dried marjoram
• 1/2 Tbsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
• 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
• 2 cups boiled brown rice
• 340 g tofu put through a food processor
• 2 cups baked almond flakes, put through food processor
• 3 eggs
• 3 Tbsp. oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
2. Soften onion, celery and herbs in a pan.
3. Mix everything together. Bake for 1 hour.
The peanut butter sauce is a necessity:
• 1 cup finely chopped onion
• 1/2 tsp. black pepper
• A hint of marjoram
• 1 cup water
• 2/3 cups peanut butter
• 2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
Soften onion. Add everything and heat until thickens.
Kenny Coogan is a pet, garden, and travel columnist for various magazines. His goal is to live off the land, planting one seed at a time on his one-acre permaculture homestead. Search Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan on Facebook or KennyCoogan.com to learn more.