Rauðkál - Pickled red cabbage

This side dish is good with many kinds of roasted and broiled meats. For many it is a necessity with the Christmas ham or steak. I don't particularly like vinegar pickled cabbage so I haven't tried this recipe myself, but I'm told it is good.

2-3 tbs butter
1 kg red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup white vinegar OR red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 tsp salt

Melt the butter at medium temperature. Add finely shredded red cabbage and stir to coat with the hot butter. When the buttered cabbage begins to sizzle, add vinegar, sugar and salt. Simmer until the cabbage is limp and boiled through (about 45 mins. to 1 hour).
Serve with ham, pork roast, roast lamb, duck, goose or turkey.

Some people will eat this with hot dogs as well.


Mandarin-orange cheesecake - Mandarínu-ostakaka

This is a lovely cheesecake, rich and smooth. It is commercially available in Iceland. I just love it, and I'm grateful for The Icelandic Dairy Produce Marketing Association for providing the recipe for the public. The cake is relatively cheap when you buy it ready-made, but I think making it yourself adds to the enjoyment of eating it.
While this is not a Christmas recipe per se, it is so time consuming that I would only ever make it for special occasions like Christmas or a special birthday party.

Serves 10-12 (or 6-8, depending on how much self-control you have :-)

1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
5 tbs sugar
5 tbs butter, soft
90 g lemon flavoured gelatine
1 cup boiling water
500 g cream cheese, unflavoured, softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cream, whipped (measure before you whip)
1 can (480 g) mandarin orange sections
1/2 cup juice from mandarin oranges
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp unflavoured gelatine powder OR 2 sheets unflavoured gelatine

Mix together cracker crumbs, 5 tbs sugar and soft butter. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a spring mold (22 cm in diameter). Bake for 8 minutes at 175°C. Remove and cool.
Dissolve the lemon gelatin in boiling water. Cool. Be careful, you don't want it to set completely!
Mix together cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar and vanilla essence. When the lemon gelatine is about half-set, mix carefully into the cheese mixture, little by little. Fold in the whipped cream and pour into the mold over the crumb shell. Cool for about 1 hour.
Drain the mandarin oranges well, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. Add lemon juice. Warm up the juice and dissolve the flavourless gelatin in it. Cool, stirring occasionally.
Arrange the orange sections on top of the cheesecake in a pattern. Gently spoon or brush the mandarin gelatin over the top. Cool until set.
Remove the sides from the mold and serve.


Traditional Icelandic Christmas dishes

The Christmas meal that is traditionally served in my family.
I have received a question about traditional Icelandic Christmas dishes and as it’s a subject I’m sure many are curious about I decided to make a blog entry about it.

Traditional Icelandic Christmas food is a somewhat complicated subject, as there are several traditional Christmas dishes and there is no one Christmas dish that is served in every home. Even the leaf bread, which is uniquely Icelandic and as traditional as it gets, is not served in every home.

The most common main dishes served for Christmas in Icelandic homes are hangikjöt (smoked and salted lamb or mutton), ptarmigan (see recipe), lamb roast (see recipe for Sunday roast), roast goose, Hamborgarhryggur (smoked pork center rib roast), and American style turkey (relatively new, but has become a tradition in many families). As a starter or dessert, many serve either rice pudding (recipe will be posted soon) or ris a la mande (will also be posted soon) which is a Danish rice pudding.

If you go to the “Label” option at the bottom of this post and click “Christmas recipe” you can find some of the stuff I have already posted, mostly cookies.


Danish style pork rib roast – Ribbensteg (rifjasteik)

You may ask why I am publishing a recipe for Danish food when this is an Icelandic recipe blog? Well, this is something that has become an inseparable part of Christmas in my family, ever since I returned from a six month stay in Denmark and offered to cook rib-roast on Boxing Day. I have done it every year since then, and I know other Icelandic families serve rib-roast for Christmas, New Year’s or Easter. This is my variation of the recipe:

Recipe (serves 4)
1 kg pork rib-roast, with skin and fat and with or without bones. I don’t know if this cut is available in the USA, but from having looked at American posters of pork cuts I don’t think so. This is what it looks like:

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2 bay leaves
Whole cloves

Take the roast and make cuts into the skin and fat almost down to the meat, with about a finger width between the cuts. Make either strips or diamond-shaped pieces (see images below). Do not cut into meat.

Heat the oven to 250°C. Boil some water, put the roast into an oven pan skin side down and pour boiling water into the pan to cover the skin and fat up to the line of meat. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. Remove the roast from the oven and lower the temperature to 170°C. Turn the roast around, sprinkle with salt and ground pepper, and put cloves and little pieces of 1 bay leaf here and there into the cuts.

Parboiled roast with spices, skin cut into strips:

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Add a bit of salt, pepper and cloves and one bay leaf to the cooking liquid. Return to the oven and roast for 1 1/2 hours. Replenish the water whenever it begins to boil down. Remove from the oven, pour the water into a saucepan (through a sieve) and return roast to the oven while you make the sauce.
If the skin is not bubbly and crackling by the time the sauce is ready, turn on the grill for a short while until the skin bubbles, but be careful not to burn it.

The same roast as above, ready to serve (only needs to remove cloves and bay leaf). As you can see, not all of the skin bubbled up:

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Gravy: This is all in approximates, as I never measure for the sauce.
Cooking liquid from roast
Sauce colouring
Extra spices (if needed)

Make a thick paste from flour and water. Bring cooking liquid to boil in a saucepan and slowly add the paste, stirring all the time. When you feel the gravy begin to thicken, stop adding paste. Bring to the boil again and cook for a couple of minutes to remove raw flour taste. Test for taste and thickness and thin with water and add spices as needed. Add a little cream, add as much sauce colouring as needed to give the gravy a nice brown colour and remove saucepan from heat when the gravy starts to boil.

Remove the roast from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. While it cools, remove the cloves and pieces of bay leaf.
Serve with gravy, potatoes (plain or caramelised), green peas, redcurrant jelly, pickled red cabbage and cooked vegetables or a fresh salad.

Roast with skin cut into diamond shapes:

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Air cookies - Loftkökur

Another cookie recipe my mother always makes for Christmas. These delicious candy cookies are light as air and melt on the tongue. The rising agent, baker's ammonia, unfortunately makes a big stink while the cookies are baking. I've seen these cookies for sale in Denmark, where they are called Rutebiler (Buses).

1 kg icing sugar
3 tsp bakers' ammonia
3 tbs cocoa
3 eggs, beaten

Mix the dry ingredients and beaten eggs and knead well. Run the dough through a cookie press. Use this attachment:

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Each cake should be about 5 cm (2 inches) long. Bake in the center of the oven for 8-10 minutes at 175°C. These cookies are light and airy, with a hollow center.
The unbaked cookies don't need to be big - they will expand in size 3-4 times during the baking.


A little break from the Christmas recipes: Muffins/cupcakes for every-day use

It seems the line between what counts as a muffin and what as a cupcake is blurry. The dictionary tells me that muffins are sweet breads, leavened with baking powder or baking soda and baked in cup-shaped tins, while cupcakes are cakes leavened and baked in the same way.

I suppose the following – my own recipe – falls somewhere in between the two. It is a cake recipe, but I have added a bread ingredient: whole-wheat flour.

Basic recipe:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
50 g margarine or butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Enough milk to make a thick batter, usually about 2/3 cup

12 paper muffin cups
1 12 muffin baking tray (mine came from Ikea)

Mix flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Add egg, milk, vanilla and melted margarine and stir into a thick batter. Put paper muffin forms into the cups in the baking tray and fill each to 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 190°C (180°C if you have a convection oven), for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and a pin stuck in one of them comes out clean. These cakes are moist, delicious and not too sweet, and will keep for several days.

Cooled muffins can be spread with lemon or cocoa icing.


Berry muffins:
1 cup berries, may be frozen (I love bilberry muffins, but mixed wild berries are also good in muffins)

Fill each muffin cup to 1/3 full with batter. Divide the berries evenly between the cups and top with the rest of the batter.

White muffins with chocolate chips:
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips, depending on how rich you want the muffins to be.

Fold gently into the batter and prepare as indicated in the basic recipe.

Double chocolate muffins:
Make dough with 3 tbs dark cocoa powder and ½ cup chocolate chips, white, dark or mixed.

Jam muffins:
Fill each muffin cup to 1/3 full with batter. Put a teaspoon of your favourite jam in the centre of each blob of batter and top with the rest of the batter.

Cinnamon muffins:
Mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tsp powdered cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the batter before you bake the muffins.

Cinnamon-raisin muffins:
Add 1/2 cup raisins to the batter and top with cinnamon-sugar before baking.

They taste even better the day after you make them.


Icelandic Christmas cocktail - Jólabland

This mix is, as far as I know, purely an Icelandic invention. In the first half of this century not many people could afford to buy ale and fizzy drinks, and they were therefore something to be enjoyed at festive occasions, such as Christmas and birthdays. Mixing the drinks together was probably believed to make it even more enjoyable to drink. The taste is sweet, malty and mellow. This is a comforting drink that always makes me think of Christmas.

Take equal measures of an orange flavoured fizzy drink (Fanta will do) and brown ale (Guinness is supposed to be good) and mix together. Be careful to pour the orange drink first, and pour the ale carefully to avoid it getting too frothy. Drink with the Christmas meal. To get an authentic flavour, the orange drink should be the Icelandic Egils Appelsín, and the brown ale Egils Malt. Some people (like my family) like to add some cola, usually Coke.


Icelandic Christmas bread – Laufabrauð

Fried leaf breads. The top two have patterns made with a leaf-bread cutter, the third is hand cut:

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My father's extended family usually gather together at the beginning of December to make Laufabrauð, spending a whole day kneading, cutting and frying, before sharing a festive meal. There are usually 12-15 of us working together, turning out a couple of hudred of these flat, decorated breads in one day. The bread gets divided evenly between the families, who take it home and store until Christmas.

This year’s gathering is tomorrow, so here is a recipe and I will try to remember to take photos to post.

These deep-fried, thin wheat breads are traditionally cut with intricate decorative patterns, and are mostly eaten at Christmas. The tradition of making Laufabrauð has its roots in the northern part of Iceland, but has spread all over the country. Many bakeries now sell ready-made Laufabrauð, or pre-kneaded and cut dough that only needs decorating and frying, but nothing beats making it at home from scratch. Some people make it with whole-wheat flour or rye flour, and others put caraway seeds in it.

1 kg wheat flour
30 g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
500-600 ml milk, scalded
1 tbs butter/margarine

frying fat (preferably sheep's tallow)
A large cooking pot for frying (should be tall, so as to avoid splattering)

Mix together the dry ingredients. Heat the milk to boiling and melt the butter in it. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well. Knead into a ball of dense dough. Roll into sausage shapes and store under a slightly damp cloth (it dries out quickly otherwise). Cut or pinch off portions and flatten with a rolling pin. These breads are traditionally very thin - a good way to tell if the dough is thin enough is to check if you can read the headings (some say the text!) of a newspaper through it. Cut into circular cakes, using a medium sized plate as a guide to ensure even size. If you have to store them un-fried, stack them up with baking paper between the layers, put in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Decorate by cutting out patterns.

A raw leaf-bread, hand-cut:

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Heat the fat in a deep, wide pot. It's ready when it starts to smoke. Prick the cakes with a fork to avoid blistering, and drop into the fat, one at a time, taking care that they do not fold. The cakes will sink as you drop them into the fat. When they resurface, pick up with a handy tool (such as a steak fork) and turn over. They are ready when golden in colour, and it only takes a few seconds to fry each one. Remove from the fat and put on a piece of kitchen paper to drain. It's good to press a plate or something similar on top of the cake as it is put down, to ensure that it will be flat. Stack up and allow to cool. When cool, stack in a cookie tin. Stored in a cool, dry place, leaf bread will keep for months - if you can keep you hands off it!

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Serving Suggestions:
- Serve at Christmas/New Year with traditional hangikjöt (smoked lamb), rjúpa (ptarmigan) or smoked pork.
- Don't bother to re-knead the cuttings - they dry out very quickly. Fry them and eat as a snack. Some people have started making snacks out of leaf bread - cut into strips and fried, they make an excellent change from potato chips/crisps and nachos.
- Try serving the bread with pancake syrup (I have not tried this, but I'm told it's good)

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If you are a subscriber to Icelandic cooking, recipes and food culture

I'm sorry for the inconvenience and all the reposts, but I am in the process of labelling the posts to make it easier to find recipes by main ingredient, cooking method and other criteria.


Fish stew (leftover fish in white sauce) - Plokkfiskur

I recently dined at an upscale restaurant in Reykjavík, Lækjarbrekka. Due to its location, in the very heart of the old town, it caters to many tourists and some of the menu items are quintessentially Icelandic. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that good old leftover food, plokkfiskur, on the menu. It's served au gratin with the classic accompaniment of rye bread and potatoes on the side.

There are jokes about plokkfiskur - it can be either a delicacy or a disaster. During the old days, when fish was served (in some homes) five days a week, this was the standard way of using up leftovers. If you didn't finish the fish at lunch, this was what you could expect to be served for dinner.

about 700 g cooked fish
about 500 g cooked potatoes
50 g margarine or butter
50 g flour
750 ml milk
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 to 1 medium sized onion, optional

Any kind of cooked fish can be used, but to make this authentic, use cod, salt cod, haddock, or halibut.
Remove all skin and bones from the fish and flake with a fork. Cut the potatoes into small pieces.

Now make white sauce: Melt the margarine/butter over medium heat. Stir the flour into it, until smooth and thick. Continue stirring and add a small amount of milk. When the mixture boils, add more milk. Repeat this process until all the milk is used up. When the sauce is ready, add the fish and potatoes and warm through.
Most cooks add some onion to get more flavour. Chop it finely and fry it until it is soft but not browned and cook along with the sauce.

Very good with buttered rye or pumpernickel bread on the side.


Elbow macaroni soup - Makkarónumjólk

This was a very popular soup in my home when I was little. Every time I taste elbow macaroni in sweet milk, it brings back childhood memories.

1 1/2 litre milk
60 g elbow macaroni
1/2 litre water
1 1/2 tbs sugar
1 12 tsp salt
cinnamon sugar

Cook the macaroni in the water as indicated on the packet. Add the milk, sugar and salt and heat to boiling. Skim and serve with cinnamon sugar.

The mother of one of my friends calls this "englaballagrautur" which translates as "angel dick soup" - I suppose because it's white, sweet and the elbow macaroni kind of look like little penises.


Chocolate-date cake with strawberries and cream

Frú Hnallþóra: So delicious!
Originally uploaded by Netla.

A friend of mine made this cake for her son's birthday party in August.

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate-date cake with strawberries

The most common way of serving this kind of cake is with bananas, but since the photo is of one with strawberries, I am putting strawberries into the recipe instead.

4 eggs
150 g sugar
50 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g dark (semi-sweet is best) chocolate
100 g dates

Whip together eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add sifted flour and baking powder by the spoonful until fully mixed. Chop chocolate and dated (raisin-sized pieces are good) and fold into batter.

Line two round baking tins (approx. 22 cm in diameter) with baking paper and put in the dough. Level dough with a spatula. Bake at 180°C on the middle rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until firm when poked gently with a finger.

Filling and decoration:
1 small or medium box fresh strawberries (depending on how much decorating you plan to do) OR 1 small can strawberries in syrup OR 2 bananas
250 ml cream

Whip the cream stiff. Mash a handful of strawberries or one banana and fold into the whipped cream. Put between the layers of the cake. Decorate the cake with the remaining strawberries or banana (sliced). It's good to dip banana slices into lemon juice to prevent them from going brown.

Some prefer to smother the cake in frosting:
3 egg yolks
4 tbs icing sugar
100 g dark chocolate

Whip together the egg yolks and icing sugar. Melt the chocolate over a water bath and mix well into egg/sugar mixture. Fold in 2-3 tbs of whipped cream.
Frost one half of the cake with about 1/3 of this icing before adding the cream. Then cover the cake with it and decorate with strawberries or banana slices.
My friend adds a bit of melted chocolate as well.


Report on skyr-making in England

It gladdens my heart to know that people have actually used my skyr recipe with edible results. I got this (through my LonelyPlanet account) from Ivan:

“This is just to report my skyr-making attempts in England.
I brought some skyr back from both my last trips to Iceland. The first time was subject to all sorts of over-heating disasters, and finally came to an end when I spilt it all over the hall carpet.
The most recent attempt (from skyr brought back in summer 2005) was much more successful. I was using the junket-rennet, which is not ideal, and does not really give the right texture, but I was definitely making something with the right kind of taste and which people wanted to eat. I kept it going for 6 months, and then suddenly it stopped working, so I must have done something to kill it.”

So you see: it can be done. The starter is always taken from the last batch of skyr and I think in Ivan's case it probably got weaker every time until it finally died. I have been told the skyr bacteria culture will survive freezing, but I have not tested it myself.

If you want to try it yourself, make sure you buy pure skyr with no added sugar or flavourings. If it goes sour on the way home, it can still be used – see the recipe for what to do with a sour starter.


Icelandic doughnut balls - Ástarpungar

The name ástarpungar means “love balls.”
These are a delicious workaday kind of fried pastries that are still made weekly in some households. My paternal grandmother always has some ready for guests.

I really like these little doughnuts, especially warm with a glass of cold milk. Make them and everyone will love you for it ;-)

4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
to taste: raisins

Mix the dry ingredients well in a bowl, add the rest and mix into a smooth batter. Batter should not be very thick. Unlike regular twisted doughnuts which are made with kneaded dough and need very high temperatures to fry properly, these doughnuts can be fried in a regular deep fryer. Use whatever frying fat you like best, heated to the highest temperature the deep fryer offers. Drop dollops of dough into the frying fat with two teaspoons and fish out when they have turned a dark brown colour. Drain on paper towels. Some people like to sprinkle icing sugar on them, but I prefer them plain. Can be eaten hot or cold and freeze well.


Icelandic egg soup - Eggjamjólk

I'm back after taking a break from blogging to finish my master's thesis.

Today's recipe is for a soup that I like very much.

The nights have turned cold and this soup might have been invented for cold nights, as it's wonderfully warming. Think of egg-nog, but without the alcohol.
The original recipe includes raisins or prunes, which I prefer to leave out.
Serves 5.

1 ¼ litre milk
2 tbs flour
1-2 eggs
1-2 tbs sugar or brown sugar
vanilla essence to taste

Break the egg(s) into a bowl or soup tureen and whip with the sugar until light and frothy. Mix together flour and 200 ml cold milk into a smooth paste. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil. When the milk boils, add the flour/milk mixture and bring it back to the boil. Cook on low for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour slowly into the egg/sugar mixture, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Add vanilla flavouring to taste. Sprinkle sugar on top to prevent a skin from forming. Serve immediately.

The original recipe:
Soak 2 tbs. raisins or 10 prunes in a little hot water for 5 minutes. When the milk is hot, but not boiling, add the raisins (pour off the water first). When the milk boils, add the flour/milk mixture and cook on low for 10 minutes. Finish the recipe as above. This is the original recipe, but since I don't like cooked raisins, I leave them out.

Floating islands:
To be used with either variation of the recipe. Use two eggs. Separate the yolks and whites. Mix the yolks with sugar as instructed in the recipe, and whip the whites until stiff. When the soup is ready, float spoonfuls of egg whites on top. If you have ovenproof soup dishes, put the soup into a hot oven with the broiler on and remove when the egg whites begin to brown.

To make a pudding:
Use twice as much flour. Serve warm with milk or cream and sugar.

Recipe translated from Helga Sigurðardóttir's recipe book, Matur & drykkur (Food & Drink), Mál og menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).

convert measures from metric to your preferred system (Opens in new window).


Colostrum pudding (broddur) – Ábrystir

This is a lovely pudding, rich and thick with the texture similar to crème caramel. It makes me think of spring, as it's the time when the cows calve and colostrum is readily available if one knows an obliging farmer. Colostrum is not sold in supermarkets, but you can sometimes find it at the Reykjavík flea market's food section.

Raw colostrum
1 litre cow's colostrum (milk from the first or second milking after calving)
Whole milk, as needed
1-2 tsp salt

Mixing the colostrum with milk is an art one has to learn, but the rule of thumb is that if it's from the first milking, then it should be thinned 1:1, but if it's from the second milking, then it should be thinned with two parts colostrum to one part milk. To make sure you're getting the mix right, do a test batch and cook it to see how it comes out.

Cooked colostrum
When you're sure of the mix, stir together the milk and colostrum, dissolve the salt in a little warm water and add to the mix. Pour into a saucepan or bowl, put a lid on it and cook gently in a water bath on the stovetop, or bake in an oven until the mixture is set. The pudding should be solid, soft and smooth – the texture is similar to crème caramel.

(As a matter of fact, in one recipe I have seen Ábrystir is served much like crème caramel: ramekins are coated with burnt sugar syrup, the colostrum and milk are mixed with sugar and a vanilla bean, poured into the ramekins and cooked in a water bath.)

With cinnamon sugar
Serve hot or cold with cinnamon sugar (mix cinnamon into white sugar) and milk or half-and-half. Cold Ábrystir is also good with caramel sauce:

250 g sugar
1/4 litre hot milk

Put the sugar in a saucepan and heat until a white froth starts to form. Add the milk and stir to make a smooth sauce. Serve with Ábrystir, rice pudding, ris a la mande or other white milk-based puddings.


How to cook a whale

I have received a request from someone who wants to know how to cook whale. The recipes are presented here for the curiosity value, as whale is only available in a few countries. I haven't tasted whale since I was in my teens, and I don't expect many of my readers will ever get the chance to try it. The recipes are therefore untested by me. Beef or a good, tender piece of horse-steak can be substituted for whale, in which case you can leave out the beating.

Recipe nr 1:
3/4 to 1 kilo whale meat (or beef/horse)
50 g butter, tallow or lard
2-3 onions
Salt and pepper
Laurel leaf (optional)
600-700 ml water
Sauce colouring (caramel)
50 g flour
200 ml milk

Clean the meat: some say it's enough to slice off about a centimetre off each side of the piece, others recommend soaking in milk overnight. This is only to ensure there will be no oily taste to the meat, but if it has been properly handled in the first place, it will not taste oily. Cut into steaks and beat with a meat mallet.
Slice the onions. Heat the cooking fat in a frying pan, brown the meat on all sides and put in a cooking pot, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown the onions in a frying pan and add half to the pot with the meat, along with the laurel leaf, if using. Set half the onions aside. Pour water into the frying pan and deglaze. Pour over the meat and cook for 15 to 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Arrange the steaks on a serving dish and arrange the browned onions that were set aside on top.
Make a paste with the milk and flour and use it to thicken the cooking liquid left in the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with cooked potatoes and vegetables arranged around the meat and sprinkle parsley or cress over the dish. Serve gravy on the side.

Recipe no 2:
3/4 kg whale meat, beef or horse
250 g onions
75 g margarine or butter
2 tbs tomato purée
200 ml water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika

Melt the margarine in a frying pan, slice the onion and brown it. Remove from pan and set aside. Cut the meat into slices, brown in the pan and put in a cooking pot or stew pan with the onions. Boil the water, stir in the tomato purée, salt and paprika and pour over the meat. Cook slowly for 14 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Serve with potatoes.

Recipe no 3:
3/4 kilo whale, beef or horse
50 g margarine
3-4 onions
2-3 tbs water
Salt, pepper, garlic powder

Cut the meat into very thin slices (1/2 cm thick or so). Brown quickly in a dry pan (no oil). Remove meat and melt the margarine and brown the sliced onions in it. Remove from the pan, add the water and cook the meat slices in the water for 2-3 minutes. Flavour with salt and spices. Serve with potatoes and a salad.

Sour pickled whale blubber – súr hvalrengi
Chunks of whale blubber are washed under cold running water and cooked until firm, then removed from the cooking liquid, cooled and kept in cold water for 1-2 days, cut into smaller pieces and dropped into strong whey. Ready for eating in 4-6 weeks.



When I went to sixth-form college (the school stage between elementary school and university) I lived in a dormitory and ate all my meals in the school cafeteria. Whenever the cook had amassed enough leftover meat, we would be served "biximatur", a medley of fried meat leftovers with potatoes and onions. This can be quite good, or it can be a disaster. Serves 5.

250 g cooked meat, mixed or not. Can be anything: beef, mutton, pork, horse, sausage, turkey, chicken or game.
500 gr. cooked potatoes
1 large onion
100 gr. margarine or butter, or substitute with cooking oil
1 tsp salt dash pepper

Cut the meat and potatoes into small cubes. Peel and slice the onions. Fry the onion slices in the margarine on a frying pan until they take on a golden colour. Add the meat and potatoes and fry until heated through and starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with fried egg and ketchup (optional), and a fresh salad.

Recipe taken from Helga Sigurðardóttir's "Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).


Baked fish loaf - Fiskrönd

This recipe uses the same basic fish dough that is given in the recipe for fish balls.

Press 400 gr. fish dough into a loaf pan (fill the pan no more that 3/4). Cover with aluminium foil to avoid burning. Pour boiling water into a roasting pan (or use a Bain Marie) and add the loaf pan with the fish dough. Cook in this waterbath in a 180°C oven for 40-50 minutes, making sure that the roasting pan is always at least half full. When ready, remove from the loaf pan. Serve upside down, decorated with sliced lemon, cooked shrimp, tomatoes and salad leaves.

Serve with white sauce, melted butter, caper sauce, shrimp sauce, asparagus sauce, or sauce Hollandaise.


Baking-powder bread - Hveitibrauð með lyftidufti

My mother sometimes makes this delicious bread. We usually eat it while it's still hot out of the oven, with butter and cheese.

500 g flour OR 400 g flour and 100 g whole-wheat flour
6 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp sugar
300-350 ml milk, OR a mixture of water and milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
milk or egg for brushing

Sift together the dry ingredients, and add most of the milk. Knead until smooth, adding milk as needed. Form into a loaf. Make shallow cuts into the top of the loaf. Brush the loaf with milk or beaten egg. Bake immediately. Bread should be baked on the lowest rung in the oven, at 175°-200°C, for about an hour. It will be crusty and tastes best while warm. It's very good with butter and cheese, but I prefer to eat it with just butter.


Puffin in milk sauce - Mjólkursoðinn lundi

I don't care much for puffin and other sea-birds as food, but many people love them and eat them whenever they can. This recipe resembles the recipe for rock ptarmigan, in that the birds are cooked in milk.

4 puffins
50 g smoked bacon
50 g butter
300 ml milk
300 ml water to taste salt

Puffins should be skinned or carefully plucked and singed. Remove the innards and discard. You can use the breasts alone, or cook the whole birds. Wash well in cold water and rub with salt, inside and out. If you are using whole birds, truss them. Lard the breasts with bacon fat. Brown the birds on all sides, and stuff them tightly into a cooking pot. Heat the milk and water and pour over the puffins. Bring to the boil and cook on low for 1-2 hours (test the birds for softness). Turn the birds occasionally. Remove from the cooking liquid and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

The sauce:
30 g butter
4 tblsp flour
400-500 ml cooking liquid
to taste salt and pepper
as needed caramel/sauce colouring
to taste redcurrant jelly (optional)
to taste whipped cream

Melt the butter and stir the flour into it like you were making white sauce. Strain the cooking liquid and gradually add to the butter/flour mixture. Add colouring and spices to taste, and redcurrant jelly/cream, if using.
Serve with boiled and/or caramelized potatoes and lightly boiled vegetables, like carrots, peas and brussels sprouts.

Recipe taken from Helga Sigurðardóttir's "Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).


Oven-pan cake - Skúffukaka

An old family favourite, and the first cake I learned to make - in fact I know the recipe by heart. This is a very versatile recipe. The recipe can also be used to make an apple-cake, spice cake, or a batch of muffins.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbs dark cocoa, or more, to taste
150 g margarine, melted
2 eggs
1-1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix the dry ingredients well together in a bowl. Add the eggs and milk and then the melted margarine and mix well. Although this batter is supposed to be just mixed, I prefer to whip it slightly - it makes the cake wonderfully light and fluffy.
Pour into a greased oven-pan (a deep, square one), and bake at 175° C for about 30 minutes in the middle of the oven. The cake is done when it feels firm when you press gently on it with your hand. Allow to cool and spread with cocoa icing.

-Leave out the cocoa, and make a white cake. Spread with cocoa icing when cool.
-Cinnamon cake: Make a white batter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (see instructions below) before baking. For an even more spicy cake, experiment with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and/or powdered cloves.
-Apple-cake: put slices of apple, about 1/2 cm thick, on top of white dough in the pan, before sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar.
-Mix in grated chocolate or chocolate chips instead of the cocoa and pour into muffin pans.
-For a slightly tropical taste, put grated coconut on top of the still wet cocoa icing.

Cinnamon sugar: Mix together about 1/4 cup of sugar and about 2 tsp of cinnamon.


Icelandic Rhubarb compote - Rabarbaragrautur

It's rhubarb season, so here is a recipe to try.

Rhubarb grows in abundance in almost every vegetable garden in Iceland, right alongside the potatoes. In the summer, it is mostly used for soup and grautur (compote). It is preserved mostly as jam, but it also freezes well, and tastes excellent when preserved in syrup. There are many homes where rhubarb soup/grautur is eaten throughout the winter. It is also good for desserts (especially pies and compotes) and chutneys, and it makes excellent wine.

My mother used to make rhubarb compote about once or twice a month through the summer when I was little, but after my brother decided that he didn't like it, she hardly ever makes it anymore.

3/4 litres water
3-3 1/2 tbs potato starch/cornflour
250 g rhubarb
100 ml water, cold
200 ml sugar

Wash the rhubarb and chop into small pieces. Drop into cold water and bring to the boil. Cook until the rhubarb pieces separate. Add the sugar and thicken with the potato starch. Don't close the pot, it makes the rhubarb loose its colour. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and serve hot or cold, with cream or half and half.

-To make rhubarb soup: follow the above recipe, but only use about a quarter of the starch. Serve hot.
-Replace part of the rhubarb with strawberries for a delicious alternative.
-If the soup/porridge looks unappetizingly green, add some red food coloring. This will not be necessary if you are using the red rhubarb variety.

P.S. Rhubarb will discolour aluminium cooking pots.


Lisa's spiced chocolate cake - Lísu Brúnterta

This is one of the cakes my mother always makes for holidays like Christmas and Easter, and for birthdays and other special occasions.

500 g flour
350 g sugar
250 g margarine or butter
2 eggs
3 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbs dark cocoa
as needed milk

Cream together the sugar and softened margarine or butter. Mix in the eggs. Sift the flour with the spices, baking soda and cocoa. Add to the margarine mix, one tablespoonful at a time. Alternate with splashes of milk, and mix well in between (batter should be medium thick). Pour into cake tins and bake at 190°C until firm. Cool.
My mother makes these cakes about as thick as her thumb, and uses three layers of cake and two layers of vanilla butter icing. Tastes great with whipped cream.

Freezes well.

Devils' Cake - Djöflaterta

Devil's Cake with cocoa icing.
This devilishly good chocolate cake is very popular all over Iceland, and you can buy a slice in most cafes and bakeries, although they are usually covered with buttercream icing and sprinkled with dessicated coconut.

I like it best when it has been frozen and thawed before glazing, because the cake will then be nicely moist.

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs or 1 egg and egg 2 yolks (if you're making Angel's créme icing)
1/2 cup dark cocoa * (or more, if you prefer your cake really dark and chocolatey. Proper Devil's cake should be almost black in colour)
100 g margarine/butter (soft)
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add milk and mix well. Add eggs, soft margarine/butter and vanilla essence and mix well. Pour into two cake pans and bake at 175° Celsius until firm (usually 25-30 minutes). Remove gently from pans and cool.

When cold, spread one half with rhubarb jam (leave it out if you don't have any), and spread cocoa icing over the jam. Put the other half on top and cover with icing. OR use

Englakrem - Angel's Créme Icing:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites

Boil water and sugar together until a clear syrup forms. Cool slightly. Be careful not to burn. Whip the egg whites until they are stiff and form peaks. Continue whipping and pour the warm syrup very slowly into the egg whites. Continue whipping until mixture is cold. This créme should be quite stiff. Spread on the cake and decorate with chocolate shavings.

With chocolate buttercream icing.
  • Put chocolate chips in the batter for an extra chocolatey taste.
  • Cover with cocoa-butter icing. Put mashed bananas between the layers.
  • Put white butter icing between the layers and serve.


Butter icing for cakes and cookies - Smjörkrem

Since I am about to start posting some cakes and cookies that require butter icing, here is the recipe for this excellent substance.

125 g sweet butter or margarine
125-200 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
to taste: flavouring (see notes)
1 tbs cream (optional)
few drops food colouring (optional)
a pinch of salt (leave out if you're using salted butter)

Soften the butter at room temperature, or put in the microwave for a few seconds. Whip together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Adjust amount of sugar according to how sweet you want the icing. Add the egg yolk and flavouring, and cream, if using (will make the icing smoother). Frost the cake and enjoy.

Vanilla essence is the usual flavouring for white icing, but many other flavours are excellent. Rum, sherry, amaretto/almond and hazelnut are good flavours for many kinds of cake. Fruit, berry and flower flavours, such as orange, lemon, strawberry, cherry, peppermint or rosewater, are good with vanilla-flavoured cakes.

Other variations:
-add some cocoa powder or melted chocolate to make chocolate-flavoured icing
-flavour with fresh, strong coffee. This combines well with chocolate.

Wedded Bliss - Hjónabandssæla

I don’t know where the name for this yummy cake originates, but I think it’s a good one. I learned to make it in home economics class when I was in elementary school.

200 ml Oatmeal
100 ml Whole wheat flour
100 ml Flour
100 ml Brown sugar, well packed
1/4 tsp Baking soda (optional)
100 g Butter/margarine, semi-soft
1 Egg
As needed: Rhubarb jam or stewed prunes (go to he bottom of the page)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the butter/margarine and mix well with your hands. Add the egg and mix well. Press the dough into a round baking tin, saving some (a small handful or so) for the topping. Spread with the jam and crumble the rest of the dough over the cake. You can also use the leftover dough to make a pie lattice for the cake (reserve more dough for that)). Bake at 200°C for approx 20 min. or until the cake takes on a dark, golden color. Delicious hot or cold.


Icelandic Christmas cake with variations (tea buns, marble cake, lemon cake) - Jólakaka (tebollur, marmarakaka, sítrónukaka)

Probably not Icelandic in origin, but we have certainly made it our own. Although we call it Christmas Cake, we actually enjoy it all through the year. My mother usually bakes up a big batch of these cakes in one go. They freeze well, and are always popular with guests.

This versatile recipe is also good for making tea buns, and, with minor changes, Marble Cake, Lemon Cake, Sand Cake, Fruitcake and Spice Cake. Christmas cake is traditionally made with raisins, but as neither I or my mother like raisins in cakes, we usually substitute them with chocolate chips.

150 g margarine, soft
150 g sugar
1 egg
250 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
150 ml milk
100 ml raisins or chocolate chips or 50/50 of both (optional)
1/2 tsp lemon, cardamom or vanilla essence

Margarine, milk and eggs should all be at room temperature.
Beat together sugar and margarine until it takes on a pale, almost white, colour. Add the egg and continue beating until light and fluffy looking. Add flavouring essence and mix well. Sift together flour and baking powder and add, small portions at a time, alternating with small doses of milk. Mix well in-between. Stir as little as possible after all the flour has been added, as over-stirring will make the cake dry and tough. Fold in the raisins/choc-chips (if using), by hand. Dust them lightly with flour before mixing - it will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bowl.

To make Christmas cake:
Pour into a loaf pan, filling it 2/3 to the top. Bake at 175-200 C, on the lowest rack in the oven. Use more heat under the cake than on top. Baking time is approx. 45-60 minutes. The cake is ready when it shrinks from the edges of the pan, but test with a pin just in case. It should be well and evenly browned on all sides, with a peak down the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. Cool on a rack - if you can resist eating it while it is still warm!

To make Marble cake:
Use vanilla essence for flavouring. When the dough is fully mixed, divide in half and add melted chocolate (65 g) or sifted dark cocoa (2 tbs + 1 tbs sugar) to one half. The marbling is done by layering the dark and white dough. The amount of marbling depends on how many layers you use. Pour the dough in the baking tin in layers, beginning and ending with white dough. Drag a knife or spoon down the middle of the dough to marbleize. Bake as instructed.

To make Tea buns:
Drop by the teaspoonful on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven until golden in colour.

To make Lemon Cake:
Use lemon juice (1 1/2 - 2 tsp) or lemon essence (1 tsp) and grated lemon peel (from 1/2 a lemon) to flavor the cake. Spread with lemon flavored icing if desired.

This lovely recipe and it's variations comes from the book Nýja Matreiðslubókin by Halldóra Eggertsdóttir and Sólveig Benediktsdóttir.

Icelandic blueberry/bilberry soup - Bláberjasúpa

It's almost blueberry season in Iceland, so here is a recipe to try.

What we call bláber (blueberries) in Iceland are actually the related bilberries. Either bilberries or blueberries can be used in this recipe.

Bilberries in the wild:

250 g blueberries or bilberries, fresh or frozen
1 + 3/4 litre water
approx. 150 g sugar
30 g potato starch or cornflour
100 m cold water

Drop the berries into boiling water and cook on low until they burst, 3-5 minutes. Mix together potato starch/cornflour and cold water into a smooth paste. Add sugar to the soup and stir until melted. Thicken with potato starch/cornflour mix. Serve and enjoy.

-Use more thickening mixture to make a blueberry pudding. Pour into a bowl before it stiffens and sprinkle sugar on top. Serve warm or cold with milk or cream (or half and half).


Coconut Drops & coconut cake - Kókostoppar og kókoskaka

Coconut drops
These little drop cookies are more like sweets that cookies, especially if you dip them in melted chocolate. This recipe makes about 20-25 cookies.

2 eggs
150 g sugar
225 g desiccated coconut

Whip together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the desiccated coconut. Drop by the teaspoonful on a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 200°C until light golden brown (approx 10-12 minutes). Serve as is, or dip the bottom half of cooled cookies in melted chocolate.

Coconut cake
This cake is delicious by itself (especially when made with chocolate chips), or you can layer it with jam/jelly and decorate with whipped cream.

200 g margarine or butter
200 g sugar
2 eggs
200 g flour
180 g dessicated coconut
1 tsp baking powder
chocolate chips to taste (optional)

Beat together softened margarine and sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one and mix well. Mix together flour, coconut and baking powder, and chocolate chips (if using). Add to sugar-egg-margarine mixture. Dough will be very thick. Spread into 3 round cake tins and bake at 180°C, until done (coconut will take on a light golden colour).
Layer with fruit jam or preserved fruit and cream.


Chocolate "Snake cake" - Súkkulaði-slöngukaka

A chocolate version of the delicious snake cake. Plain version

3 eggs
125 g sugar
50 g potato starch or cornflour
2 tbs dark cocoa
1 tsp baking powder

Cream together the eggs and sugar. Add the dry ingredients (sift them first) and mix carefully. Bake like the other snake cake. When done, turn over onto a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with sugar. Roll up with the paper to store. When you want to serve the cake, gently unroll and smear one side with fruit jam, and top with whipped cream (about 150 ml is suitable). Slice and serve.

-Instead of cream and jam, use vanilla buttercream or cream with mashed fruit. Banana is especially good.
-Smooth half-frozen ice-cream custard on the cake, roll up and freeze before serving.

Recipe taken from Helga Sigurðardóttir's "Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).

Bibliophile's Pepperoni sauce for chicken, fish and pasta

This is a flavourful sauce that I use for chicken, fish and pasta. This makes a meal for two.

1/2 onion, chopped
50-100 g mushrooms (less for chicken and fish, more for pasta), sliced
10-15 slices of pepperoni, quartered (from the smaller kind of pepperoni sausage. If you have the big slices where one is enough to top a slice of bread, halve the amount and cut into more pieces), OR equal amount of bacon (will be less flavourful)
1 tbs tomato purée
150 ml cream
garlic to taste
salt, if needed

200 g chicken (breasts or thigh meat) or white fish, cubed
1 cup of rice (or more if you simply love rice or need to make the meal bigger)
salt, pepper and your favourite chicken or fish spice blend
Additional for fish:
½ cup flour
cheese, grated or sliced


enough pasta (farfalle or rotini) for two people

Heat oven to 180°C (170°C if you have a convection oven like I do). While the oven is heating up, cut the chicken or fish into bite-sized cubes and prepare the onions, mushrooms and pepperoni. If using fish, mix salt, pepper and spice blend with flour and roll the fish pieces in the flour. Brown chicken or fish pieces on all sides in a hot frying pan. Put into a deep oven-proof dish.
Put the mushrooms, onions and pepperoni in the pan and fry over medium-hight heat until the onions and mushrooms are soft. Add the tomato purée, garlic and cream and mix well. Taste the sauce to see if it needs salt. Pour the sauce into the oven-proof dish and if you're using fish, top with cheese. Put in the oven and cook fish for about 15 minutes, chicken 25-30 minutes. Cook the rice in salted water according to packet instructions while the pepperoni dish is in the oven.

Serve with rice and a fresh salad.

For pasta:
Start the pasta cooking and while it cooks, prepare the sauce according to instructions, letting it boil down a bit in the pan to thicken before serving over hot pasta.


Fried rock ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) - Steiktar Rjúpur

This is THE Christmas dish in many Icelandic homes, although not in mine. I must admit that I have never tasted ptarmigan, but this is such a typical Icelandic Christmas dish that I had to include it here. Some of my friends claim that there wouldn't be any Christmas in their homes without it. For some, it has to be birds shot by their father, brother or uncle, but these days more and more people don't feel like going through the whole process of shooting, hanging, plucking and cleaning the birds. They people simply go to the next supermarket and buy the birds ready to cook.

3 rock ptarmigans, plucked, cleaned and ready for cooking
75 g fatty bacon
90 g butter/margarine
450 ml boiling water
450 ml boiling milk
2 tsp salt
300 ml cream
2 tbs flour
caramel colouring for the sauce - optional

Cut slits into the bird's chests and lard with strips of bacon fat (this is to ensure that the flesh will not be too dry). Truss the birds. Melt the butter in a cooking pot and brown the birds on all sides in the fat. Miw water and milk, heat to boiling and pour over the birds. Add the salt and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove the birds and strain the cooking liquid. Thicken with a mixture of cold water and flour. Add the cream and adjust the flavouring to taste. Divide up the birds and serve with mixed vegetables, pickled red cabbage, redcurrant jam and caramelized potatoes.

Optional: add a little redcurrant jam to the sauce for extra flavour.

News: Icelandic foods in the USA

29 shops in the Whole Foods Market chain in the Mid-Atlantic states are now offering Icelandic skyr (vanilla and blueberry flavors, with strawberry and unflavoured coming soon), cheeses and lamb. Icelandic chocolate (Síríus Konsúm) will be available soon, and fresh Icelandic fish will be available in the fall.

The Icelandic exporter expects to start selling the same products in Whole Foods Markets in the North-east USA, including Boston and New York, in September.

Source: Morgunblaðið


Bibliophile's summer refersher

Here's a refreshing summer drink that has a taste reminiscent of a popular Icelandic soft drink, Mix, only not quite as sweet.

1 part pure pineapple juice
1 part Sprite Zero (or regular Sprite or 7up if you prefer it sweeter)
decorations (optional): pineapple ring, paper umbrella, straw

Pour the pineapple juice into a highball glass, add the Sprite and top up with ice. Decorate and add a straw.

For a sunset effect, pour a little bit of Grenadine down the side of the glass after you pour the Sprite and allow it to settle on the bottom before you add the ice.


Crumbed fish - Steiktur fiskur í raspi

This is an old family favourite. Some variation of this dish can be had in many roadside diners thay serve more than the traditional hamburgers, sandwiches and hot dogs.

2 kg fish (cod, haddock, sole, flounder or any other white fish) – skin and bones removed
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg or egg white
a splash milk (optional)
250 g margarine/butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fish spice mix (use your favourite mix or substitute with Season-All)
a dash of pepper
1/2 medium onion, sliced

Break the egg and beat to break the yolk, add a splash of milk (if using) and mix well. Mix salt and spice with breadcrumbs. Cut the fish into pieces, across the fillet. Width of pieces can range from 2 1/2 to 5 cm (1-2 inches), depending on appetite. (Just make the pieces uniform in size.)

Set up your workplace:
First, a plate with the fish pieces, then a bowl with beaten egg, then a bowl with breadcrumbs, then the heated frying pan on the stove.

Melt half the margarine/butter (or use equivalent in cooking oil) in a medium hot frying pan. When the margarine stops frothing, add the onion slices to the pan and fry until they are golden. Remove from the pan and add the rest of the margarine/butter.

Now you can start frying the fish: Coat a piece of fish in egg, roll to cover in breadcrumbs, and put on the pan to fry. Continue until all the fish is on the pan. Turn when the underside of the pieces begins to brown, and fry on other side until golden brown.
Arrange the fish pieces on a serving plate, quickly heat the onions through on the pan, and pour onions and the remainder of the frying fat over the fish. If you want the fish to be less greasy, you can serve the onions and fat on the side.
The fish can also be baked if you want to avoid frying it. Should take about 30 minutes in a medium hot oven.

Serve with lemon wedges, a fresh salad and cooked potatoes.

This salad is also good with crumbed fish:

2 med. tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
1 tbs Mayonnaise

Cut tomatoes and cucumbers into 1/2 cm thick slices, then cut slices into narrow strips. Put in a bowl with the mayonnaise and stir to coat the vegetables. Also good with grilled lamb and pork.


Snake cake (rolled cake) - Slöngukaka

It's called a snake cake because the slices look like stylised coiled-up snakes.

4 eggs
150-200 g sugar
50 g flour
50 g potato starch or cornstarch

Cream the eggs and sugar together. Add the flour and potato/corn starch, little by little. Prepare a temporary baking container by putting baking paper on a baking sheet and folding in the corners to make a shallow "box". Pour in the dough and smooth with a spatula. Bake at 250°C for about 10 minutes. Set the oven to heat from below. Test for doneness by gently pressing the top of the cake with your finger - if the cake feels firm and the fingerprint quickly disappears, the cake is done. When done, turn the cake over onto a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with sugar. Put baking paper and a roasting pan or cutting board on top of the cake while it cools, to keep it smooth and prevent it from hardening.

Possible fillings:

Chocolate butter cream:
50-73 g margarine or butter, soft
50 g brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbs dark cocoa
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla essence

Cream together margarine/butter and brown sugar. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Add the flavouring and sifted cocoa.

White butter cream and banana filling:
50-73 g margarine or butter, soft
50 g sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla essence
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Cream together margarine/butter and brown sugar. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Add the flavouring and sifted cocoa.

When the cake is cold, smooth the butter cream over one side of it and firmly but carefully roll up the cake. If you are using bananas, smooth the mash over the icing before rolling. Slice and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Instead of banana, you can use jam or jelly. Strawberry or raspberry jam tastes especially good with this kind of cake. I can imagine Nutella would also taste quite good (without any butter cream).

Basic recipe taken from Helga Sigurðardóttir's Matur & Drykkur, Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).


Vanilla ice-cream - Vanillurjómaís

Because it’s warm(-ish) and sunny outside, here is a lovely and fattening recipe for home-made ice-cream. My mother makes this for special occasions, like Christmas and easter. It is very rich and creamy, and absolutely delicious!

1/2 litre heavy cream or whipping cream
5 egg yolks (use the whites to make meringue drops
75 g sugar
vanilla essence to taste

Mix egg yolks, sugar and vanilla essence* and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Whip the cream until it is quite stiff and fold into yolk/sugar mixture. Pour into a mould and freeze, or use an ice-cream maker. Use the egg whites to make meringue tops to serve with the ice-cream.

*Note on vanilla use: A little goes a long way. The vanilla taste is stronger once the custard has been frozen. You can also use vanilla sugar or a vanilla bean (soak it in the milk).

Variations: Experiment with different flavourings and extras: chocolate chips, small pieces of preserved fruit, liqueurs, flavour essences.

Goes well with Crème de Menthe and Mint Chocolate liqueurs, chocolate sauce, Mars sauce (melt a large Mars bar in cream and mix well), hot fudge, hot caramel sauce, meringue drops, preserved fruit in syrup or fresh fruit, especially strawberries.


Traditional Icelandic fish balls - Fiskibollur

Fish balls are one of the many ways in which Icelanders like to cook fish, and the recipes are numerous. When I was little I loved to eat fish-balls in pink sauce (see recipe below), mostly because of the colour of the sauce.

1 large fillet white fish (cod, haddock and saithe are traditional), skinned and boneless
1 medium onion
2/3 cup flour
1/5 cup potato starch (use cornstarch if potato starch is not available)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
milk, as needed

Finely chop or grind the fish fillet and onion. Mix together in a bowl (or just throw both ingredients into a food processor and let it do the work). Add the dry ingredients, mixing well. Add the eggs and then the milk. The fish-dough should be just thick enough to stick together when you form it into balls. Form small balls with two tablespoons or use your hands. Fry in oil or butter over medium heat, until browned and cooked through. Serve with fresh salad and potatoes. Ketchup also goes well with fish-balls.

-If you must have some sauce on your fish-balls, serve with melted butter, brown gravy or cocktail sauce , or make pink sauce.

These are two ways to make pink sauce:
-1. Make basic white sauce and add ketchup until it turns pink.
-2. When the fish balls are just about done, add 250 ml. water to the pan. Take 1 1/2 tbs. flour and 100 ml. water or milk and mix into a smooth paste. When the water in the frying pan boils, add the flour paste and stir well. Add 1 tsp fish stock powder and 2 tbs. ketchup or tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes.


News: Skyr goes to Europe and the USA

It seems the world is finally to taste this unique Icelandic dairy product outside Iceland.

Skyr and some other Icelandic products will soon be available from the chain store Whole Foods Market in the United States.

A Danish dairy factory has started making skyr for local distribution, and skyr will soon be available in several other European countries.

If you see skyr on sale anywhere outside Iceland, please let me know.

Edit: See Rebecca's Comment for a heads up on the Whole Foods Market situation.

Ávaxtagrautur - Icelandic style compote of dried fruit

This is one of my father's favourite dishes. He likes it best with heaps of sugar and cream.
It can be served hot or cold, as a meal in itself or as a dessert.

150 g. mixed dried fruit – the usual Icelandic combination is prunes, apples, apricots, pears and peaches. Or you can use one type of dried fruit.
100 g. sugar
900 ml. water
30 g. potato flour (or cornstarch) mixed with 100 ml. cold water

Cook the fruit in the water until soft. Press through a sieve or process in a blender if you desire a finer texture. Add sugar and thicken with potato flour mix. Serve hot or cold, with cream or half & half.


Icelandic hot dogs

I recently got this request (through my book blog):

“I read the recipes from Iceland. I was wondering if you have recipes for the hot dog toppings for a hot dog with the works? We visited there last June and loved them, but couldn't figure out how to make them ourselves!?”

A hot dog with the works includes ketchup, remoulade, French fried onions and mustard, sometimes also raw onions.

Here is part of an essay I wrote about hot dogs:

The basics of an Icelandic hot dog:

Icelandic hot dog sausages are made from a mixture of pork, lamb and beef. The fat content is quite high, as you can see if you grill or fry one. They are flavourful and I like them better than any other hot dog sausages. Having run an Icelandic food website in English for several years, I can attest that they are the subject I get the biggest number of e-mails about from abroad, all of them positive, and most of them asking where they can order some.

The bun is a regular hot dog bun: sweet, soft, light and white.

The condiments are varied, but the most popular ones, the ones you get if you order eina með öllu (“one with the works”, or in Icelandic-English: “one with everything”) are:

Remoulade. This is an originally French sauce meant to be used with fish (we also love it with roast beef). The basic recipe is mayonnaise mixed with capers, mustard, herbs, anchovies, and gherkins, but I think the Icelandic version leaves out the anchovies. At any rate, no one makes it at home because of all the work involved.

Ketchup. We used to use sweet, locally made ketchup that contained, among other things, apple sauce, but these days it’s usually the imported, tart type.

Mustard. If it’s “one with everything”, it will be Icelandic Pylsusinnep (“hot dog mustard”), brown and not too bitter, or sweet yellow hot dog mustard. In addition, you may find Dijon and hot mustard, but not on an “ein með öllu”.

French fried onions. These are crisp and flavourful and add a good crunch to the hot dog (plus onion burps afterwards).

This is the classic “ein með öllu”. Purists claim that for it to be a true “ein með öllu”, you also need raw, chopped onions, but this is only for the brave and not recommended if you have a bad stomach or intend to kiss someone.

At any rate, these are the condiments you will find everywhere they sell pylsur.

And now for the extras:

Kokkteilsósa, or cocktail sauce. An Icelandic invention and distant relative of seafood cocktail sauce. The home-made version is made from mayonnaise and ketchup. More elaborate versions add sour cream, a bit of mustard and a touch of garlic. Great with French fries (indeed, some Icelanders will not eat fries without kokkteilsósa), fried fish and roast chicken. Some also like it with hot dogs.
Here’s a recipe

Salsa, chilli sauce, both hot and sweet, garlic sauce, hot dog relish and green (cucumber) relish. Relative newcomers on the hot dog scene, and quite popular with the crowd who will try anything.

Pickled red cabbage. Especially popular in Akureyri (capital of the north), where the idea is thought to originate. As does the hotly debated (among purists) addition of French fries. I’m not referring to a hot dog with fries on the side, but a hot dog with fries stuffed in the bun. Called Akureyringur (person/thing from Akureyri) among the rest of the nation (as are hamburgers with fries in the bun). “

Now for the “recipes”:

For the ketchup you can use regular supermarket ketchup (Hunt’s, Libby’s, Heinz, whatever). The hot dog ketchup some Icelandic hot dog sellers use is slightly sweeter than those brands, but many just use Hunt’s or Libby’s.

The mustard is a bit more complicated, but sweet French mustard will do, or use Dijon if you want it hotter.

The French fried onions should be available in a good supermarket, which leaves the remoulade. The problem is that there are hundreds of recipes, and I have never made even one of them, so I don’t know which one most resembles the Icelandic type. You can try the following, but I can not promise it will taste the same.

Remoulade Sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. drained, finely chopped cucumber pickle
1 tbsp. drained, chopped capers
2 tsp. French mustard
1 tsp. finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp. chervil
1/2 tsp. anchovy paste

Combine the ingredients, mixing well and refrigerate. Serve with cold meat, poultry, fish or hot dogs.

Of course, this leaves the sausages, which are rather special. I'm afraid it just won't taste the same without Icelandic hot dog sausages...


Strawberry meringue cake - New

4 egg whites
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips

This will make enough for two layers. The cake tins should be about 23 cm/9 inches across.

Eggs should be at room temperature. Whip the egg whites (you can use the yolks to make ice cream) until they are stiff and form peaks. Add the sugar in small doses, whipping well in-between. Whip until the dough is stiff and then fold in the chocolate chips.

Line the cake tins with baking paper and lightly grease the paper. Divide the dough between the tins and level the top.

Bake at 100 C/212 F, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When the baking time is over, let the cakes cool with the oven.

Strawberry cream:
1 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)
1 can strawberries in syrup or equivalent in fresh strawberries.

Whip the cream until it is stiff and forms peaks. Drain the strawberries and pat dry. Mash the strawberries with a spoon, and fold into the whipped cream. Put the strawberry cream between the meringue layers and cool for 4-6 hours before serving (the meringue has to soften a bit – it’s even better if it can stand overnight).

Bananas make an equally good filling.

Some cooks will pour some of the syrup from the strawberries into the merengue before adding the cream. This will give a richer strawberry taste and make the cake soften up faster.


Gravlax recipe - Grafinn lax

The Norwegians and/or Swedes invented Gravlax, and it is a national dish in both countries. This pickled salmon is an excellent entrée and has in recent years become a necessary part of any cold buffet in Iceland. It is almost always served in the same way: thin slices on toast with mustard-dill sauce.

I'm including two gravlax recipes here, one with MSG and another one without it. I'm also including two recipes for mustard-dill sauce, one simple, the other fancy. The pickle mix can also be used with trout.

Recipe 1:
The following pickle is enough for two medium salmon fillets (from a 3-4 kg. fish).
4 tbs fine salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp MSG
3 tbs dill (fresh)

Mix all ingredients together. Apply an even layer of the mix to the fish. Wrap each fillet in plastic wrap and then in kitchen foil, skin down. Leave in the refrigerator for 4 days. Remove the gravlax from the packaging and gently scrape off the spice mix. Cut the fish into very thin diagonal slices, across the fillet, and serve on toast with mustard-dill sauce.
You can use the spices from the fish to make the sauce, but I would only do so if it will be eaten right away. If you need to store the sauce for more than a few hours, use fresh dill.

Recipe 2
This spice mix is good for two 400 g. fillets of salmon.
6 tbs coarse salt
4 tbs sugar
24 black peppercorns, ground
enough fresh dill to cover the fish

Mix up a batch of the pickle mix without the dill, and divide into two portions. Cover the bottom of a serving dish or other container with dill. Lay a salmon fillet on top, skin down, and cover with one batch of the pickle mix. Put the other half on the other fillet. Cover the first fillet with dill and lay the other fillet on top, skin up, head end to tail end. Cover and weigh down, for example with a heavy cutting board. Keep in the refrigerator for about 48 hours, turning every 12 hours or so. When ready, gently scrape off the pickle mix and pat dry. Will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, or a couple of months in the freezer. Serve as above.

Mustard-dill sauce for Gravlax
This sauce is also good with marinated herring.

Simple gravlax sauce:
250 g mayonnaise
1 tbs mustard
1 tbs honey
1 tsp dill
salt and ground pepper to taste

Mix together mayonnaise, mustard and honey. Add dill, salt and pepper, or pickle mix from the gravlax. If using dried dill, allow the sauce to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Deluxe gravlax sauce:
2 tbs sweet mustard
1 tbs Hot mustard, Dijon is good
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs vinegar
1 egg yolk (optional - makes the sauce smoother)
salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
fresh dill, chopped, to taste (use plenty)

Mix together mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and egg yolk (if using). Add the oil slowly, while beating constantly. Continue until the sauce is creamy and smooth. Add the dill.
If you don't like dill, leave it out of the sauce, and scrape it off the fish before eating.

Serving suggestions for Gravlax:
  • Traditional: top some toast OR rye/pumpernickel bread with thin slices of gravlax and pour or spread the sauce on top.
  • New York-style: spread cream cheese on a fresh bagel and top with gravlax. This is how New Yorkers serve lox (salted salmon), but it’s just as good with gravlax or smoked salmon.
  • At a website I visited (sorry, can't remember which), it was suggested that gravlax be eaten on thin slices of black pumpernickel bread, with lemon and pickled cucumber salad on the side, in addition to the sauce.
  • Another site suggested serving it arranged on a slice of toast and topped with spears of asparagus.


Fish soup

I sometimes make this delicious fish soup. It's especially warming on a cold winter's evening.

Serves 4.
4-5 potatoes , diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbs olive oil
1 litre water
1 tbs fish bouillon
1 sprig thyme or basil (optional)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
8-10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced into finger-wide slices
2 carrots, julienned
1 tsp lemon juice
400-500 g white fish or 250 g white fish and 250 g shrimp, lobster/crab and/or scallops
optional: broccoli, cauliflower, celery, chives, parsley

Fry the potatoes and onion lightly in the oil (use a deep saucepan or soup pot). Add the water, fish bouillon, thyme, garlic and sun-dried tomato slices*, and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the julienned carrots to the soup. If you are using broccoli or cauliflower, slice broccoli stalks and cut cauliflower into small florets and add with the carrots. Cook for approx. 5 minutes. If using, julienne the celery and cut broccoli heads into florets and add. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Cut the fish fillet(s) into strips (cut fillets across). Add fish and lobster/crab/shrimps (if using) and cook until done - approx 5-7 minutes, depending on size and thickness. (If you are using scallops, let them cook for a maximum of 2 minutes only, as they will become as tough as chewing gum if overcooked.) Add lemon juice. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with finely cut chives or small sprigs of parsley.
Serve with crusty bread and perhaps a fresh salad.

*If the tomatoes are dry, prepare as indicated on packaging - if they are in oil, drain before adding to the soup.


Skyr, recipe and instructions

The Viking settlers are believed to have brought the knowledge of how to make skyr with them from Norway, and may have developed it further after settlement. Since that time, the knowledge of skyr-making has been lost in Scandinavia.

Skyr looks like thick yoghurt, and the taste is reminiscent of it. But skyr is actually a type of fresh cheese. Because it is made with skim milk, the fat content is very low, allowing it to be eaten with cream and sugar without too much guilt. It is also an excellent source of calcium. Making it takes time, but it's well worth the effort.

Skyr is not widely available outside Iceland (it is sold in limited amounts in some speciality shops in the USA), which can make it hard to produce in other countries. The reason for this is that in order to make skyr, you need skyr. There is a special bacteria culture that gives skyr its taste and texture, and the best way of getting the bacteria into a new batch is by mixing a portion of prepared skyr into it. Sour cream or buttermilk can be used as a starter in place of skyr, but the taste will be slightly different.

This recipe makes 16 to 20 servings, and can easily be reduced. The skyr can be stored for 4-5 days in a closed container.

10 l skim milk, preferably not pasteurised
8-9 drops OR 1 1/2 tablet rennet
10 g skyr, for the bacteria starter. If not available, use 1 tbs live culture sour cream or buttermilk.

1. Heat the skim milk up to 86-90°C, and cool slowly for about 2 hours, down to 39°C. Stir a little scalded milk into the starter to make a thin paste and mix into the skim milk with the rennet (if you are using dry rennet, dissolve in a little water before adding).

2. Close the cooking pot and wrap in towels or a thick blanket. The milk should curdle over a period of about 5 hours. If it curdles in less than 4 1/2 hours, the curds will be coarse, but if it curdles in more than 5 hours, the skyr will be so thick it will be difficult to strain. When the milk is curdled, cut into the curds with a knife. When you can make a cut which will not close immediately, then you can go on to the next stage.

3. Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth or a fine linen cloth and pour in the skyr. Tie the ends of the cloth together over the top and hang over a bucket or other container so the whey can drip off. If the skyr-making has been successful, there will be little whey, and it will not float over the curds, but will be visible along the edges of the sieve and in the cuts you made into the surface. You can judge the quality of the skyr from the appearance of the curds when you pour them into the sieve. If the skyr is good, it will crack and fall apart in pieces, but should neither be thin nor lumpy. Do not put a layer thicker than 7-9 cm into the sieve. Keep the sieve in a well ventilated room, with a temperature no higher than 12° and no lower than 0° Celsius. The skyr should be ready to eat in 12-24 hours.

4. The skyr should be firm and look dry when ready. The whey can be used as a drink, to pickle food, or as a replacement for white wine in cooking.

Problems you may encounter, and how to solve them:
If the whey does not leak off the curds or floats over the curds, or the curds do not shrink from the edges of the sieve, then something is wrong. The milk has not been heated to a high enough temperature or has been cooled too quickly, so that the rennet has not had time to work. The more milk you curdle at a time, the relatively less starter and rennet you need. A large container cools slower than a small one, and the effects of starter and rennet last longer.

About the starter:
It is best to use skyr for the starter. If the skyr is sour, it should be mixed into the milk while it is still 80°-90°C. This will remove the sourness. Don't add the rennet until the milk has cooled to approx. 40°C. When the weather is cold, it is best to mix it in when the milk is a little over 40°C (say, 41° or 42°). In cold weather, the milk also needs to be covered more tightly while it curdles. This is especially important if you are making a small portion of skyr.

Eat the skyr as it is, or stir some milk and sugar into it and serve with cream and fruit/berries (bilberries/blueberries are traditional, but crowberries or strawberries are also good). It is also good with müesli and/or brown sugar, honey or maple syrup.

The historical information comes from the teaching leaflet Súrt og Sætt, by Sigríður Sigurðardóttir, published by Byggðasafn Skagfirðinga, 1998.
Recipe translated from Nýja Matreiðslubókin by Halldóra Eggertsdóttir & Sólveig Benediktsdóttir, Reykjavík, MCMLXI; additional information: my grandmother.

In Iceland, you can buy skyr in any supermarket, with a choice of many different flavours, ranging from plain to the traditional bilberry/blueberry, to vanilla, pear, chocolate, etc. You can also get refreshing drinks made with skyr and fruit.


Herring salad - Síldarsalat

This herring salad is a fresh and unusual addition to a brunch or buffet.

1 sweet apple
5-6 slices pickled red beet (Recipe!)
2-3 fillets marinated
or spice pickled herring
1/2 - 2/3 cup mayonnaise

Take about half a cup of mayonnaise and stir well to prevent lumps (Icelandic mayonnaise is thick and tends to become lumpy if not stirred). Cut the herring fillets into small slices and the apple and beet into small cubes. Add to the mayonnaise and mix well. The salad should be a rose-pink colour - if not, add some of the juice from the beets (or cheat and use red food colouring).

Serving suggestions:
-serve with rye bread or crackers. Top with slices of hard boiled egg (optional).
-replace half the mayonnaise with sour cream.


Marinated/pickled herring - Marineruð síld í kryddlegi

Marinated herring is a family favourite, although I must admit that we prefer to buy it ready made rather than make it from scratch.

3 salted herrings
200 ml white vinegar
1 medium onion
200 ml water
6 black peppercorns
100 ml sugar
1 laurel leaf, broken into pieces

(To convert measures, use the link on the right sidebar)

First, the excess salt must be removed from the herring:
Wash the fish under cold, running water. Soak in plenty of cold water for 24 hours, changing the water every few hours. Fillet and soak in cold water for 1-2 hours.

Cut each fillet diagonally across, into finger-wide pieces, OR roll up, beginning at the tail end. Slice the onion. Put the herring into a sterilized jar, layering with onion slices and spices. Stir together vinegar, water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Pour over herring until covered. Close the jar, and give the herring a few days to marinate properly. Store in the refrigerator. Will keep for a couple of weeks.

Serving suggestions:
-serve with hot, cooked potatoes and rye bread
-arrange on a slice of rye or pumpernickel bread with slices of sweet apple, banana and hard boiled egg. Serve with or without this sweet curry sauce:
Mix 2 parts mayonnaise with 1 part sour cream. Add some honey to make it slightly sweet. Add some mild or medium hot curry powder to taste. The sauce should be creamy and smooth, with a definite curry taste and a hint of honey. Pour over the fish and fruit on the bread and top with slices of hard-boiled egg. You can also cut the fish, egg and fruit into small pieces, mix into the sauce and serve as a salad.


Icelandic lamb/mutton pate – Lamba/kindaKæfa

In Iceland, the economy-minded meal-planner knows that it is cheaper to buy a whole or half lamb (divided into various cuts) than to buy individual pieces when needed. The meat is bought frozen and will keep for 6 months or more at -18°C. This pâté is a good way to use up those leftovers and scraps that you don't know what to do with, and cuts that have freezer burn but have not gone bad.

5 kg meat on the bone (lamb or mutton)
1 1/2 kg mutton suet (optional)
120 g onion, quartered
150 g salt
2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp allspice, ground
1 tsp cloves, ground

To convert measures, click the link on the right sidebar.

Note: If you leave out the suet, use fatty meat. Some fat is necessary to hold the pâté together.

Wash the meat and cook in a little water with the suet (if using), onions and salt. When the bones can be easily pulled from the meat, it is done. My mother likes to pour off some of the cooking liquid at this point, and continue to gently fry the meat in its own fat for a while (at a low temperature - it must not burn). Put the cooking liquid aside and skim off the fat - do not throw away! Remove the bones and gristle from the meat and run the meat through a grinder or food processor with the onion pieces. Don't grind it too finely - it must have some texture.
Knead the pâté (use a mixer with kneading hooks) and thin with the cooking liquid and fat. It should be fairly thick. Add the spices to taste. The colour of the pâté should be pale, almost white. My grandmother likes to whip the pâté, which makes it very light.
To store, pour into moulds (loaf pans are suitable). Allow to cool to room temperature before putting in the refrigerator to cool completely. Remove from the mould and cut up into suitable pieces. Wrap up in kitchen foil, pack into plastic bags and freeze.
Alternative storing methods include pasteurising in jars, pouring into cheesecloth bags and dipping in melted tallow or keeping it in brine (not used anymore, to my knowledge). For short term storage, pour into jars or bowls and pour melted fat on top.
Slice or spread on fresh bread. Particularly good on rye bread.


Icelandic bread soup - Brauðsúpa

Thriftiness is a strong trait in many older Icelanders, especially the generations that were born before World War II. Everything had to be used up, and throwing away edible leftovers was considered criminal. This thick soup is one way of using up bread leftovers and crusts.

Recipe serves 5.
200 g rye bread or assorted bread leftovers. Must be at least half rye bread.
1,25 l water
2 tbs raisins OR 4 prunes
1 tbs orange marmalade (optional)
6 slices lemon, OR orange/lemon zest or a cinnamon stick
2-3 tbs sugar
100 ml cream, whipped

(There is a link to a measurement converter on the right sidebar).

Soak the bread in the water overnight, or until the crusts are soft. Purée (use a blender if you have one) and cook on low for 1 hour. Add the raisins, lemon slices and sugar and cook for about 10 minutes more. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Recipe translated from Helga Sigurðardóttir's recipe book Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).


Brúnaðar kartöflur - Caramelised potatoes

These are good with any kind of roast meat, especially lamb and pork roast. I don't like to make them too often, just occasionally.

Potatoes caramelising in the pan:

1 kg cooked potatoes
50 g butter OR margarine
50 g sugar

If you need to convert the measures, see link on the right.

The potatoes should preferably be cold, but it is not necessary. They should be small and even in size. If they are big, cut into smaller pieces (about bite-size), flush with water and pat dry. Put the sugar in a medium hot frying pan. When it starts to brown, add the butter and stir to mix. Lower temperature and add potatoes. Roll the potatoes around to coat evenly. The caramel covering should be soft and light brown. If it is dark and hard, the sugar syrup was too hot. This can be fixed by removing the left-over sugar from the pan and returning the potatoes to the pan with a little water. Roll them around and allow the boiling water to soften the caramel shell.
Serve hot, for example with roast or ham.

Ready to serve:

Beware of canned pre-cooked potatoes. I once tried caramelising some canned potatoes which turned out to be full of water which made them explode when it boiled. I was showered with burning hot sugar syrup from the pan and got 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my hand and my face where the syrup droplets landed.


Icelandic cocktail sauce - Kokkteilsósa

Every nation has its favourite condiment to use with French fries. The British use vinegar and the Americans ketchup, but the favoured condiment in Iceland is cocktail sauce. This versatile pink goo is also good with deep-fried or broiled chicken, hot dogs, grilled sausages and fried fish.

I have watched in amusement as Icelanders abroad tried to make cocktail sauce from salad cream and ketchup because they could not imagine eating fries without it.

The most basic recipe calls for mayonnaise and ketchup, but this one is a little more refined ;-)

Take 200 gr. sour cream or 100 gr. sour cream and 100 gr. mayonnaise and stir until smooth. If you are using both mayo and cream, stir separately and then mix. This is important and will help you avoid lumps in the sauce.
Add approx. 3 tbs ketchup.
Finally, add 1/2-1 tsp sweet mustard.

This is what it's supposed to look like:

You can make cocktail sauce in a blender, in which case you just dump everything in at once and mix on high until smooth.

-For simple cocktail sauce, use mayonnaise and add enough ketchup to turn it pink. Add a bit of cream to make it smoother.
-Try it in seafood/shrimp cocktail in place of seafood cocktail sauce.
-When using with fish, I usually mix in a little garlic to add bite to the sauce. Use either powdered or fresh garlic (finely chopped or crushed).
-To make my special hamburger sauce, make as above, using 50/50 mayo and sour cream or just light mayo. Add some finely chopped chives or mixed herbs. If the sauce seems too thick, thin with cream or milk.


Sunnudags-lambasteik - Icelandic Sunday roast

In many Icelandic homes this is the Sunday meal. I like this food a lot, but not every Sunday! Some families also serve roast lamb for Christmas.

Take one leg of lamb with bone (approx. 1 1/2 kg.). Wash under running cold water and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. I also like to use Aromat (flavour enhancer), Season-All, garlic and coriander. Quarter an onion and put in a roasting pan with the meat. It’s also good to put carrots in the pan. For added flavour, rub the meat with the onion before seasoning. Cover and insert into a heated oven (175-200° C.). After about 15-20 minutes, pour in some water to cover the bottom of the pan, and add more water as it evaporates. Baste the meat with the cooking juices. The roast should stay in the oven for about 2 hours. After about 1 1/2 hours, take the roast out and pour off the cooking liquid. Return to the oven without covering, to brown. Use the cooking liquid to make the sauce (see recipe below).

Alternative method:
If you have enough time, slow-roast the meat. Treat as above, cover and insert into a 200° C. oven. Lower heat immediately to about 125°C. Allow to brown and add water. Slow roast at 125°C for 1 hour, then turn up the heat to 150°C and roast for another hour. Turn up the heat to 175°C and roast for a third hour. Pour off the liquid and put uncovered into a 200°C oven to brown. Icelandic lamb is very tender, and this slow cooking method makes it so soft that it almost melts off the bone, while still retaining the flavour.

Sauce to serve with Sunday roast:
Pour the cooking liquid through a strainer. Put the onions in the strainer and mash into the liquid. Skim off the fat. Heat to boiling. Mix together some water and flour into a smooth, thin paste. When the liquid boils, add the flour paste, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to thicken. Stir well to mix. Strain if the sauce is lumpy (sift the flour to avoid this). Heat to boiling again, and add some cream (not strictly necessary, but improves the flavour and smoothness). Adjust the flavour with salt/spices if necessary.

For an authentic Icelandic Sunday roast, serve with the sauce on the side, boiled or caramelized potatoes, green peas and rhubarb jam. For my part, I like to leave out the peas and jam and serve instead a fresh salad and some sautéed mushrooms. If you feel like eating anything else after this heavy repast, ice-cream is the favoured dessert. Home-made ice-cream is especially good.

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