Meringue Drops - Marengstoppar

These delicious meringue drops are the perfect accompaniment for home-made ice-cream. It’s good for using up the egg whites left over from the ice-cream making.

5 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar (may be left out)
1 2/3 cup sugar, white or confectioners'
1 tsp vanilla essence
a dash of salt

Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks. Add the sugar bit by bit, whipping well in-between. Whip until the dough is stiff and mix in vanilla or other flavouring (sherry or rum is also good). Oil and flour a baking sheet, or simply line one with baking paper. Put some of the dough into a pastry bag with a big tip, and squeeze out some even sized blobs onto the baking sheet/paper. The dough will not rise noticeably, so make them the size you want the cookies to be. Bake in a warm oven (150° C) until they are dry and have started to take on a slight golden colour (if you test one for doneness, it does not matter if they are sligthy chewy right at the center). Remove immediately from the baking sheet and allow to cool before storing in a cookie tin.

Variation: Make small drops, dip them in chocolate, and serve as sweets.


Ris a la mande – Danish Christmas pudding

The original name is probably riz à l’amande (French for almond rice), but the Danish call it ris a la mande. Whether it is originally French or the name simply got Frenchified, I don’t know, but I do know this is a delicious pudding if correctly made. In some Icelandic households it is served instead of rice pudding (see previous recipe) at Christmas. The first time I tasted ris a la mande, I didn't like it at all. This is perhaps because it was lumpy and the cook had left out the vanilla. I have since made peace with it, and like it just as much as the traditional Icelandic rice pudding.

50 g rice (not quick-cook or instant)
600 ml milk
1/2 vanilla bean
30 g sugar
15 almonds, blanched and slivered or chopped
370 ml heavy cream, whipped
6-7 (12-14 grams) sheets gelatine

Bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice and vanilla bean and cook up a rice pudding (see previous recipe for method). When the pudding is done, remove the vanilla bean. Add the sugar, almonds and gelatine (prepared as indicated on the packaging). Cool and fold in the whipped cream. Decorate with slivered almonds before serving.

Traditionally served with hot caramel sauce or cherry sauce. (I’m looking for the recipes and will add them to the recipe when I do).


Syrup cookies – Sírópskökur

These are popular spiced cookies you often see around Christmas in Icelandic homes.

200 g golden syrup (may be replaced with runny honey or corn syrup, but will be less flavourful if corn syrup is used)
250 g brown sugar
200 g unsalted butter
500 g flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg

Mix together flour, spices and baking soda. Add soft butter and mix until crumbly. Add syrup, egg and brown sugar and knead until smooth. Store in a refrigerator for 2-3 days. (BTW, this is not my recipe – I can not imagine that it needs to be stored for this long before baking. Overnight should be plenty of time).
Flatten dough until about 2-3 millimetres thick and use cookie cutters to cut into shapes.
Put on a lightly floured baking sheet and bake at 175°C on the centre rung of the oven until the edges of the cookies turn dark. Cool and decorate with icing.


Bibliophile’s shrimp sandwich

I'm bringing this to the top because I wanted to add a note about the best mayonnaise to use in the recipe.

While this is hardly Icelandic, I will say that Icelanders have a fondness for sandwiches filled with mayonnaise-based salads. Shrimp salad is one of the most popular. This is a healthier option that uses less mayonnaise.

2 slices of sandwich bread (I prefer whole-wheat, but French is just as tasty). When I intend to eat a sandwich like this while reading, I use pita bread.
1 small handful frozen arctic shrimp, thawed and drained
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
1 slice sandwich ham (optional)
mayonnaise (see note)
pepper or fresh chives

Spread mayonnaise on each bread slice according to taste. Put ham slice (if using) on one bread slice and top with egg. Top egg slices with shrimp, grind some pepper over it or sprinkle it with finely chopped chives and close the sandwich.
Finely chop the ham and mash the egg with a fork. Put into a bowl with shrimp and 2 tbs mayonnaise. Give it a grind of pepper and mix everything together and fill the sandwich. This method requires more mayonnaise than the other.

2 slices of bread
1 handful of frozen arctic shrimp
2 slices of sandwich ham
1 pineapple ring, finely chopped or mashed, and drained
mayonnaise (see note)
garlic to taste

Same processing methods as above.

A note on mayonnaise:
The favourite brand of mayonnaise in Iceland is Gunnars Majónes, which is thick and creamy with a slightly sour flavour that reminds me of sour cream or yogurt. If the ingrdients in a salad or dip are well drained, it holds well together. I tried using Hellmann’s mayonnaise to make this shrimp salat and I do not recommend it. The mayonnaise becomes soupy and merely coats the ingredients rather than hold them together and the salad has an unpleasant, almost metallic, vinegary taste that does not go well with those ingredients. If you want to approximate the taste of Icelandic mayonnaise, try making it at home, make it thick, use oil with a mild flavour, use as little vinegar/lemon juice as possible, and add a bit of mustard.


Icelandic liver patties - Lifrarbuff

It's the season when fresh offal is to be had in every self-respecting supermarket, and liver is one of the things I enjoy at this time of year. My mother used to make Lifrarbuff fairly often when I was a kid.

500 g. lamb's liver 1/2 - 1 cup flour
1 egg 3 ea. potatoes, raw
1/2 - 1 cup milk 2 medium onions
1/2 tsp baking powder to taste salt, pepper and/or other favourite spice

Remove all membranes and blood vessels from the liver and peel the potatoes. Peel onions and chop coarsely. Mince together liver, potatoes and onions. Mix in flour, baking powder and spices. Add the egg. Thin the mixture with milk until it is the consistency of porridge.
Drop the mixture by the tablespoonful on a hot frying pan and fry on both sides until firm. Serve with butter-fried onion rings, mashed potatoes, green peas and rhubarb jam. Fried eggs are also good with this dish.


Fried sheep's hearts

Slaughter season is in full swing in Iceland. This means that besides lowered prices for fresh unfrozen lamb, mutton and horse meat, you can also get fresh offal, which is not only cheap, but also nutritious and often quite yummy. While it is generally possible to get these products fresh year round now, it is more usual to find them frozen and when fresh they tend to cost more off season because there is less supply. This is also the only time of the year when you can get fresh sheep's blood to make blood sausages.

In the next week or so I am going to revisit some offal recipes I have published here in the past, but I am going to start with a recipe I haven't published before: Fried sheep's hearts.

2-3 sheep's hearts, or 1-2 pig's hearts
1 bunch parsley
1 tbs butter or margarine
50 g margarine or butter
1 tsp salt
300 ml water or milk
2 tbs flour
100 ml cold water

Wash the hearts well under cold running water until there is no blood left in them. Soak in cold water for a while. Dry inside and out with a cloth. Chop the parsley and mix well with the 50 g of butter and stuff the hearts with this mixture. Melt the 1 tsp. of butter and brown the hearts in it. Put the hearts in a cooking pot, add milk or water and salt. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes. Small hearts need less cooking and if the hearts come from an old sheep they need longer cooking.

Remove the hearts. Make a paste out of flour and cold water and use it to make gravy from the cooking liquid.

To make gravy, strain the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and bring it to the boil. When it is boiling, you add the flour paste, stirring constantly. It takes a bit of experience to know when to stop adding the paste – just pour it in slowly and stir the gravy with a whisk and when you feel it getting thicker, you stop pouring the paste. Then cook it for a couple of minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste, and adjust the flavour with salt and spices and if you think it looks too pale, add a couple of drops of gravy colouring.

Slice the hearts and arrange on a serving dish. Pour a little of the gravy over them. Serve with cooked or mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables with the sauce on the side.

The hearts can also be stuffed with prunes and dried apples or browned mushrooms, in which case they need to be sewn closed, OR they can be cut into 6-8 strips, in which case they only need 30 minutes of cooking.


Ale soup

This is a luxurious relative of rye bread soup.

300 g dark rye bread
1 litre water
700 ml dark malt ale, Guinness for example (Icelanders use Egils Malt)
Brown sugar
100-200 ml cream

Finely chop the bread and soak in the water overnight. Cook over low heat until completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Press through a sieve, put back in the saucepan, thin with the ale and mix well. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Add brown sugar to taste and cook for 5 minutes. Serve hot with whipped cream as a dessert.


Icelandic cookbooks in English: Delicious Iceland: Tales of unique northern delicacies

If you enjoy gorgeous photography, haute cuisine and chefs on ego trips, this is a book for you. It also happens to be quite informative about Icelandic food and traditional ingredients.

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The book is too big for my scanner,
so I had to borrow an image of the cover from another website.
It is therefore not quite as large as I would have liked.

This prizewinning food book (honorary Gourmand Cookbook Award, 2007) was written by Chef Völundur Snær Völundarson, assisted by Haukur Ágústsson, with photographs by Hreinn Hreinsson, and published by Salka (Iceland), in 2006.

This is a heavy, large format book, more suitable for the coffee table than the kitchen. It combines the subjects of Iceland and cooking, with gorgeous photographs of Icelandic nature, people and food, and text about the same. The recipes are original and were conceived by the author to showcase how Icelandic ingredients can be used in fine cooking.

The author is very central to the book. He writes of his personal experiences and memories connected with food, and he is featured in many of the photographs, doing things like trout fishing, rappelling down a cliff to get seabird eggs, sculpting ice or cooking over hot lava.

There are short chapters on many traditional foods and ingredients, and there is even a chapter (with photos) on the old Þorri food.

While the recipes are all of the kind you could expect to be served in fine restaurants, it doesn’t follow that they are unsuitable for home cooking.

The recipes are heavy on fish and other seafood, but there are also meat recipes, and recipes for desserts.

Examples of recipes:
Creamed sea urchin soup
Fried tern eggs in tempura with aioli, micro basil and garlic roots
Smoked salmon with blini cakes, horseradish cream and trout roes
Cold smoked scallops with vodka jelly, scallion marmalade and Osetra caviar
Sautéed wolf fish in Parma ham and spinach with tomato and scallion risotto
Iceland moss curds
Red wine braised lamb shank with semolina cake
Nut-crusted fillet of reindeer with morel sauce and beet root sauce
Skyr topped with blueberries (one of the handful of traditional recipes in the book)
Brennivín baba

The landscape photography and chapters on traditional food make this a good souvenir of Iceland. There are only a handful of traditional recipes in it, so if you are a foodie looking for traditional or even just typical Icelandic food, this is not the book for you. If, however, you are a food lover and love to cook restaurant-style food and you are not particularly looking for specifically traditional recipes or home cooking, but merely something inspired by Iceland, this book is a good choice, and it would make a gorgeous gift.

At the time of writing, Delicious Iceland costs 5620 kr. in the Penninn book store. There is a baby version that I could not review, that costs 2990 kr.

Practical information:
The measurements are given in cups and spoons.

The book has no index.


Red pudding - Rauðgrautur

This is something that should appeal to kids:

1 litre red or purple fruit or berry juice, for example redcurrant, blackcurrant, raspberry, cranberry or pomegranate juice
60 g cooking starch (e.g. potato flour, cornflour, or sago)
Sugar to taste
Water, if needed

Put the cooking starch in a saucepan and stir in the juice. Heat gently to boiling. Add sugar to taste and thin with water if the flavour is too strong. When the juice boils, it should be thickened. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and sprinkle sugar on top. Cool. Serve as a dessert.


Icelandic cookbooks in English: Cool Dishes and Cool Cuisine

There are a number of Icelandic cookbooks available in English, most of them published in Iceland and aimed at the tourist market. Most are printed on heavy, glossy paper and some have gorgeous colour photographs in them, both of which makes them expensive. Buying one for the equivalent of 50 US Dollars or more and then discovering it isn't what you were looking for is an expensive mistake. Therefore I decided to review as many of them as I could get my hands on, to make it a little easier to decide which one to invest in.

Not all of the Icelandic cookbooks in the book stores are available from the library. I will stick to the ones I could get from the library, as I have been able to read them all the way through.

First up are Cool Cuisine and Cool Dishes, which is a baby version of the former. They were written by Icelandic food writer Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, with photographs by Gísli Egill Hrafnsson and published by Vaka-Helgafell in 2004.

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These books combine gorgeous food photography with Icelandic recipes, most of which are traditional, although some are more traditional than others. By that I mean that there are recipes in the books that go back over a century, side by side with recipes that are less than 20 years old. A few are new, inspired by Icelandic raw materials.

You can't go wrong with these books as souvenirs for yourself or as gifts for a true food lover. Unlike some of the other Icelandic cookbooks I looked at, they are purely about the food, and are representative of what Icelanders really eat. You will not find fermented shark in there, nor sheep's heads or pressed sheep's testicles, but some of the old traditional food is in there, like smoked lamb (only how to cook it, not how to smoke it) blood pudding and halibut soup with prunes.

Cool Cuisine is 147 pages long and has some 92 recipes, more if you count separately the dishes that come with recipes for side dishes.

Cool Dishes is 72 pages and the recipes number 42. All the recipes in this book are found in the other, and all of what I would call the 'necessary' recipes are in this one.

Of the Icelandic cookbooks I have been looking at, these two are definitely the best buys if you are looking for nice foodie coffee table books that are still useful as cookbooks.

I checked the prices in the Penninn book store, which are representative of the prices you can expect to pay for these books. They may cost more in tourist shops.

As of the time of writing Cool Cuisine costs 2290 kr. and Cool Dishes costs 920 kr.

Practical information:
All the measurements in the books are in metric, including the teaspoons and tablespoons, and the temperatures are given in centigrade (Celcius).


Spice Cake - Kryddkaka

I got this recipe from my aunt several years ago and make it often. It has a delicious, rich flavour and is great with lots of butter. This is a big recipe, so I usually reduce it by half. I imagine it could be iced with cream cheese icing like a carrot cake, but I like it too much as it is to try that.

850 g (30 oz) flour
850 g (30 oz) dark brown sugar (this can safely be reduced to 700 g (25 oz))
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tbs ginger, ground
1 tbs cloves, ground
1 tbs nutmeg, ground
660 ml (22 fl.oz) sweet brown ale (Egils Malt if you can get it)

Mix all the dry ingredients well together and then mix in the ale. Pour into an oven pan or loaf pans and bake at 175°C (350°F) for about an hour.
Very good with or without butter.


Creamy mushroom soup

This is actually a classic recipe that has by now become international, but since it is mushroom season here in Iceland I thought I would show one way of using all those delicious wild mushrooms that are cropping up all over the place.

While I usually use instant packet soup as a base when I make creamy soups for myself (and then work a little kitchen magic so as to make it into something you would never suspect wasn't made from scratch), it is well worth the effort to make soup from scratch. Here's a recipe for mushroom soup:

200 g fresh mushrooms. Wild mushrooms are best, but you can use button mushrooms too and still get a very good soup.
50 g (2 tbs) butter
1 1/2 litre meat stock (you can use vegetable stock as well, but the flavour will be slightly different) – or try mushroom stock if you can get some
1 small onion or leek
100 ml cream
Salt, pepper

Brush the mushrooms gently to remove any dirt. Chop half of them very finely, and do the same with the onion. If the remaining mushrooms are small, use them whole, but otherwise slice or quarter them.

Melt half the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat and gently simmer the whole or sliced mushrooms in the butter for 2-3 minutes without browning. Remove them and put the rest of the butter in the saucepan and add the chopped mushrooms and onion and again simmer gently for 2-3 minutes without browning.

Add the stock and cook for 5 minutes. Add the bigger mushroom pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cream just before serving and bring to the boil. Add salt if needed. Serve with freshly baked crusty bread.



The poll has ended and the results were a tie. Half of the participants preferred to send in requests through commenting and half by e-mailing me. Therefore I decided to make both possible. I will put an e-mail address on the sidebar soon that I can be contacted through privately. It may not be a live link, as I don't like spam, but whatever I do it will be easy to figure out how to use it.


Brown Whey Cheese - Mysuostur

I got a request for this some weeks ago through the discussion forum, and now I have finally found a recipe.

Mysuostur is a soft brown cheese made from whey (mysa), which is a side product of cheese-making. It is boiled down until it thickens and caramelizes, just like dulce de leche, except it is not as sweet. Cheeses of this kind are made all over Scandinavia. Icelanders use the whey that is produced when skyr is made.

The soft, spreadable version is sold as Mysingur in Icelandic supermarkets. In Norway it is known as prim or myseprim.

5,75 liters (5750 ml) whey (if you can't get skyr-whey, use cheese whey)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs butter
2 tbs cream

Put the whey and salt into a wide-mouthed pan and cook, uncovered, until it has reduced by 2/3.
Stir in the sugar, butter and cream. At full boil, stir constantly until the cheese thickens. Test by putting a little on a plate. If it begins to set, the cheese is ready. Remove from the heat and stir until cooled. Store in jars or a bowl.
The colour should be golden brown. If it turns dark brown, it has burned and will probably not taste good.

My mother loves this on white bread.


Coconut balls test

I finally got round to making those coconut balls, and here are the results. I only made half a recipe, which was enough for seven balls, about the size of golf balls.

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(I have also added a second photo to the original recipe).

I was contacted by Freyja (if you know Icelandic you can read her comments), who tried the recipe and wrote back to say that the cookies tasted a bit too much of raw oatmeal. She also suggests using icing sugar instead of regular sugar, which I agree with, since there isn't really enough moisture in the dough to dissolve the sugar grains.

The balls came out looking just like bakery made ones, but neither the taste nor the texture was enough like the coconut balls you can buy from bakeries. Bakery coconut balls are chewier and the texture is similar to thick cookie dough. These are harder, the sugar has not melted properly (as Freyja commented) and the oatmeal taste is too raw. Rum or sherry drops could help with the raw taste, as could reducing the oatmeal and replacing part of it with dessicated coconut and increasing the butter slightly. Melting the sugar in the milk or using icing sugar and processing the oatmeal into finer pieces in a blender might help with the texture, as could mixing it in a mixer instead of by hand. Finally, it could be made softer by using good quality Dutch process cocoa instead of melted chocolate. I think I will test these changes the next time I make them (whenever that will be).

After sampling a few, I stored the balls in the refrigerator and tried one the next day and another one the day after, and found that they improve with age. On day 2 the raw taste was gone, while the sugar still crackled slightly between the teeth, but on day 3 the sugar had dissolved and the texture was more like the bakery stuff. The problem is, they just look too tempting to store them for this long and I can not see it happening in homes with children.

Freyja came up with this recipe, which she says is delicious (it certainly sounds like it):

175 g dark chocolate
200 g marzipan, sorry, got a correction from Freyja: It's actually coconut mass (made by Odense)which is similar but not quite the same
1/2 dl oatmeal
50 g butter
vanilla essence to taste

Mix marzipan, butter and vanilla, and oatmeal mixed in. Melted chocolate added to the mixture, rolled into balls and coated with coconut.

The next time I need to make something with marzipan, I think I will try this recipe. It sounds good enough for Christmas, but whether it resembles the bakery recipe remains to be seen. I imagine the texture must at least be similar.

P.S. I seem to recall that, as a child taking my first year of home cooking classes, I made coconut balls from mashed potatoes into which were kneaded icing sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla essence, and rolled in dessicated coconut, but for the life of me I can't find the recipe anywhere.


The Foodie BlogRoll

I have joined the Foodie BlogRoll, which you can find on the right, below the label list. It is a list of foodie blogs and by linking in this way to each other, we get the chance to discover other foodie bloggers out there, increase our chances of being seen and our search engine status.

If you have a foodie blog and want to join visit The Leftover Queen to register.


Cookbook challenge

If you have read my book blog you will know that I am in the middle of a reading challenge. I recently made an inventory of my books and realised I had many cookbooks I had never tried as much as a single recipe from. While browsing these books I have often thought I should try this or that recipe, but more often than not I didn’t. When I realised how many cookbooks I had I got to thinking about my cooking habits and realised that in the last five years or so I have only tried maybe half a dozen new recipes a year, most of them found on the web. Before that, I used to try a couple of new recipes every month, many of them from cookbooks or my grandmother’s collection of newspaper recipe clippings.

I do think it’s okay to collect recipe books one never uses for anything other than reading or looking at the photos, but I still feel a little guilty for having them, because I originally bought them or was given them with the intent that they would be used. Therefore I think I would like to try a challenge that will not only justify my owning all these recipe books, but also get me into the kitchen to make something new every week.

I set myself these simple rules:
• To try at least one new recipe every week until I have tested at least one recipe from each of my recipe and cookery books. It can be for something as simple and quick as a cocktail, as time-consuming as a stew with 25+ ingredients, or as fiddly as sauce hollandaise, just as long as I like the look of the recipe.
• The recipe of the week must come from a different recipe book each time, but additional recipes can be from books I have used before.
• I will publish the results in a blog, complete with recipe(s), notes and recipe review(s).

That’s it.

Since this blog is supposed to be about Icelandic cooking, I’m starting a new cooking blog, Matarást . I will not stop posting to this one, but if you are a regular reader, you will know that my posting here is sporadic at best. I will not start until next week, as I will be away for the weekend.


Coconut Balls - Kókoskúlur

One of the things I got frequent requests for back before I closed my public e-mail account because of spam overload was Kókoskúlur or Coconut Balls. These are candies or no-bake cookies sold in most Icelandic bakeries. I was unable to find a recipe and no bakers were willing to part with one, so I had to give up. Now I have finally found a recipe. I don’t know if it is the right one, as I haven’t tested it, but I plan to make it on the weekend and do a taste comparison with a bakery-bought specimen. I can tell you right away that there is one ingredient missing that some (but not all) bakeries put in their coconut balls: rum essence.

Here is what they look like:

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75 g (1/3 cup + 1 tsp) butter, soft
100 ml (2/5 cup) sugar
1 tbs vanilla sugar
300 ml (1 1/3 cups) oatmeal, the quick-cooking kind. Do not use instant as these have added salt.
175 g (6.3 oz) chocolate
2 tbs milk, at room temperature
100 ml (2/5 cup) desiccated coconut (small flakes)

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a water bath. Mix together butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, melted chocolate, oatmeal and milk. Form into small balls and roll to coat with coconut. Chill before serving.
Edit: Looks like I will have to delay the testing - I've been invited on a camping trip this weekend.


My mother’s herring on rye

My mother invented this dish. It can be served as a cold main dish or as an entrée using small portions.

Herring on rye:
Slices of sweet, dark rye or pumpernickel bread
Marinated herring (about one fillet for each slice of bread)
Thin slices of sweet apple (about one medium Red Delicious for each 6 slices of bread)
Sliced banana (about one medium banana for 2 slices of bread)
Sliced hard-boiled egg (about one egg for each 2 slices of bread)

I am not going to give exact measurements for the sauce, as I never make it the same way twice:
Mayonnaise (about 1 1/2 tbs for each slice of bread, more if you're a sauce fancier)
Mild or medium hot curry powder mix*
Cream (optional, see instructions)

Mix together mayonnaise and honey until well blended. The result should have a mild taste of honey. Add curry powder to taste. (If you need a recipe to follow, use one for gravlax sauce, leave out the mustard and replace the dill with curry powder). If sauce is thick, add some cream or whole milk until it becomes slightly runny.

Arrange the herring, apple, banana and egg slices on the slices of rye bread and top with the sauce.

*I generally abhor the use of ready-made curry powder, preferring to mix the spices separately into the stew at the right moment in the cooking process. This is an exception.


Meat cake anyone?

This gave me a good laugh. The thing looks just like a regular cake, but it's really made from meatloaf and mashed potatoes with ketchup and other stuff you would expect to be served with meatloaf.


Tuna spread - Túnfisksalat

This is a cheap and easy tuna spread that is good on bread and crackers, in sandwiches and sandwich cakes. For some reason, spreads like this are called “salads” in Icelandic.

1 regular can tuna, well drained. I generally use tuna in brine or water, but tuna in oil can be used as well. The medium quality supermarket brands are suitable for this spread. When draining, cut off the lid of the can completely, hold it and upend the can to let most of the juice run off, then press the lid into the can to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. If you don’t, the spread will be soggy.

3-4 tbs mayonnaise, or more if you love the taste of it. I prefer to just use it as a binding agent rather than have the other ingredients swimming in it. Some of the mayo can be replaced with sour cream for a fresher taste – especially good if you use chives instead of onion.

1 hardboiled egg, chopped. I either put it twice through an egg slicer, once lengthwise and once crosswise, or if I’m not making the spread for company I simply dump the egg into the spread and mash it in with a fork. It doesn’t look as good, but the taste is the same.

1/4 to 1/2 onion, finely chopped. Chives or shallots may be used instead.

Salt, pepper, garlic powder (or fresh, minced garlic if you have it on hand), all to taste

Mix all ingredients well together and adjust taste with salt and spices. Serve with crackers, saltines or bread. I sometimes use this as a filing for baked potatoes, but then I leave out the egg.

You can also make the spread without the egg and serve it with slices of egg on the side.

Alternative version:

Tuna, as above
Mayonnaise, as above
1/2 can of sweet corn, well drained
Salt, to taste

Mix and enjoy as above. The tuna may be replaced with finely chopped cooked chicken.


Recommended website for visitors to Iceland

While searching the web for a recipe, I came across a website which should prove a very useful resource for anyone who is preparing a visit to Iceland and wants to shop for food in the local stores (no need to worry about reading menus - they are usually provided in at least English and sometimes more languages). Following the general outline of Icelandic food (in English), there is a handy table of many kinds of food, given in Icelandic, English, French, German and Swedish:

The Shopper´s Guide to Icelandic food

I have been working on a similar list on and off for a couple of years, but I really see no need for my list when there is already one out there.


Hung haddock – Sigin ýsa

This is an acquired taste, much like Finnan Haddie, which is also a traditional Icelandic way of preserving haddock, only we call it reykt ýsa (smoked haddock). Because haddock does not take well to salting like it cousin, the cod, it is usually either smoked or "hung" when it needs preserving.

Take one haddock, approx. 1 to 1 1/2 kilo, and remove the head and guts, or ask the fishmonger to do it for you. Do not scrape off the slime.

This is best done in cold but not frosty weather. Hang the fish in the shade for anything from 12-20 days, depending on how big the fish is and how strong you want the flavour to be. Take care not to dry it completely, because then you have made stockfish which requires soaking if you plan to cook it or much beating if you want to eat it raw. Hung haddock should be firm but not dry.

Before cooking, remove the tail and fins and tear off the skin. Cut into pieces and drop into boiling salted water and cook for about 10 minutes. Serve with plain boiled potatoes and butter or tallow, or, if you can get it, the fat that melts from hangikjöt when it is cooked. Also good served with bechamel (white) sauce.


A really satisfying meal

A meal I had last year at one of Iceland's fancier (and most expensive) restaurants, where perfectly done beef was served with braised veal that was well on its way to becoming pâté and had an incredible richness of flavour, reminded me of all the times when, as a child and well into my teens, I would stalk the pot when my mother was making lamb pâté and try to nab a little morsel of braised meat that had been cooked for so long that it was beginning to separate into string-like pieces, each bursting with the flavour of meat, onions and salt and saturated with the special flavour braising gives to meat. Unfortunately for the restaurant, the comparison was not in their favour, because while the braised veal – I think they called it veal mousse although I am relatively sure that neither cream, eggs nor gelatin were involved – had a wonderful, rich flavour, it had a mushy, nasty texture that made it impossible to eat it by itself - you needed a piece of beef, vegetable or potato to hide the texture.

A little later I bought a shoulder of lamb and used a couple of pieces to cook vegetable-lamb soup. After the hour it takes to make the soup, the meat was tough and flavourless and I decided I was probably going to end up making pâté from what remained. But yesterday when I was reading Ruth Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires, the chapter on beef gave me a hankering after meat, and I remembered the braised veal and lamb. I now decided to try to recapture that fascinating, rich flavour, along with the right texture. I had braised meat many times but never taken it to the stage where it begins to fall apart, so this was a first for me.

I started rooting around in the freezer, rejected some cutlets I found, knowing I could get them cooked and tasting good in about 30 minutes, whereas the lamb shoulder, which I dug up next, would be perfect for braising. I took two pieces and put them in the fridge to thaw, then when I came home today I got them out, cut them down to a size that would fit into the smaller of my soup pots, browned them at high heat in a frying pan and flavoured them with salt and pepper, then dumped them into the soup pot with a quartered onion and little bit of water. Once it was boiling merrily I lowered the heat so that it would barely keep simmering, put the lid on and started the timer.

After 20 minutes I opened the pot, saw there was too much liquid and poured off some of it into a jar. Every 20 minutes I checked on the pot and pulled the bottom piece of meat out and put it on top to allow all the meat to wallow in the increasingly flavourful broth, which I replenished from the jar whenever it was in danger of boiling off. After an hour I decided there was some flavour note missing from the broth, so I added a sliced carrot and a bit more salt.

At the 70 minute mark I took the meat and cut it into smaller pieces and returned it to the pot with the bones. I started cooking the potatoes around the 80 minute mark and decided that I needed a second side dish to serve with the meat, so I got out some white cabbage which I sliced into ribbons. When the potatoes were cooked, I got them out and mashed them, adding milk, butter, sugar and a pinch of salt, and then put them aside.

It was now time to start browning the meat. I poured off the broth which by now could well be called stock, so rich and concentrated had it become, turned up the heat to medium and put some butter into the pot, as the meat was rather lean and there was hardly any fat on it to use for the browning. I also put some into a frying pan for the cabbage.

While the butter in the pan melted and got up to the right temperature, I coated the meat in butter and listened to hear the sizzling begin. I dumped the cabbage into the frying pan and stirred it to get it coated with butter, then turned back to the meat. This I stirred to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot and tore it apart with the edge of the wooden spoon and a fork while it browned. To make sure it wouldn't burn or dry out, I occasionally added a spoonful of the stock. At this stage I was taking turns stirring the meat and the cabbage.

When the smell of cooking cabbage began to rise from the pan, I added couple of dashes of maple syrup to it (you need to be very careful with the maple syrup as too much ruins the dish) and a pinch of salt to counteract the syrup's sweetness. I stirred the cabbage to coat with the syrup and then removed it from the heat. Then I finished browning the meat, which was now beginning to take on a caramel colour and looked like my mother's pâté meat does right before she puts it into the grinder. The onions had been completely mashed up and absorbed by the meat, but carrot pieces were still visible as tiny morsels of bright orange among the browned meat. I added the final spoonful of broth, gave it a stir, picked out the bones (carefully licking each before discarding it) and then dumped the meat onto a plate, added the mashed potatoes and the cabbage.

And how did it taste? The mashed potatoes were creamy and mild with a hint of butter, the meat was rich and soft with just the right amount of saltiness and a hint of pepper, but the cabbage was a bit bold – which was surprising as raw it had little flavour – but it was perfectly al dente and after the first explosion of flavour it had just the right amount of sweetness and a mild taste of maple to counteract the first big taste shock. I think the most exquisite moment of the meal came when the liquid from the cabbage – equal amounts cabbage juice, butter and maple syrup – seeped into the meat and was absorbed into it, adding a hint of sweetness to it to complement its rich and slightly salty braised flavour. In other words: it was a very, very good meal, in the way only food cooked at home with love and care can be.

I am just hoping the mashed potatoes will prevent me from getting heartburn, but even if I do, it will have been worth it.


News: Skyr is now available in New York and Boston

According to Morgunblaðið, skyr is now available in Whole Foods Markets in the New York and Boston areas.

Icelandic roast beef sandwich – Roast beef samloka

I’m feeling a little uninventive today, so I am going to post a recipe for a good sandwich I sometimes buy or make: roast beef.

For 1 sandwich, take 2 slices of bread (white or whole-wheat), put one slice aside and top the other with 2-3 slices of cold roast beef. Smear some remoulade (scroll down to the bottom of the page to see recipe) on top of the roast beef, add 4-5 slices of pickled cucumber/gherkin OR a couple of slices of canned apricots, and about 2 tsp of French fried onions. Top with the other slice of bread and enjoy.

I like this sandwich best when it’s newly made and the onions are still crunchy, but it is quite good even when they have gone soft.

The version with the pickled cucumber is widely available wherever sandwiches are sold in supermarkets and highway diners in Iceland.


Rjómaterta I - Cream Cake I

All kinds of scrumptuous, decorated cakes with fruit, cream and/or sweet icing are very popular in Iceland, and there are plenty of recipes to choose from. Most are based on some kind of sponge cake, or are made with meringue. They are often jokingly called Stríðstertur (Battle Cakes). Hnallþórur is another joke name for these cakes - derived from a character in one of Halldór Laxness' books, a woman who loved to make and serve these kinds of cake. These creations are as beautiful and tempting to behold as they are delicious and fattening!

Layer 1:
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 cups desiccated coconut or Rice Crispies
100 g dark chocolate

Beat together egg whites and sugar until stiff and peaks form. Chop or finely grate the chocolate and fold in along with coconut/Rice Crispies. Pour into a greased, round cake pan (use one with a loose bottom). Bake at 150°C for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Layer 2:
4 eggs
100 g sugar
50 g flour
50 g potato flour

Whip the eggs until light and fluffy and add the sugar. Continue whipping until light in colour. Sift together flour and potato flour and carefully fold into egg/sugar mixture with a fork. Pour into a greased round cake pan (same size and type as layer 1). Bake at 200°C for 5 minutes and then lower heat to 175°C and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

500 ml whipping cream
1 large can strawberries in syrup
as needed fresh strawberries, chocolate-covered raisins & salted peanuts

Whip the cream until stiff. Mash the canned strawberries and fold into the cream. Spread a portion on top of layer 1. Top with layer 2. Cover the cake with the rest of the strawberry cream. Decorate with fresh strawberries, chocolate raisins and salted peanuts.


Engifermjólk - Ginger milk

Serves 2.

My own invention. This sweet ginger-milk drink is wonderfully calming if you have an upset stomach. Ginger-root is a well-known nature medicine, and is especially recommended for stomach ailments and motion sickness.

250 ml (1 cup) milk
sugar to taste
1,5 cm fresh ginger root OR 1/2 tsp dried, powdered ginger

Peel the ginger and grate it into a saucepan and add the milk, OR put the milk into a saucepan and add powdered ginger and stir to mix. Bring the milk to the boil. Pour through a sieve or tea strainer into mugs, add sugar and enjoy.

-You can vary the amount of ginger according to taste. Just don't put too much or the milk may curdle.


Caraway coffee - Kúmenkaffi

Brew some good, strong coffee, adding some caraway seeds before brewing. If you grind your own, throw some caraway seeds in the grinder along with the coffee beans. I'm not going to offer any measurements, as people's tastes vary widely where coffee in concerned, and the amount of caraway should be adjusted to taste.

-For a truly adult version of caraway coffee, make a "Black Russian" with fresh, hot coffee and use brennivín instead of vodka. To add a bit of brennivín ("að gefa út í") is a tradition still honoured by some Icelanders, and there are stories of caraway coffee sometimes arousing the (happy) suspicion that the hostess has put "a little something extra" in the coffee.


Every-day pancakes – Lummur/Klattar

"Klattar" mean "pats", an appropriate name for these pats of dough. "Lumma" (the singular form of "Lummur") is sometimes used to refer to something that is old fashioned, especially when referring to outdated music.

My mother is an expert at making these mini pancakes. Unlike the large, thin pancakes that are served rolled up with sugar or whipped cream and jam, these small, thick ones taste best sprinkled with sugar, still warm from the skillet, with a glass of cold milk. A variation on the basic recipe is fish-pancakes.

150 ml flour
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
150 ml milk (or more as needed)
1 tbs sugar
25 g margarine/butter
150 ml rice pudding or porridge
1-2 tbs. raisins (optional)

Melt the margarine/butter on the skillet over low heat. Allow to cool slightly. Sieve flour and baking powder together into a bowl. Add sugar and rice pudding or porridge and mix well. Add half the milk and mix. Add the egg and the rest of the milk, and then the melted margarine/butter, and the raisins (if you are using them). The dough should be thick enough not to run much on the pan, and yield thick pancakes.

Heat the skillet to medium temperature. Put the dough on the skillet with a tablespoon. You should be able to fry 3-4 "lummur" at once. Turn over with a spatula. Bake until light brown on both sides.
Serving suggestion:
-Put the pancakes on a plate in layers and sprinkle some sugar on top of each layer. Serve fresh with sugar, jam or syrup.


Sólarkaffi - Sun Coffee

Because of Iceland's northerly location, the sun rises very low over the horizon during the winter. The country has many deep, narrow fjords and valleys where the sun does not rise above the mountains for many weeks during the darkest winter days. When the sun finally does show itself for a few minutes, it is a cause for celebration for the inhabitants of those dark valleys and fjords.

These days, the inhabitants of some towns and villages will get together in the gathering hall to celebrate the arrival of sunshine. Others will celebrate individually in their own homes. There is no specific sunshine day, since the sun will appear on different days in different locations. And there should be no cheating: even if you know that the sun has risen above the mountains, there is no celebrating until the weather actually allows it to be seen! This tradition is widespread in Iceland, especially in the east and west fjords, but also in some fjords and valleys in the north.

The Sun Coffee is traditionally served with pancakes, cream cake and any other cake you want! (This includes just about anything from the Cakes, pancakes and cookies page). Many will make caraway coffee for this occasion.

Sunshine day is also a cause for celebration and remembrance among those who have moved away from the fjords and valleys, usually to Reykjavík. Many of these people have formed clubs that are open to anyone coming from the "old place". They will pick a day close to the time when they know the sun will appear in the old place. A number of volunteers will each bring one cake, or a pile of pancakes or a plate of flat bread with hangikjöt, and they will have a feast with the cakes and drink freshly brewed sun coffee. Sometimes there will be entertainment.

I don't know when this sunny tradition started, but it is clearly a modern version of the ancient midwinter festivals, like Yule and Þorrablót. People look up to the skies and thank God that the sun is back and another winter will soon draw to an end.


Mayonnaise - Olíusósa

This, of course, is not Icelandic, but Icelanders are very fond of salads and sauces based on mayonnaise, so here is a recipe.

makes 200-300 grams (7-10 oz.)

2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
200-300 ml salad (or cooking) oil
1 pinch pepper (optional)
1/2-1 tsp sugar
1 pinch dry, ground mustard seeds (optional)
1-2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice. White vinegar can be used but will make the taste sharp. Flavoured vinegar, such as tarragon, makes the taste more mellow.

Mayonnaise can be made in a blender or a mixer, or by hand, using a whisk and a bowl with a rounded bottom. Egg yolks and oil must be at room temperature. Mixing bowl/blender cup must be clean and dry, and also at room temperature. Choose oil that has little flavour of its own.

Mix and stir the egg yolks with the salt until light and thickened. Add the sugar and the spice, if using (pepper OR mustard) and half the vinegar/lemon juice and mix well. Lemon juice is healthier than vinegar, and mayonnaise made with lemon juice is better in dressings meant for fruit salads.
Start mixing the oil into the egg yolks, first drop by drop, and then, when the oil begins to blend in, in a steady trickle. Stirring must be constant, or else the sauce may separate. The mayonnaise should thicken bit by bit as more oil is added. If it becomes thinner the oil and egg are not mixing, i.e. the sauce is separating. If that happens, stop adding oil, stir the sauce harder and add 1 tsp water or cream. If that does not thicken the sauce, there are two methods you can use to save the sauce:

a) take a fresh egg yolk and put it in a clean bowl, whisk with a little salt and then add the thin sauce in a steady trickle, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. The continue adding the oil until the sauce is the right thickness.

b) put 1 tbs. cold water and a bit of vinegar/lemon juice in a clean bowl and add the thin sauce in a steady trickle, stirring with a clean whisk. Then add the oil until the sauce is the right thickness.

Home-made mayonnaise should be thick, smooth and shiny. It keeps well in a closed container in a cold place for a few days. Must not be allowed to freeze and must not be kept in the coldest spot in the refrigerator because then it will separate when it is taken out for use.

When putting the mayonnaise away, smooth it into the container and put a tiny amount of water or oil on top so that a film can not form on top.
Spices may be stirred carefully into the sauce before use, and for thinning, whipped cream may be mixed in.

The sauce must be thick if it is to be used for decorating food or in salads that will be used to top bread. Sauce that will be used on food can be thinner and may be made using whole eggs instead of yolks, or eggs and yolks (1 whole egg + 1 yolk).

If you want to enlarge the recipe, follow these guidelines: 100 ml of oil should be used per each egg yolk, or 150-200 ml per whole egg. The eggs can bind more oil than that, but then the mayonnaise will taste oily.


Skonsur - Thick pancakes/pan-fried bread

The word "skonsa" (the singular form of "skonsur") is the same word as "scone" in English. We Icelanders use the word to refer to a kind of thick pancake. The taste is similar to American breakfast pancakes, but we serve them differently. We usually cook them on the same kind of skillet as we use to make the delicious Icelandic pancakes.

250 g bread flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
40 g margarine, melted
250 ml milk
2 eggs

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and melted margarine, and thin with milk. Stir until smooth. Pour on a greased skillet and fry on both sides at low temperature. Cakes should be like thick pancakes.
-serve cold with any kind of topping that is good with bread: cheese, slices of meat, salads, etc.
-make a sandwich-cake: make a mayonnaise/sour-cream based salad (shrimp, tuna, egg, salmon, etc.), and layer with whole pancakes. (More on sandwich-cakes later).
-serve warm like American pancakes, with butter and syrup


Spice bread with ham and cheese filling

This is my own recipe. It's basis is a simple recipe for pizza crust that I got from a home economics cookery book, but it ended up as something completely different. Enjoy!

300 ml flour
1/2 tsp coriander
100 ml wheat germ (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast*
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbs water, lukewarm
1/2 tsp curry powder, mild
1 tbs vegetable oil

Mix together dry ingredients, including yeast and spices. Add oil and water and mix well. Knead until the dough is well mixed and no cracks are visible on the surface. Stand in a warm place for 40 minutes to 1 hour to rise. Knead again and roll out into an oblong shape. Thin the edges.

diced ham
cheese (I recommend Gouda)
Cottage cheese (optional)

Mix together ham and cottage cheese and put in the centre of the dough oblong. Sprinkle grated cheese over the filling. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling and press edges together. Brush with vegetable oil and sprinkle with grated cheese. Stand in a warm place for 20-25 minutes, to rise. Bake at 190 deg. C. for 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

-try using caraway seed along with the other spices.
-make a filling with everything you usually put in a pizza, or use the dough recipe to make a spicy pizza crust


Mashed Potatoes - Kartöflustappa/kartöflumús

Is there a potato-growing country in the world where people don’t make mashed potatoes? I doubt it. Here is one version. I have been making mashed potatoes since I learned to cook and have never used a recipe, but this recipe gives a good idea of the approximate proportions of the ingredients.

Mashed potatoes are served with many Icelandic dishes. I like it best with sausages, stews and goulash, and occasionally with roast lamb. It's also good with fried liver sausage.

1 1/2 kg potatoes
1/2 l milk
1 tbs butter (approx.)
1/2 tsp salt
15 g sugar (approx.)

Cook the potatoes, peel and mash well. Add some milk and stir well. Continue adding milk until the desired consistency is reached (should be fairly thick, but not runny). Add the butter, sugar and salt to taste. Warm up, but do not boil.

-Add a pinch of ground nutmeg as well as salt and sugar.
-For really light, lumpless and fluffy mashed potatoes, whip them, but not for long or they can become gummy.

A little etymology: The popular Icelandic name for mashed potatoes is kartöflumús. Mús means “mouse”, which some little kids think is very funny, but it’s actually an Icelanic spelling of the French word mousse.


Fish and seafood in Iceland

Being an island, Iceland naturally relies on the sea that surrounds it and the economy is still more or less based on fishing and fish processing (although other industries are becoming more important). Traditionally fish is either cooked and eaten fresh or preserved by salting (söltun), drying (þurrkun), smoking (reyking), or partly drying (siginn fiskur). Skate (skata and tindabykkja) and shark (hákarl) are fermented (kæsing).

The most common fish caught off Iceland's shores is cod (þorskur), which is mostly exported. The majority of Icelanders prefer to eat haddock (ýsa). My own favourite is halibut (lúða, heilagfiski). The traditional way of serving fish, whether fresh or preserved, is as soðning: plain, boiled fish, served with potatoes and sometimes with melted sheep's tallow with cracklings. Cod roe and liver are considered a delicacy by many. These are seasonal treats, and so is the fatty flesh of the male lumpfish (rauðmagi).

Other common species include capelin (loðna( which is mostly processed into fish-meal, herring (síld), saithe (ufsi), ocean perch (karfi), plaice (skarkoli) and ocean catfish/wolf-fish (steinbítur), to name a few. Mackerel (makríll) and tuna (túnfiskur) fishing has recently begun.

Anglerfish (skötuselur) and dogfish (háfur) also find their way into the trawls and nets of Icelandic fishermen, along with some more exotic species like moonfish (guðlax).

Crustaceans include arctic lobster/langostines (leturhumar), arctic shrimp (rækja) and many species of crabs. Only lobster and shrimp are caught commercially. Many types of shellfish are found - the only widely caught species is the scallop (hörpuskel) - but there is also some clam (kúskel) fishing and recently a company in Stykkishólmur has begun commercial breeding of blue mussels (bláskel) .

Fermented skate w/potatoes, rye bread, crackling and melted tallow.
Grey skate and starry rays (skata, tindabykkja) and Greenland shark (hákarl) are mostly eaten on special occasions. Salted and fermented skate - the smellier, the better - is a popular meal on the feast of St. Þorlákur on December 23rd. Shark is a typical "gross-out food", offered to unsuspecting foreign visitors along with a shot of Brennivín schnapps. It is traditionally eaten at Þorrablót feasts, cut into very small pieces, although some people keep it in the house and eat some every day.

Freshwater fish also provide a part of the diet of many Icelanders. Arctic char (bleikja), brown trout (silungur, urriði), and Atlantic salmon (lax) are all indigenous to Iceland, and so is eel (áll), but few people bother to catch eels. The most popular introduced species is rainbow trout (regnbogasilungur).

Iceland is home to some of Europe's most famous salmon rivers. A testament to the clean environment of the country is the fact that a good salmon river runs through the capital, Reykjavík.


Fish pancakes - Fisklummur

My mother sometimes deliberately cooks more fish than is necessary for one meal, and uses the left-over fish and potatoes to make these pancakes. They are popular with the whole family, and an excellent way of using up leftovers and getting finicky eaters to eat fish.+

This is really more of a guideline than a recipe. It recipe will yield enough pancakes for 2 people.

Take leftover cooked fish pieces (preferably plain poached or steamed fish, about 1/2 a fillet), remove any bones and flake with a fork. Put in a bowl with finely chopped, cooked potatoes (2-3 small ones); one small, finely chopped onion; and garlic to taste.

Stir in some flour (approx. 3 tbs in a recipe for two), and 1 tbs potato starch or cornflour. Flavour with salt and your favourite fish spice mix . Add one beaten egg. Thin with milk to the consistency of thin porridge. Fry in a medium hot skillet until golden and serve with potatoes, melted butter, and tomato wedges on the side.


Traditional rolled Sausage - Rúllupylsa

This is a good way of using up cuts of meat that are often considered inferior because of their high fat content. This sausage is generally used as a topping for bread.

1 kg mutton, pork or beef flanks (the soft, layered belly meat) and fatty scraps of meat. Mutton or pork is best.
2-3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp saltpeter (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tbs onion, finely chopped

Wash and dry the meat. If it contains ribs, remove them. Beat with a meat mallet to soften. Cut the largest piece into a square or rectangular shape, large enough to roll up. Cut the rest up in strips. Rub the spices and sugar on one side of the meat and arrange the meat strips on top. Roll up tightly, taking care to obtain an even thickness. Hold together with a fork or some toothpicks, and sew closed with twine. Start at the middle and work towards the ends. Truss up with more twine. Rub with a mixture of salt and saltpeter (3 tbs salt and 1 tbs saltpeter). Preserve by freezing, salting or smoking (leave out the onion and use less spice if smoking).

Cook for 1 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on size. The sausage is done when it can be easily pierced through with a pin (use a slender knitting pin). When it's done, it should be pressed - place on a cutting board, put another cutting board on top and weigh down with something heavy. Keep it pressed until cold. Cut into thin slices and serve on bread.


Beinlausir fuglar - "Boneless Birds"

I have no idea why this dish is called "boneless birds". My aunt often serves it at family dinners, and it is a great favourite of mine. To the basic recipe of meat and bacon she adds mushrooms and onions. Use lamb for preference.

1 1/2 kg. lamb, beef, or horse meat
50 g butter/margarine
salt and pepper to taste
500 ml water
100 g bacon
30 g flour

Traditional preparation:
Cut the meat into thin slices, and roll each in a mixture of salt and pepper. Put a slice of bacon on each slice of meat, roll up and tie up with twine. Brown on a hot pan. Add the water and cook until done through. Use the flour to thicken the sauce. Serve with potatoes, rhubarb jam and green peas.

Easy method with bacon and mushrooms:
Cut the meat into bite sized pieces and brown on a frying pan. Put in a pot with the water and bring to the boil, lower cooking temperature to simmer. Cut the bacon into pieces, fry lightly and add to the meat. Cut one large onion in half and cut the halves into thin slices, crosswise. Fry on a pan until transparent and add to the meat. Cut some fresh mushrooms (about 1/2 kg.) into slices and fry in butter until soft. Add to the meat. Simmer until the meat is done.

Flavour the dish to taste with salt and pepper and Season-All (optional). I always add a touch of garlic as well. You can make a sauce out of the cooking liquid by thickening with flour, but I recommend just pouring everything into a large bowl and serving it up that way. People will be wanting to drink the cooking liquid afterwards! By using more water, you can make this into a hearty, warming soup.
Serve with potatoes - boiled or caramelized - and a fresh salad.


Iceland Moss Soup - Fjallagrasamjólk

This is a very healthy, nourishing soup.

Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica) is very versatile. In spite of the name, it isn't a moss at all, but a lichen. It's used in cosmetics (especially creams and ointments), medicines and nutritional supplements (it is an excellent remedy for coughs and digestive problems), and as food. In the past it was also used for colouring wool.

Iceland moss also grows in other northern countries, but as it is very sensitive to pollution, it is not much harvested. It tastes very bitter when used in teas and infusions, but cooking it in milk, like in this recipe, removes most of the bitterness.

This soup is very nourishing and tasty. It is up to you if you choose to actually eat the moss or just use it as a flavouring (it gets a bit slimy when cooked). I sometimes get this at my grandmother's. She also makes a cough syrup with Iceland moss, which tastes extremely bitter in spite of it being saturated with sugar, but it is the best cough remedy I have tried.

1-2 fistfuls Iceland moss
1 litre whole milk
2-3 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 litres whole milk
30-40 gr. Iceland moss
50 gr. sugar
pinch salt

Clean the lichens well (this includes picking off any remains of moss). Flush the lichens with cold water and chop them up. Bring the milk to the boil and add the lichens. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and sugar and serve.


Cauliflower-cheese bake – Bakað blómkál með osti

My aunt often serves this as a side dish with Sunday roast, but it is also a good main dish for vegetarians who eat dairy products.

To serve 6 as a side dish or 2 as a main dish with bread and a salad.

1 medium head of cauliflower
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
100 g mild cheese (I like Gouda), grated

Remove all the greens from the cauliflower and cook (in one piece) in lightly salted water for 10-15 minutes. Heat the oven to 200°C. Remove cauliflower from the water, drain and put in an oven-proof dish. Mix together breadcrumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle on top of the cauliflower and top with grated cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Serve warm.


Súkkulaði - Hot chocolate

Deliciously warming on a cold winter's day – and whe have had some chilly ones lately – this is my favourite hot drink. Preferably made with Síríus Konsum chocolate, but you can use any semi-sweet chocolate available.

250 g semi-sweet chocolate*
250 ml water
1 ltr milk
1 tsp butter
sugar and vanilla essence to taste

*I use semi-sweet chocolate, but bitter chocolate will do - just use a bit more sugar.

Break up the chocolate into pieces and put in a cooking pot with the water. Heat gently, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Add the milk in smallish portions, allowing it to boil before adding more. Add sugar and vanilla essence to taste, and melt in the butter just before serving.

-Serve in mugs with whipped cream ( and your favourite cake or cookies on the side).
-Alternatively, serve with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream floating on top.


Velvet Pudding - Flauelsgrautur

Like macaroni soup, this is a comfort food for me. The smooth texture of the pudding makes it feel like soft velvet on the tongue - thus the name. Serves 6.

175 g butter
250 g flour
2 ltr milk
2 tsp salt

Melt the butter and add the sifted flour and mix well. Add boiling milk, portion by portion and mix well in between (just like making white sauce – which this really is, only thicker). Cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Adjust flavour with salt. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve with milk or sweet berry juice (make from berry syrup or use sweetened juice).


Halibut steaks - Lúðubuff

Here's one way to prepare my favourite fish.

1 1/2 kg. Halibut, whole (or turbot, sole or other flat fish if you can't get halibut)
4 tbs flour
2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp ground pepper
150 g oil, butter or margarine
100 g onion

Take one small, whole halibut. Cut off the head, tail and fins. Scrape off the slime and loose scales under cold, running water. Cut the fish into slices, about as thick as your thumb is wide. Mix together flour, salt and pepper. Coat the slices with flour mixture and fry in the hot fat until done (3-4 minutes on each side). Remove from the pan and arrange the steaks on a serving dish. Slice the onions and brown in the fat, remove and put on top of the fish. Pour some water on the frying pan, roll it around and pour over the fish. Serve with cooked potatoes, green salad and lemon wedges.
-Try grilling the fish steaks: cut into large cubes and thread onto skewers with onion pieces, fresh mushrooms and pieces of red bell pepper (capsicum).


Nuked fish - Kjarnorkufiskur

Christmas is over and the New Year’s Eve madness as well (although I still hear the occasional explosion as people discover overlooked fireworks or celebrate January birthdays by letting off a few). What better way to calm stomachs that are still recovering from all the heavy holiday food than by serving up a delicious fish dish?

This is my grandmother’s recipe for a quick fish gratin with vegetables:

Take 1 fish fillet, skinless and boneless, preferably haddock or cod - but any firm, white fish will do. Cut into pieces. Take some raw potatoes, carrots, a small rutabaga and some cauliflower. Slice carrots, cut cauliflower into small florets and chop rutabaga and potatoes into bite-size pieces. Layer into a microwave-safe casserole dish. Break a couple of eggs into a bowl, add some milk and spices (salt, pepper, and fish-spice mix). Mix well. Pour egg mixture over the fish and veggies. Top with grated cheese. Nuke on High until the vegetables are tender and the egg mixture is cooked.