Sætsúpa með sagógrjónum - Sweet Soup with sago

As with some of the other recipes on this blog, this is fairly recent, no older than 20th century and probably originated in Denmark. The soup is made with the kind of sweet fruit or berry concentrate that is meant for mixing with water for drinking. Because the concentrates come in different thicknesses and need different amounts of water for mixing to the right flavour I am not giving exact measurements. The soup can be made with different types of concentrate, but the Icelandic version is often made with mixed fruit concentrate.

When I say concentrate, I am not referring to the pure concentrated juices you can buy frozen or canned, but the sweetened stuff that is halfway to being syrup because of its sugar content, but I have no doubt that if pure juice concentrate were to be used it would yield a delicious soup. I suggest trying it with strawberry, raspberry, cherry or pomegranate concentrate, or some other red or reddish juice. If pure unsweetened concentrate is to be used, I suggest adding a little sugar to the soup.

To serve 4:

700 ml water
fruit or berry concentrate/syrup
50 ml white pearl sago (small pearls)
50 ml raisins or prunes
1 small cinnamon stick (optional)
2 cloves (optional)

Mix enough fruit or berry concentrate/syrup into the water to make the flavour slightly too strong for drinking. Bring to the boil and add the pearl sago, stirring constantly. Add the raising/prunes and spices and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sago is cooked.

For the Icelandic way of eating this soup, crumble some zwieback into the soup bowls before serving.


Holiday notice

I am off to India for the next 5 weeks. I will not be posting anything during that time. If you have any questions you need answered, go ahead and either post them in comments or send me an e-mail, but I will not be answering them until I get back.


Traditional Icelandic fish soup (halibut soup) - Fiskisúpa (lúðusúpa)

This soup is among the oldest recorded Icelandic recipes. It's sweet-sour taste is unusual for fish-based soups.

Traditionally, the recipe is given for halibut, but you can also use salmon, trout, wolf-fish or lumpfish, or other fatty fish.

1 1/2 kg fresh fish with bones, cut into pieces to fit in the pan
1 1/2 litre water
2 tbs white vinegar
2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves

50 g flour
100 ml cold water

1/2 lemon
20 prunes
1-2 tbs sugar
200 ml water


If the prunes are dry, soak them in water for an hour or so, or cook them in a little sugar-water with the zest of the 1/2 lemon until soft. Keep them whole.

Put water, salt, vinegar and bay leaves in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the fish. skim off the scum when the liquid boils again. cook the fish until it loosens from the bones. Strain the cooking liquid into another saucepan, leaving a little in the pan with the fish to keep it moist.

Mix together the flour and cold water into a smooth paste. Bring the strained cooking liquid to the boil and pour in the flour paste in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Cook for 5-10 minutes.

When the soup is fully cooked, add the lemon juice and prunes, and if they were cooked, the prune cooking liquid with them.

Arrange the fish on a serving dish and surround with boiled potatoes, sprinkled with chopped parsley. Serve on the side with the soup.


Boiled and stewed rutabagas (swedes) - Soðnar rófur og rófustappa

This root is known variously as a rutabaga, swede, swedish turnip or yellow turnip.

I prefer rutabagas raw, but I also like them in lamb soup.

Poached rutabagas:

Wash 1 kg. the rutabagas in cold water and peel them. If small, leave whole or halve, if big, quarter and then halve or cut into wedges and halve those. Try to make the pieces a uniform size.

Bring 1/2 liter water with 2 tsp salt to a gentle boil. Drop the rutabaga pieces into the water and poach - or steam them for a stronger flavour - until soft. Take care not to overcook, of they will become watery and bland.

Serve with boiled meats and fish.

Mashed rutabagas:

1 kg rutabagas
salted water
(100-200 ml milk)
50 g butter
salt, pepper, (sugar)

Wash, peel and re-wash the rutabagas in cold water. Cook in the salted water until soft. Remove from the cooking liquid and mash thoroughly. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the mash and thin with the milk, if needed, to the consistency of thin mashed potatoes. Add salt, pepper and sugar, if desired.

Traditionally served, hot or cold, with traditional Þorri foods.


Whey soup

I have never tried this soup, so I am not taking any responsibility if you make it and hate it!

1 liter strong whey
4-5 tbs sugar
1 cinnamon stick

50 g potato flour or cornstarch
100 ml cold water

Cook the whey with the cinnamon and sugar for 5-10 minutes. Make a paste from the starch and cold water and stir into the soup to thicken. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and cool. Red food colouring or crowberry (or redcurrant or cranberry) concentrate can be used to give the soup some colour.


Red beet salad - Rauðrófusalat

This is delicious with pork roast, ham, hangikjöt or salt herring:

Pickled red beets (beetroots)
Sweet apple
Beet juice
Lemon juice
all to taste

The beets and apples are cut into small cubes and mixed into softly whipped cream, along with lemon juice, sugar to taste, and enough beet juice to turn the salad pink.

Pickled red beets

Red beets are traditionally served with meats, especially pork, but I like them best in herring salad, creamy beet salad (recipe upcoming) and with liverwurst on Danish rye bread.

Red beets

100-200 g sugar
1 liter white vinegar

Wash the beets thoroughly in cold water, put into cold water, add salt and cook until done through. Remove from the cooking liquid and gently remove the skins with your hands and cut off the tops. Slice the beets into slices, about 1/2 cm thick (I like them crinkle-cut). Fill a pickling jar with the beet slices.

Cook together sugar and vinegar until the sugar is melted. Pour boiling vinegar over the beet slices. They will keep in sealed jars for 2-3 months.


Boiled lamb, mutton, veal or fish with curry sauce

My mother used to make this dish several time a year when I was growing up, and I liked it then, but now that I have learned to appreciate genuine Indian and Chinese curries, I never make it, simply because I detest pre-mixed curry powder (the only thing I use it for is sauce for marinated herring). The curry used is the mild type, but I imagine that a medium hot curry powder would be good with mutton, which has a stronger flavour than lamb or veal.

This is a relatively new but still traditional Icelandic dish. I think curry powder first appeared in Iceland in the 1940s or 50s, and this dish has been part of the Icelandic everyday diet ever since. Lamb or mutton is generally used, but this recipe is also suited to veal.

750 g lamb, mutton or veal
800 ml water
2 tsp salt
2 carrots

Curry sauce:
2 1/2 to 3 tbs flour
1 tsk curry powder
150 ml cold water
400-500 ml meat cooking liquid or stock

100 g rice
1 liter water
1 tsp salt

A cheap cut like shoulder can be used in this dish. Meat should be in small pieces, about 2-3 mouthfuls each piece.

Bring the water to the boil and drop in the pieces of meat. Skim and salt. Lower the temperature to simmer and cook under a lid until it is soft and just beginning to come off the bone (about 40 minutes to an hour for lamb, 1-2 hours for mutton). Clean and slice the carrot and cook with the meat for the last 10 minutes. When the meat is cooked, remove from the saucepan and keep warm while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, sift together the flour and curry powder. Mix with the water to make a paste.

Strain the cooking liquid from the meat, return to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the salt. When the liquid is boiling, pour in the flour/curry paste in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the sauce boils again. Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet.

To serve with fish:
Poach the same amount of cod or haddock as there is meat in the above recipe, leaving out the carrots. Instead of cooking liquid from meat, make the sauce with the cooking liquid from the fish, fish stock or milk. Serve with rice.


Cod cheeks - þorskkinnar

The cod's cheeks are eaten both salted and fresh. this recipe will do for either. Salted cheeks must be soaked in water to wash out some of the saltiness.

10 cod cheeks
an egg yolk, lightly beaten
some breadcrumbs mixed with salt and pepper
100-200 g butter

If you have whole cod's heads, cut away the cheeks and clean them well. Roll in the egg white, and then in the brumbs. Melt the butter in a frying pan and brown the cheeks in the butter. They may also be fried in an oven-proof dish in the oven.

Serve with boiled potatoes.


Breaded lamb cutlets - Steiktar kótilettur í raspi

You can use either rib cutlets or leg cutlets to make this dish. This was one of my favourite Sunday dishes when I was growing up, and remains a comfort food for me.

The recipe works with pork or veal cutlets as well, but the traditional meat is lamb.

750 g of rib half-cutlets or leg cutlets of lamb
2 egg whites or 1 egg and 2 tbs milk
3 tbs bread crumbs (we generally use Paxo brand crumbs, but home-made or other brands are fine as long as they are unflavoured)
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper*
100 g butter or margarine
20 g butter

1-2 onions
extra butter as needed
2-3 tbs water

Traditionally, the cutlets are beaten with a meat mallet, but if you have nice, tender lamb, it really isn't necessary.

Set up a mise-en-place: frying pan on the stove, dish with bread crumbs and spices, dish with egg, dish with cutlets.

If using egg whites, whip them until they begin to froth. If using a whole egg, break and stir vigorously with the milk until slightly frothy. Mix together the bread crumbs and salt and pepper.

Melt the butter/margarine in the pan and when it is hot, start frying the cutlets: coat each cutlet with egg and then with bread crumbs and drop into the pan. When the crumbs on top begin to look damp, turn over. When both sides are evenly browned, put pats of butter on top of each cutlet and fry over low heat for about 10 minutes. Leg cutlets need longer cooking than rib cutlets. Remove the cutlets and keep warm in the oven until the onions are ready.

Alternatively, arrange the cutlets in a single layer in an oven-proof dish and bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C, turning twice. Dot with butter for the last 10 minutes.

Slice the onions, turn up the heat and brown the onions in the remaining butter, adding more of needed. When golden, add water and cook until it evaporates.

Arrange the cutlets on a platter and either pour the onions over the cutlets or serve on the side in a bowl. Serve with fried or boiled potatoes and fresh or cooked vegetables, rhubarb jam and cooked green marrow peas for an authentic Icelandic flavour. I also love mushrooms fried in butter with this dish, but that's not traditional, and, strictly speaking, neither are fresh vegetables.

* for seasoning, I add Aromat and a spice mixture called Kød & Grill, both made by Knorr. If Aromat and Kød & Grill isn't available, you can use Accent and Season-All, or just use the basic salt and pepper.


Old Icelandic bread moulds

These carved wooden moulds would be pressed on top of the bread prior to baking, to make patterns in the crust:



Both are on display in the museum in Skógar.


Traditional salt cod

Salt cod is made by filleting or butterflying cod and arranging in layers with layers of coarse salt in-between. The fish is allowed to stand in a cool place for 1-2 weeks. To increase the time it can be stored, salt cod is dried, traditionally by laying it in a single layer on clean rocks or gravel, in dry weather, until reduced in thickness and dry to the touch. If the fish is sun-dried, it can turn yellowish.

Small codfish are treated differently: they are gutted, their heads cut off and they are washed in cold water, then arranged in a barrel. A layer of salt is put on the bottom, then a layer of fish, with the backs down, then another thick layer of salt, taking care to fill the body cavities of the fish with salt. When the barrel is full, a final layer of salt is put in, a loosely fitted lid put in and a light weight put on top.

To cook salt fish, soak it in a generous measure of water for 12 hours, changing the water 2-3 times. It is then cooked in fresh water for 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pieces. It is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and turnips, and butter or tallow (with cracklings).


Rye bread tops - Rúgbrauðstoppar

These little rye bread "cakes" are made to be served with milk soups or hot milk. Make sure you use the sweet Icelandic type of rye bread and not the Danish or German style unsweetened pumpernickel bread.

250 g rye bread, finely crumbled or grated
75 g sugar
100 g butter or margarine

Mix together bread and sugar and gently brown in the butter in a frying pan until it begins to harden. Press into egg cups or miniature muffin tins to cool. Serve with sweet milk soups or hot milk.


Spice-pickled herring

Spice-pickled herring is used both as it is and also as an ingredient in various dishes, especially salads and Danish-style open-faced sandwiches. The taste is similar to that of pickled anchovies.

3 kg fresh herring, gutted

pickling mixture:
750 g pickling salt
150 g sugar or brown sugar
20 g allspice
15 g bay leaves
30 g pepper
5 g saltpeter

Mix together all the ingredients except the herring. Take a container, e.g. a large pickling jar, and cover the bottom with the pickling mixture. Arrange the herrings tightly in layers, head to tail and belly up, with a layer of the pickling mix in-between, ending with pickling mix. Close the container and store in a cool place for 3-4 weeks.


Cod tongues – soðnar gellur

The humble cod has been the dominant fish in Icelandic cuisine for centuries. An example of its importance is that there is an Icelandic name for every bone and muscle in the cod's head, more than forty terms in all, and every one of those muscles has been eaten.

Cod tongues aren't really tongues, but rather the fleshy, triangular muscle behind and under the tongue. They are available from all good fishmongers's shops in Iceland, both salted and fresh. When I was working in a salt fish factory in my teens, we could take home all the gellur we wanted for free. Salted gellur need to be soaked in cold water over night.

Take the gellur and scrape off the slime. Drop into boiling water (salted if they're fresh) for 10-15 minutes. Serve with plain boiled potatoes, rye bread and butter.

If there is anything left over at the end of the meal, you can try this recipe with the leftovers:

Fried gellur:

1/2 kg cooked gellur
2 tbs flour
Salt and fish spice mix
75-100 g butter

If you want sauce (I don't)
1/4 litre water
Sauce colouring
Salt and pepper

Roll the gellur in flour into which salt and spice has been mixed and brown in butter in a frying pan. Remove from the pan. Deglaze the pan and add sauce colouring. Cook until it is sufficiently thickened. Pour over the gellur. Serve on toast with fresh salad on the side.

Sometimes I make British fish batter (of fish-and-chips fame), dip gellur in it and deep-fry. Yummm!

The first recipe is traditional, the second is not.


Apple compote

200 g dried apples (slices)
1 1/2 liter water
75-100 g sugar

2-3 tbs potato flour or cornstarch
100 ml cold water

Wash the apples and soak in the water with half the sugar for about 12 hours. Cook until soft. Make a paste with the starch and cold water and stir into the compote to thicken. Add remaining sugar, or to taste. Pour into a bowl and sprinkle sugar on top. Serve warm or cold, with cream if preferred.


Kidney stew

500 g kidneys - sheep, veal or pork
flour mixed with salt, pepper and paprika to taste
50 g butter or frying fat
2 onions, finely chopped
3-4 carrots, sliced
250 g tomatoes

Clean the kidneys and cut each into 4 parts. Coat with spice-flour mixture. Brown in the butter/fat in a saucepan with the onions and carrots. Blanch and skin the tomatoes and add towards the end of the browning time.

Add enough water so that it barely covers the ingredients. Simmer over low heat until the kidneys are tender.

At the end, thicken the sauce with some flour paste and add a little cream if desired, to make a smoother sauce. Serve with potatoes.

This dish is also good with mushrooms.


Apricot compote

This is a simple and flavourful compote and delicious served with cream.

350 g dried apricots
1 liter water
100-200 g sugar

Wash the apricots and soak in the water with the sugar for about 12 hours. Cook in the syrup that forms during the soaking time, until the compote is thick and the apricots are soft.


Prune compote - Sveskjugrautur

There are many Icelandic recipes for fruit compotes made from dried fruit, some mixed, some using one particular fruit. Most common are apricot, prune and apple compotes. I have already posted a recipe for mixed fruit compote and compote of fresh rhubarb, and will be posting more over the next few weeks. These compotes are good both warm and cold, and are usually served with cream or half-and-half. They can be bought ready made in most supermarkets.

For those who like to do things themselves, here is a recipe for prune compote.

250 g prunes with pits
1 liter water
2-4 tbs sugar

3 tbs potato flour or cornstarch
100 ml cold water

Wash the prunes and soak in the water for about 12 hours, then cook in the water they were soaked in, until they are soft (if using prunes that are already soft, skip the soaking part). Remove pits. Add sugar to taste. Make a paste of starch and cold water and stir into the compote to thicken. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle sugar on top and serve warm or cold. Good with cream.


Crowberry soup

Crowberries grow all over Iceland and can in fact be found in many areas in the subarctic and temperate zones, including Denmark*, Alaska and northern Canada (according to Wikipedia, they are also found in the Andes). They are well worth picking because they make delicious jelly, a good drink concentrate**, taste good fresh with skyr, and then there is this soup:

1/2 to 1 kg crowberries, well ripened
1 litre water
1 cinnamon stick

2 tbs potato flour or cornstarch
100 ml cold water

100 g sugar, or to taste

Pick over the berries, removing any under-ripe berries and other unwanted objects (may include twig pieces, leaves, moss and spiders - that is assuming you didn't go to Vínberið*** and buy the berries already cleaned) and clean under running cold water.

Cook the berries in the water with the cinnamon stick for 20-30 minutes. Strain and re-heat to boiling. Mix potato flour/cornstarch and water into a paste. When the soup boils, stir in the paste and let boil again. Add sugar to taste. Serve warm with zwieback.

* I tasted Danish crowberries once, and they didn't have nearly as much flavour as the ones that grow in Iceland, and neither were they as juicy. I'm guessing it's the soil that makes the difference.

**you can also make crowberry wine.

***a grocery and confectionery shop in Reykjavík and the only local shop where I have seen crowberries for sale.


Holiday notice

I am going away on holiday and will not be posting anything for the next 2 weeks, and neither will I be able to approve or answer any comments.


Cookbook review: The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann


While there are no specifically Icelandic recipes in this book, there are enough dishes in it that have passed into traditional Icelandic cookery (taken from Danish and Norwegian cookbooks of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries) to include it here.

Author Trina Hahnemann has, in co-operation with photographer Lars Ranek, produced a gorgeous tribute to Scandinavian cookery. The book is divided into chapters by month, and each month includes recipes made from local ingredients that are fresh at the given time of year. The recipes, when they aren't pan-Scandinavian, are mostly Danish and Swedish, with some Norwegian ones. My native Iceland isn‘t included, as while the culinary tradition is firmly Scandinavian, the country isn‘t actually a geographical part of Scandinavia. I did find several recipes that are very familiar to me, like fish cakes, gravlax, pickled cucumbers, marinated herring and Christmas pudding, to name a few.

The recipes are a mixture of familiar traditional recipes, variations on the traditional (like fish cakes in curry sauce), and new recipes using traditional Scandinavian ingredients. There are photographs of almost every dish, interspersed with photos of the raw ingredients and cityscapes, landscapes and people, all of them in glorious colour. The abundance of photographs means that this is not just a recipe collection, but actually a gorgeous coffee-table book as well. The recipes are, for the most part, easy to make, and most of the ingredients easy to find, although substitutions may sometimes have to be made, e.g. if one can‘t get hold of moose, reindeer or flounder.

At the back of the book there is a handy glossary of ingredients and a list of websites that will provide those interested with more information about Scandinavia and its foods. The author is a well-known chef and food writer and already has several cookbooks under her belt, published in her native Denmark.

While I have not yet tested any of the actual recipes given in the book, I have cooked a number of the dishes (from other cookbooks) and tasted several more. There is a good variety of recipes, for appetisers, main courses, soups, desserts, drinks and baked goods, and as I have already mentioned, many of them are ideally suited to the season the chapters cover.

All in all, I think this is a gorgeous cookbook that will give non-Scandinavians a good overview of Scandinavian food and cookery, and the photographs will certainly arouse an interest in visiting the region.

Finally, here is a recipe from the book that I plan to try soon:

Grilled leg of lamb with garlic and tarragon (serves 8)

1 boned leg of lamb
Salt and pepper
10 tarragon sprigs
6 cloves garlic

Heat the grill to medium.

Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste over the leg of lamb, the cover with the tarragon and garlic. Fold up the meat and tie it up with kitchen string to help it keep its shape.

Lay the meat on the grill and close the grill. Cook for about 2 hours, or until an instant read meat thermometer reads 160 to 175°F (70 to 80°C). Take care that the underside of the lamb does not burn.

When the meat is done, let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with potato salad and green cabbage salad with dill and peas (both are included in the book).


Quick and easy bread casserole

Hot bread-based dishes like this one are a popular party food in Iceland. I have rarely attended a birthday party, graduation, or other get-together in the last 10 years or so where the hosts didn’t serve at least one hot bread dish, either a stuffed bread roll or a casserole.

These dishes generally contain cheese, usually either mushrooms or asparagus (often both), and sometimes chopped bell peppers or crushed pineapple. In the beginning the sauce was usually a can of Campbell’s condensed mushroom or asparagus soup mixed with cream, and the dish was topped with cheese, but these days the sauce is usually made from scratch, using some combination of:
  • melted white or blue mould cheese (e.g. Camembert or Brie), or
  • melted flavoured block cheese, or
  • cream cheese, or
  • cheese spread
mixed with cream and/or mayonnaise and the liquid from the mushrooms and/or asparagus.

Protein is usually provided in the form of ham or shrimp, but chicken can be used as well.

The spices vary. I have seen recipes that use sweet paprika like this one, but also curry powder, Season-All, or garlic. This is the first and only dish of this kind I have tasted that uses mustard as a flavouring, and I have to say it stands out for that reason, especially if you use hot Dijon-style mustard. However, not everyone likes hot mustard, so if you want a crowd pleaser, use sweet mustard instead, or leave it out altogether.

Fresh substitutions can be made for the canned mushrooms and asparagus, in which case don’t forget to prepare some mushroom and asparagus stock to replace the liquid from the cans. Water will not do as a replacement for the liquid, and you will lose some flavour if you use extra cream or milk instead of the liquid.

The recipe:

  • 50 ml cream
  • 200 g mushroom-flavoured cheese spread
  • 1 tbs mayonnaise
  • 1 small can green asparagus, liquid included
  • 1 small can mushrooms, liquid included (looks better with whole small button mushrooms, but the big sliced ones taste the same)
  • 2 tbs mustard. The original recipe says to use sweet mustard, but I like the bite Dijon mustard adds to the dish
  • 3-4 slices of bread. I prefer whole wheat, but white is fine too. Crusts may be kept or removed according to taste.
  • 150 g chopped ham (vegetarians can use tofu or just leave it out altogether)
  • Sweet paprika powder

Mix everything together in a saucepan except the bread, ham and paprika. Heat through (do not boil) and stir to mix well. Tear the sliced bread into pieces and put in the bottom of a casserole dish or small lasagna pan (don't line it completely, just sprinkle the bread over it). Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the ham. Pour evenly over the bread, sprinkle a little paprika over the top, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 200°C (180°C if you have a convection oven). Serve in the casserole dish/lasagna pan.

This dish also makes a nice little meal for 2-3 people, served with a fresh salad.

You can use the sauce as a filling for a bread roll, in which case substitute the roll for the sliced bread, spread the slightly cooled filling on the roll and roll it up, then mix together:
  • 2 stiffly whipped egg whites,
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (e.g. Gouda or Monterey Jack)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika powder,
and spread over the top and sides of the roll and bake at 180°C until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

This dish can be frozen before baking and popped in the oven when needed.


Skyr mousse

Here is the first of the modern skyr recipes.

Note on the measurements: I have rounded all the ounces to the nearest whole number. It does not make any difference for the recipe.

500 g / 18 oz. plain skyr
75 g / 3 oz. sugar
200 ml / 7 oz. cream
3 sheets gelatin
1 vanilla pod
50 ml / 2 oz. cream

Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Reserve the seeds and discard the pod (or reserve for making something else).

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for 5-10 minutes and lightly whip the large portion of cream.

Mix together the skyr, sugar and vanilla seeds.

Heat the small portion of cream, and cool slightly. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin and dissolve in the heated cream. Mix carefully into the skyr mixture and then fold in the whipped cream.

Pour into small mousse forms or individual serving bowls and freeze.

Serve with fresh fruit and fruit sauce.

Here is a strawberry sauce that’s good with skyr mousse:
150 g / 5 oz. fresh strawberries
50 g / 2 oz. sugar

Wash and hull the strawberries. Put the berries in a food processor and purée thoroughly. Pour into a saucepan, add the sugar and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cool before serving.

The mousse can be used as a topping for a cake: Bake a sponge cake in a springform tin, remove and cool. Put the cake on the dish you intend to serve it on, put the side part of the springform around it, pour in the mousse and cool until stiff. Remove the springform and decorate the cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Serve, if desired, with the strawberry sauce on the side.

Another idea: Crumble some Graham crackers and add a little cinnamon. Pour over a little melted butter, stir well and press into the bottom of a serving bowl and allow to set before adding the mousse. Decorate with fruit and whipped cream and serve with the strawberry sauce.


Skyr expanded

For centuries, Icelanders ate skyr mostly as it was, perhaps with some milk or water stirred in to make it go down more smoothly. In latter times it has usually been thinned with milk, sugar has been added and it has been served with cream or milk. If the season is right there might be bilberries or crowberries stirred in. If the skyr was the main course, a piece of rye bread with butter, or perhaps a piece of blood sausage or liver sausage would often be served on the side. Or it might be mixed 50/50 with cold porridge and served with cream.

But there are many other ways to serve or use it as an ingredient. I like it with half-and-half and brown sugar or maple syrup. The wife of the Icelandic president has declared that she loves it with honey. Some sprinkle muesli on it. Others prefer fruit.

You can get all sorts of flavours from the factory, besides the plain. The ones I can remember off the top of my head are:
  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry-blueberry
  • Peach
  • Vanilla
  • Raspberry
  • Banana
  • Apricot & vanilla
  • Melon-passion fruit
  • Cappuccino
  • Pear
  • Raspberry-peach

All of them are available in portion-sized containers, some with plastic spoons attached (depends on the producer). The flavoured types are best kept cool, but the plain variety will keep quite well for a couple of days at room temperature. I recommend the KEA brand.

You can even get skyr-drinks, which you should try if you like drinking yogurt.

You can also use skyr to make more elaborate dishes. Some time ago, a woman e-mailed me from the USA and told me about having eaten skyr brulée in a restaurant in Reykjavík. She liked it enough to ask me to find her a recipe for it. I still haven’t found a recipe, but I have been experimenting and will post the results here once I am happy with the recipe.

On my other food blog, Matarást, you can find a recipe for Moussaka made with skyr. The original called for using Greek yogurt in the topping, but plain skyr gives results that are just as good.

Skyr also makes an excellent ingredient in various kinds of tempting desserts. I don’t know who it was that first thought of using skyr in place of cream cheese in a cheese cake, but I salute them. Not only is it healthier than cream cheese by virtue of being fat-free, therefore reducing the fat content of the dessert considerably and hopefully the guilt of eating it as well, but it is also very, very tasty. The fresh, slightly tart flavour of skyr and its light texture make a nice alternative to the creamy taste and thick, heavy texture of cream cheese.

Some of the new (or new-ish) Icelandic recipes I am translating and testing for future inclusion on this blog include skyr desserts. I realise of course that if you don’t live in Iceland or in those areas of the USA where the Whole Foods Market chain is selling skyr, you will not have an opportunity to try these recipes (unless you know how to make skyr at home), but I would like to suggest using Greek yogurt, quark or fromage frais instead. It will not give you the exact flavour or texture of skyr, but you will get some idea of what the dishes are like.


Changes to the blog

I am changing the direction of this blog a bit. Henceforth is is going to be not only about traditional Icelandic foods, but about what Icelanders like to eat in general.

So far I have mostly written about traditional Icelandic food, most of which is still being cooked and served in Icelandic homes. But the food many of the younger generations like best can also be called Icelandic, even if it includes such obvious new imports as passion fruit, Parmesan cheese or prosciutto. Therefore I am going to change tack and start including more modern Icelandic recipes here. To separate the traditional food from the modern, I have labelled all the traditional recipes as such.

Some of the food I have labelled “traditional” is really rather new, like cocktail sauce, rice pudding and hot chocolate, but I have labelled it as traditional by dint of its either being so lastingly popular that it has been proven not to be a fad and therefore likely to continue lasting, or because it or its use is unique to Iceland. Do keep in mind when searching for recipes that “traditional” may have as little as a 20 year history behind it.

A number of the recipes may look familiar to foreign visitors, which simply indicates that Iceland is not a closed country and we like to try foreign recipes as much as the next nation.


Easter eggs

Easter will be here soon, and because we Icelanders have a notoriously sweet tooth I thought I would write about Easter eggs.


Icelandic Easter eggs are invariably made from chocolate, although you will find Easter decorations made from hen's eggs. A couple of months before Easter you will start seeing small chocolate eggs in bright wrappings in supermarkets, grocery stores and candy kiosks all over the country. These contain a piece of paper with a proverb or saying, and some also contain a few pieces of candy.


Then, about a month before Easter, racks upon racks of bigger eggs start appearing in shops. They range in size from goose egg to bigger than an ostrich egg and are generally made from milk chocolate, although you can now get at least one type of dark chocolate. They also come designed for diabetics and people with food allergies. All the eggs contain candy and a proverb, and are decorated on the outside, usually with an artificial baby chicken on top, but sometimes with plastic figurines for kids. At least one producer is boosting sales by hiding cell phones inside some of the biggest eggs.

Here is a typical Icelandic Easter egg. I'm planning to buy the dark chocolate type for myself and will post a picture later.



Hrærð terta - A white cake with jam

This cake is simply called "Batter cake", which is certainly descriptive, but not very poetic. It is an excellent base for a cream cake - in which case forget the jam and use canned fruit instead and pour a little of the juice into both layers, pipe on whipped cream to cover the cake and decorate with fresh fruit.

1/3 cup butter or margarine, soft
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla essence (this is my addition to the original recipe, as I think that without it the cake tastes eggy)

Separate the eggs. Whip together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks and mix well (and add the vanilla if using). Mix together flour and baking powder and add to the batter little by little. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter with a spatula.

Pour into 2 round 20 centimeter/8 inch baking pans with loose bottoms and bake at 175°C/350°F (regular oven) until the cakes area rich golden colour, if possible with more bottom-heat than top-heat (if your oven doesn't have that setting, don't worry). No baking time is given in the original recipe, but it took 15 minutes in my convection oven at 165°C/330°F.

Turn out of the pans onto baking paper sprinkled with sugar, and allow to cool (original recipe), or turn out onto a cake rack and sprinkle sugar directly on the top of one layer while it is still hot (my suggestion). Sandwich with jam when cooled, putting the sugared layer on top.

This makes a cute little cake. The original recipe calls for 3 layers, in which case I suggest using 12 or 15 centimeter/5 or 6 inch pans so the layers will not be thin as pancakes.

I used strawberry-rhubarb jam when I made it, but I think strawberry or raspberry jam would probably be the best for this cake. I can also imagine it would be quite delicious layered with chocolate fudge icing.