As you may have noticed, Photobucket is holding some of my photos hostage. The "ransom" is not tremendously high, but instead of paying it, I think I shall consider this a hint to spruce up the blog a bit as I move my photo hosting over to Google Photo Albums.

I don't have a tremendous amount of time available for this, so the photos will come back online gradually as I work my way back through the blog and update the posts.


Simple remoulade recipe

I was given this recipe by a friend, but haven't personally tested it, so I'm not making any guarantees as to originality or similarity to Gunnars remúlaði.

100 grams mayonnaise
50 grams sour cream
3-4 tbs. sweet relish (she uses the Heinz brand)
dash of mustard
dash of curry powder

Stir together well and adjust spices.

Serve with fried fish or hot dogs.


Split pea soup with salt lamb - Saltkjöt og baunir

Today is Shrove Tuesday. This day is called Sprengidagur (Bursting Day) in Iceland. This is the last day before Lent, and during the time when Icelanders still observed the fast, it was the last day on which meat could be eaten until Easter. The origins of the Icelandic name for this day are uncertain, but today it is generally taken to mean "eating until you feel like you're bursting". Split pea soup and salted mutton has been the traditional meal for this day since the 19th century.

  • 2 l water
  • 500 g lamb meat or mutton, preferably salt cured, or salt pork if lamb/mutton is not available
  • 200 g yellow split peas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 500 g potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 500 g carrots and rutabagas
  • 3-4 slices smoked bacon (optional) – I use a lot more

Soak the peas for time indicated on packaging. Bring water to the boil. Cut onion into chunks and add to the water with the meat and peas, and cook for about 1 hour. If you are using bacon, cook with the rest for the last 1/2 hour. Potatoes, rutabagas and carrots can either be cooked separately, or with the rest, for the last 1/2 hour.

Remove the meat and potatoes and serve separately.
Some people will eat the meat and potatoes first, others will cut them up and add to the soup. Some also add milk to the soup just before serving.

The recipe comes from the teaching leaflet "Súrt og Sætt", by Sigríður Sigurðardóttir, published by Byggðasafn Skagfirðinga, 1998. Historical information comes from "Saga Daganna", by Árni Björnsson - Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1993).


Skyr vs. traditional skyr

I’ve just been reading an interesting report by Matís, an Icelandic biotech R&D institute, about skyr. 

They make a distinction between modern skyr and traditional skyr and one of the conclusions they come to is that MS Skyr is not traditional because it deviates from the traditional methods of making skyr.

(I have already posted a recipe for skyr, which may be referred to for one traditional method).

If you want to try the real thing, the report mentions that KEA and Bíóbú both make skyr with (modernised) traditional methods. Their products are available from supermarkets. 

In addition you can also buy traditional skyr from a couple of farms that participate in the Beint frá Býli movement (Farm Food Direct), and from specialised shops (I'm sure you can buy it from Frú Lauga, for example).

I'm planning to read the report in more depth and may post a digest of the findings.


Roasted lobster (ofnbakaður humar)

Mention lobster and the image conjured up in most people's minds tends to be of an American lobster. Looks yummy, doesn't it?
Public domain image downloaded from Pixabay

Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia

However, when Icelanders speak of lobster, they tend to mean leturhumar or langoustine (Nephrops norvegicus), a smaller cousin of the American lobster that is found in the north Atlantic ocean and parts of the Mediterranean. The westernmost part of its range is around Iceland and it is found as far north as northern Norway and as far south as Portugal. (Here is a distribution map).

Also known as Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi, it is a delicious crustacean with many fans. It can be used in many different kinds of dishes, but the most popular uses in Iceland are in soup and roasted, grilled or fried. Often the same langoustines will provide material for two dishes, with most of the flesh being fried/grilled/roasted and the shells being used to make soup stock. This is decidedly not a traditional food - Icelanders of old would at best have used langoustines as bait, and probably not even that, just as American lobsters were once so little regarded that they were used as fertiliser. 

I like langoustines best simply roasted or fried. When I make them for myself, I generally remove the shells and de-vein the langoustines before briefly sautéeing them in butter with lots of crushed garlic and eat them straight out of the pan. When I have company, I prefer to roast them in the oven, because it takes a lot of langoustines to feed a group of people and frying them would be too much work.

For a main course, you will need about 400 to 500 grams of langoustine tails in the shell. I generally buy what's called "broken" langoustines (brotahumar or skelbrot), which are cheaper than unbroken ones. "Broken" means that they don't look particularly good and might, for example, have bits missing from the shell, be halfway torn apart, be in pieces, etc. They also have not been separated into sizes, so you can get tiny ones and large ones and all sizes in-between in the same box. This makes oven-roasting them a bit tricky. It's best, if possible, to get them as even-sized as possible.

To serve four as a main course:
1.6 kilos langoustine tails in the shell
about 150 grams (or more as needed) butter
6 cloves of garlic (or more if you really LOVE garlic)

If the langoustines are frozen, take them out and let them thaw for about an hour before de-veining. If they are fresh, de-vein them just before you cook them - give yourself some time because de-veining can be time-consuming if you have never done it before. Here's a video to show how it's done. 

However, I prefer to roast langoustines in the shell, because it ensures they stay succulent and don't get dry while cooking, so my method is slightly different:
     With a sharp knife, make a shallow cut through the back of the langoustine tail. Using your fingers, open the cut slightly and you should see the the vein. "Vein" is a misnomer, by the way, as it is actually the digestive tract of the animal, and part or all of it will generally be black or greenish in colour, a mixture of sand and partially digested food. Gently lift it up with the tip of a knife and pull it out. I actually prefer to use a wooden toothpick rather than the tip of a knife, because the vein is slippery and the toothpick gives a better grip than a knife.

AS you can see, the sizes can vary considerably.
Copyrighted image.
If there is a considerable difference in the sizes of the tails, I recommend splitting the biggest ones down the centre so that they just hang together by the shell. Arrange the tails in an oven pan with the cuts upwards.

If the sizes vary a lot, set the smallest ones aside. They can be put in another oven-pan, ready to be put into the oven, or you can quickly add them to the pan with the rest when the time comes.

Heat an oven to 180 °C for a convection oven, 190 °C for a regular oven.

Crush, grate or finely chop the garlic and put in a saucepan with the butter. Melt the butter over low heat. Cool down to the required consistency if necessary. It should be liquid enough to dribble but thick enough not to run much and cool enough to not start the cooking process.

Dribble the garlic butter into the cuts in the langoustine tails and salt lightly. Put the tails into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. 10 minutes should be enough for small and medium sized tails, but if they are large, you will need the full 15 minutes. Remove one and cut into it when 10 minutes have passed. If it's a solid white all the way through, it's cooked. A cooked langoustine should have a slightly softer than al dente feel when you bite into it, and be juicy. If it's firmer and feels dry, it's overcooked.

If you set aside any small tails, put them into the oven after 3 minutes if you're cooking for 10 minutes or 7-8 minutes if you are cooking for 15 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, pour the juices into a bowl and serve. The diners should be left to remove the langoustines from the shell, which is easy using a knife to hold the tail still while the fork is used to pluck the flesh from the shell. The flesh can be dipped into the juices as needed.

I prefer to serve langoustine tails with just pieces of baguette on the side, which can be used to mop up any stray juices, but feel free to add other elements to the meal.



I've added photos to two recipes:

Fried fish Orly


Cocktail Sauce

I am also working on a new recipe post.

News: Skyr in the UK

Skyr produced by Arla has been available in several flavour varieties (including natural) in the UK since the middle of last year. How I managed to miss this, I don't know, because this kind of news usually makes headlines in the Icelandic media (we are that proud of our skyr). It's possible the news has been ignored here because the skyr in question is not produced in Iceland. 

Iceland failed to acquire a protected designation of origin for skyr and therefore anyone can use the term, even if the product doesn't really conform to the traditional definition of skyr. I am in no way implying that this is what Arla has done, but it has been implied that certain other producers are making yogurt, thickening it with rennet and calling it skyr.

However, MS Iceland Dairies (Mjólkursamsalan in Icelandic), has now started producing skyr for export to the UK. It will, to begin with, be available in Waitrose supermarkets in and around London as of February 8. I'd be interested - when the time comes - to hear from someone who has done a taste comparison of MS skyr and Arla skyr.


Caramel cake

This used to be my brother's favourite cake, but is now in second place after a confection called a Dream Cake.

Here is the recipe:

The way my mother makes this cake is actually a marriage of two recipes: for a sponge cake and for something called a Sunshine Cake with caramel topping. The caramel goes on top of the sponge cake instead of the Sunshine Cake.

The caramel is enough for one sponge base, baked in a 24 cm flan tin, the type that has a raised centre and a deeper trench along the rim (like this), so that when the cake is turned out top-to-bottom there will be a raised rim along the edge. Since the two recipes weren‘t made to be used together there may be a bit of sponge batter left over when you have poured it out, depending on how deep the tin is. If you are using the recipe below and a shallow tin, I therefore recommend using small eggs and short measures of flour and sugar. (You can, of course, just use your own preferred sponge cake recipe – there are dozens of good ones out there).

Sponge base:
    Click to enlarge
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g sugar
  • 50 g all-purpose flour
  • 50 g potato starch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Prepare the batter as is shown here, or use your own preferred method.

Caramel topping (this is also excellent poured warm over vanilla ice cream)

  • 200 ml heavy cream
  • 120 g sugar
  • 2 tbs golden syrup (use corn syrup if you can‘t get golden)
  • 30 g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix cream, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture is so thick that a wooden spoon drawn edgewise through it leaves a mark. Add the butter and vanilla and stir to mix well. Set aside to cool.

When the caramel is barely lukewarm, almost cool, spoon it into the centre of the cake, smooth it over the top and allow to set. This cake keeps well and can be frozen.


Sheep's hearts in plum sauce

This is a nice dish. I imagine the sauce would be quite good with other dark, gamy meats, like wild duck,  wild goose or possibly wild boar.

To serve 6:
6 lamb's or sheep's hearts
100 g flour
butter for frying
salt and pepper
6 well ripe plums (it doesn't say which kind, but the photo with the recipe shows red plums with yellow flesh - BTW, don't expect to see any such thing when the dish is cooked, since the luscious plum wedges shown in the image are a fiction of food photography)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
100 ml sweet white wine
meat broth (e.g. lamb, chicken or vegetable) or water
2 tbsp cornstarch (or potato starch, or Maizena sauce thickener)

First, here's how I had to compromise on the recipe: The week before I made it, I saw at least three varieties of plums in every food shop I entered and they always seemed to be so ripe as to be on the verge of becoming liquid inside their skins. The day I actually went to buy them all I could find were rock-hard purple plums, the kind which seem to go from hard to spoiled overnight and never really have a nice flavour. I used them anyway and near the end of the cooking time I could hardly taste them at all. I don't know what genius was watching over me but all of a sudden I had the idea of adding a dash of soy sauce. It was done purely to try to improve the rather bland flavour with a bit of salty soyness, but after about 10 minutes more cooking I thickened the sauce and tasted it and found it bursting with a plummy sweetness, well-balanced against a slightly salty note with gamy undertones. I think the MSG in the soy sauce must have brought out the umami flavour in the sauce and amplified the plum flavour. Anyway, you shouldn't have to worry about adding MSG if you use properly ripe plums.
Oh, and I used water and not broth, which may have had some effect as well.

To make the dish:
Trim the fat from the hearts and slice each lengthwise into 6-7 wedges. Wash and then soak under running cold water for 2 hours.
While the hearts soak, chop the onions and remove the stones from the plums and cut each into 6 wedges.
Remove the hearts from the water, pat them dry and dredge the pieces in flour. Brown in hot butter and season with salt and pepper. 
Add the plums and the onion and then the wine. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about 1/3.
Add the broth or water to cover and cook for 1-2 hours (depending on the thickness of the heart pieces and whether they were from an adult sheep or a lamb, or you could just compromise and cook them for 1 1/2 hours).
Make a paste from the cornstarch/potato starch and cold water and stir into the sauce until it is thickened to your liking (Maizena can be poured directly into the liquid to be thickened).

Serve with parsley and fresh vegetables.


Sheep's hearts cooked in red wine

This is a nice recipe for lamb's or sheep's hearts. Hearts from an adult sheep will need slightly longer cooking than lamb hearts.

To serve 4.

4 lamb or sheep hearts

100 ml table vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 laurel leaves
salt and pepper

For cooking:
100 g butter
100 g smoked bacon, finely chopped
10-15 shallots, sliced
1-2 tbsp flour
400-500 ml red wine
100-200 ml water
salt and pepper

200 g whole small mushrooms, sautéed

Cut the fat off the hearts, flush them well under running cold water and cut lengthwise into four parts each. Make the marinade and marinade the heart pieces for 4-6 hours. (I found 4 hours sufficient, but 6 will give a more intense flavour).

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or deep frying pan. Remove the hearts from the marinade and brown in the butter. Add bacon and onions. Sprinkle the sifted flour into the pan and let it soak up the butter. Add red wine and water, stir to mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Simmer until the hearts are cooked, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add the sautéed mushrooms and season to taste if necessary. Serve hot.

There are no suggestions as to what to serve with this, but I suggest poached potatoes and a fresh salad and a nice red wine.

I am cooking another heart dish as I type this and will post it if it turns out good.


Icelandic food history

I came across an excellent potted history of Icelandic cooking, on the website of the cooking magazine Gestgjafinn and decided to post a link. It was written by Icelandic food and cookery doyenne Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir. Do read it if you are interested in the traditions and influences in Icelandic cookery.


Kútmagar - Stuffed fish stomachs

I thought it was about time to post a recipe, since I remembered a very old, traditional one I have not posted before.

This is a very old Icelandic dish. Since it is made in pretty much the same way as liver sausage, except using fish products, I suppose you could call it fish-liver sausage in English.  

For 1 person:
2-3 fresh cod’s stomachs
1 cod liver
Rye meal
White pepper (optional)

There are two basic methods of making kútmagar. In one you use rye meal and in the other you don’t. 

Since I don’t expect you can buy fresh fish stomachs just anywhere and may therefore have to buy or catch whole fish and then remove the stomachs, I have included instructions on how to clean them: You take them and rub them inside and out with sand or coarse salt until you have removed the slime and anything else that may stick to them. 

Both methods:
Soak the liver in cold water for a while (30 minutes or so), then remove and peel off the membrane.

Sprinkle salt over the liver and let it stand awhile (10 minutes or so).

Method one, with rye meal:
Mash or grind the liver and mix thoroughly with rye meal. No recipe I have come across gives proportions of liver to meal, but don’t use more rye meal than liver – it will cook into a dry lump if there is too much of it. Add salt to taste and a little white pepper if you like. Stuff the stomachs a little less than half-full with the mixture and tie them closed with unbleached cotton thread. Bring a generous amount of water to the boil, add salt and drop in the stomachs. When the water boils again, prick the stomachs with a pin to prevent them from bursting. Put the lid on the pot, lower the temperature and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Method two, no rye meal:
Chop the liver into small pieces and stuff the stomachs with it, about half-full. Bring a generous amount of water to the boil, add salt and drop in the stomachs. When the water boils again, prick the stomachs with a pin to prevent them from bursting. Put the lid on the pot, lower the temperature and simmer for 45-50 minutes.

Serve hot with plain boiled potatoes, rye bread and butter.

  • Fish stomachs may be cooked without a filling and eaten straight away or pickled in whey.
  • I am told that they can be used as a substitute for squid in various dishes.
  • If you want more ways of cooking them, they seem to be widely used in east Asian cookery. I get over 6 million hits when I google "fish stomach" and recipes together, so there is plenty to choose from.


Happy New Year!
May the new year bring you good health, much happiness and great food!

Hand-cut leaf bread


Skyr brulée

Ages ago I promised to find a recipe for skyr brulée – well I finally found one!

The recipe comes from a chef: Steinar Þór Þorfinnsson of the restaurant Einar Ben.

I haven’t tested it, but here goes:

Skyr- and white chocolate crème brulée with blueberry schnapps

Skyr-crème brulée:
100 g cream
100 g pure skyr

40 g egg yolk
40 g sugar
80 g white chocolate
The juice of 1/2 lime
1 vanilla pod

Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and put in a saucepan with the cream. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and add the skyr.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and add to the warm skyr mixture.

Stir together the egg yolk and sugar and add to the skyr mixture along with the lime juice. Put into crème brulée ramekins and bake in a water bath at 120 °C for 30 minutes. Cool.

Sprinkle with demerara sugar and melt the sugar with a crème brulée torch.

Before making this, please take a look at the review in the comment.

Blueberry schnapps:
125 g puréed blueberries
500 ml water
125 g sugar
0,5 dl vodka

Cook together the sugar, water and blueberry purée untilt he sugar is melted and syrup is slightly thickened. Cool and add the vodka. Freeze. Just before serving, purée the frozen schnapps in a blender to a slusky consistency and serve on the side with the brulée.


Rowanberry jelly

European rowans (Sorbus aucupari, sometimes called European mountain ash) grow well in the Icelandic climate and are common garden trees. In the autumn after the first frost and thaw you can see thrushes feasting on the berries and getting quite drunk on the fermented juice.

Humans also eat rowan berries, especially in jams and jellies (raw berries will cause indigestion, so don't let the lovely colour tempt you to try them uncooked).

The slightly bitter flavour makes rowan preserves an excellent match with strong cheeses and game, such as wild goose and reindeer, and it's also good with lamb.

If I can get enough rowan berries from a non-polluted source I plan to try making this jelly:

2 litres rowan berries with stalks
500 gr apples with skins (Jonagold is recommended as being flavourful and rich in pectin)
750 ml water
900 ml sugar for every 1 litre of juice

Pick the berries and freeze them overnight. This removes the worst of the bitter flavour of the berries.
Bring the water to the boil in a cooking pot and add the berries, stalks and all, and the coarsely chopped apples with skins and cores (only remove the seeds and stalks). Simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Mash the stewed berries and apples with a potato masher and strain through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth, or use a fruit press to extract the juice and then strain through a cheesecloth. Measure the juice and add 900 ml of sugar for every 1 litre of juice.

Return to the cooking pot and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until a drop of the liquid sets when dripped on the back of a cold spoon. Pour into sterilized, hot jars and seal immediately.

Preservative may be added.


Sourdough rye bread

This bread relies on fermentation for both rising and sweetness. I have not tested this recipe.

2 kg. rye flour
1 litre of water or a 1:1 mixture of water and whey
1 tsp salt

Put the rye flour into a large bowl. Warm the water and add the salt and then add the water to the rye flour and mix well together. Turn out onto a floured table and knead until smooth and free of cracks. Rub a little bit of cooking oil on your hands and form the dough into a loaf. Put the loaf into a well-oiled container - Icelanders often use tins, but a cooking pot or a casserole dish may be used as well. It has to fit inside another, larger container. The dough must not fill the container as it will rise (the genius who wrote the recipe book unfortunately does not say by how much).

Put a damp cloth on top of the container and leave to rise in a warm spot overnight. When the dough has risen, put baking paper on top of it and then close the baking container (with a lid, or if that‘s not available, with aluminium foil). Now put the baking container into another container that is both deeper and wider, with a rack or metal trivet in the bottom so the water will flow under as well as around the bread container. Pour water into the second container until it reaches the middle of the first one. Close the second container tightly.

Cook over low temperature for 3 hours, or bake at around 120 °C for the same amount of time. After 3 hours, remove the bread from the container, turn it over and return to the container, close both containers tightly and return to the heat/oven for 3-4 hours. Remove and cool.


Stone bramble jelly

Stone bramble berries have a somewhat bitter flavour that goes well with lamb and all kinds of game, for example reindeer and wild goose.

I can usually only get a very small amount of them, but I often mix them with redcurrants to get a very nice, beautifully red jelly.

Pick stone bramble berries. It takes a considerable amount of berries to get a good amount of juice, but I can't tell you exactly what amount of berries will yield what amount of juice.

Flush the berries with cold water and put in a cooking pot. Bring to the boil on low and cook gently until the berries burst and release their juice. Pour the berries and juice into a cheesecloth strainer and strain away the juice. The cheesecloth may be squeezed to extract more juice.
Measure the juice and put it in a cooking pot and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add 1 kg of sugar for every litre of juice (if it’s less than a litre, then add 100 grams of sugar for each 100 ml of juice). Stir to dissolve the sugar. The juice must not boil after the sugar has been added.

Pour into sterilised jars while still hot and close the jars immediately.

Preservative may be added.


Holiday notice

I am going on holiday on Friday and will be back on the 24th. Until then I will not able to reply to any e-mails or comments, but send them in anyway and I will look at them when I get back.


Rhubarb drink

This is somehting I plan to try when the rhubarb is sufficiently grown for harvesting:

1 kg rhubarb stalks
1,8 ltr water
450 ml sugar
Juice of one big lemon

Cut the rhubarb into small pieces and cook in the water for 15 minutes. Don’t stir it. Strain and throw away the rhubarb pulp.

Add the sugar and lemon juice to the rhubarb juice and bring to the boil. Cool and bottle. Keep refrigerated. Serve cold and thin with water as desired.