Brúnaðar kartöflur – Caramelised potatoes

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

Potatoes caramelising in the pan:

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

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

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

Ready to serve:

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

Icelandic cocktail sauce – Kokkteilsósa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunnudags-lambasteik – Icelandic Sunday roast

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

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

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

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

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

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Icelandic pancakes – Pönnukökur

To me, pancakes always evoke the image of my grandmothers, both of whom are expert pancake makers, and will whip up a batch at a moments’ notice. These pancakes are quick and (fairly) easy to make, and how you serve them depends on the occasion. Rolled up with sugar, they make an excellent addition to afternoon tea (or coffee, depending on your preferences). Spread with jam and folded up with whipped cream, they are a delicacy fit for festive occasions. This recipe comes from my maternal grandmother.

This “recipe” is only a guideline to help first time pancake-makers along. As you become more fluent in pancake-making, you will probably develop your own “dash-of-this, a-little-of-that” recipe, as I have.

1 cup flour
1 medium egg (the original calls for two eggs – I prefer to use just one)
dash of baking soda
a dash of baking powder
100 grams margarine/butter, or equivalent amount of cooking oil
milk, as needed.
These are the basic ingredients. I also add about a tsp of one of the following: essence of cardamom, lemon juice/lemon essence, or vanilla essence.

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Melt the margarine or butter in a skillet or Icelandic pancake pan. Allow to cool slightly. Mix up the dry ingredients and add some milk to make a thin batter. Add the egg(s) and stir well. Add the margarine/butter (don’t wipe or wash the skillet after poring off the fat). Cooling the fat is important, because if it is too hot, the egg(s) will curdle and make lumps in the dough. If you are using oil, don’t heat it, just pour straight into the batter, and wipe a bit of oil onto the pan to grease it. Experiment with the thickness of the dough.

Heat the skillet over high heat and lower to medium. Pour on a portion of the dough, just enough to cover the pan (this is a skill that will come with practice), and roll the pan around in a circle to spread the dough over it. When the edges begin to lift from the pan and the underside is golden brown, turn over and fry the other side.

A properly seasoned pan should be almost non-stick, but if you are using a freshly seasoned pan, you may need to add a little oil to the pan after every few pancakes, to prevent sticking.

The pancakes should be thin – a proper Icelandic pancake is only about a couple of millimetres thick. Stack the pancakes on a plate and sprinkle some sugar on top of each pancake to prevent them from sticking together. These pancakes can be frozen and re-heated in a microwave oven.

An Icelandic pancake pan, with pancake. This is basically a round skillet with a thick bottom. The thick bottom is necessary, since the pancakes must be fried quickly at a relatively high temperature.

Serving suggestions:

  • Sprinkle with sugar and roll up, eat and enjoy – either warm or cold. Jam or jelly, especially rhubarb jam, blueberry or strawberry jam, is also excellent on rolled pancakes. 
  • Stack the pancakes, spreading jam on top of each one. Cut into wedges and serve like a cake, with whipped cream .
  • Make cream pancakes.

To make cream pancakes:
Cover the centre of each pancake with your favourite jam or jelly, add a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream (pancakes must be cold), fold in half, and again in half. You should now have a big puffy wedge. Especially good served with hot cocoa.

Easy Icelandic fish casserole – Ofnsteiktur fiskur með lauk og osti

This is a simple, easy, nourishing dish.

400 g fish fillets (I use cod or haddock, but it would be good using flounder or sole), boned and skinned
1/2 tsp salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbs bread crumbs
2 tbs cheese, grated
25 g butter

Cut the fish into chunks and arrange in a greased casserole. Add salt. Sprinkle chopped onion over the fish. Sprinkle bread crumbs and cheese on top, and dot with small pieces of butter. Bake at 175-200°C for 20-30 minutes. Serve with cooked potatoes and a salad.

Put the salted fish in the casserole with the chopped onion and butter. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 175°C. In the meantime, mix together:

50 ml Cream
100 ml Milk
1 tbs Breadcrumbs
2 tbs grated cheese

Pour over the fish and continue baking for 15 minutes.

Can also be made in a microwave oven. Adjust cooking time accordingly.

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Rúgbrauð – Icelandic Rye bread

This is the last of the Þorri recipes.

Rúgbrauð is great topped with butter and cheese, or with home-made lamb pâté (recipe will be posted later). Serve it well buttered on the side with poached fish, or Danish style with cold pickled herring (recipe will be posted later). Eat it with sliced hangikjöt or ham or spread it with cream cheese, and if there is anything left, use it to make bread soup (recipe will be posted later).

600 g sugar
400 g whole wheat flour
2 kg rye flour
1 tsp salt
50 g dry yeast
1,5 l milk

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Mix the ingredients together and knead well.

To cook in used milk-cartons:
Half-fill each 1 liter carton, pressing well to avoid air bubbles in the bread. Stand on the bottom of the oven and bake at 100°C for about 12 hours.

To cook in loaf pans:
Press the dough into tins/bread pans and stand in an oven-pan, half-filled with boiling water. Bake as above, adding extra water whenever necessary. This method is called seyðing, which translates as “slow-boiling”.

One type of rúgbrauð is called hverabrauð, or “hot-spring-bread”. This is bread that has been cooked in a hot spring, or buried in sand/mud at the edge of a hot spring and allowed to cook there.

Icelandic flat bread – Flatbrauð

Yet another food you are likely to find on the Þorri buffet.

This traditional bread is delicious with butter and a slice of hangikjöt (smoked lamb).

500 g rye flour
1/2 tsp salt
250-300 ml boiling water

Mix the salt and the rye flour. Add some water and knead. Dough should be fairly soft. Roll out thin and use a small plate to cut even sized breads. Prick all over with a fork and bake on top of the stove at medium to high temperature. For authenticity, do not use a griddle or skillet, but put the cakes directly onto the cooking plate (this is both smelly and smoky). Cook on one side until it begins to look dry, then turn over. The bread should have some slight burn spots here and there.
Good with slices of cold meat, such as hangikjöt, ham, or lamb pâté, and delicious slathered with butter.

Someone contacted me with a couple of tips for making flat bread:
-If you make the flat bread in the traditional way, there will be smoke – so do it in a well ventilated area.
-To avoid the breads getting hard, dip them quickly in hot water when you remove them from the pan/hot plate.

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