Fish stew (leftover fish in white sauce) – Plokkfiskur

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elbow macaroni soup – Makkarónumjólk

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

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

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

Chocolate-date cake with strawberries and cream

Frú Hnallþóra: So delicious!
Originally uploaded by Netla.

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

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate-date cake with strawberries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report on skyr-making in England

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

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

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

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