How to cut leaf bread

I came across this photo guide to cutting leaf bread recently. Saved me the effort of making one myself. Enjoy!


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.


Stewed angelica

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is the most highly regarded medicinal plant growing in Iceland, considered more potent than even yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica). It has been used to fight infections (bacterial, fungal and viral), as a local anaesthetic, to strengthen the immune system and as an aid to digestion and recent research has show it to be effective against cancer cells.

Abroad it is used to flavour alcoholic drinks such as Bénédictine , Chartreuse, Vermouth and Dubonnet, and locally the root is used to flavour schnapps (Hvannarótarbrennivín). As a medicine it is most often made into a tisane or a tincture, using leaves, root or seeds. It is also a food plant. Here is one recipe:

Take fresh, young angelica stalks, peel off the outer layer and wash the stalks in cold water. Cut away any spots. Pour hot water over the stalks, then cook them in salted water until they are soft. Drain carefully, and serve with whipped butter. May also be stirred into white sauce and served as a side dish (the recipe book doesn’t say what with).

Disclaimer: I have’t tried it, but if I do I will report back.

P.S. Take a look at the comment below - there are instructions for angelica jam in there that sounds heavenly.


Fried fish Orly

I have had several requests for this dish, so I decided to post the recipe. Apparently it was a favourite with American servicemen stationed at Keflavik airport and some of them still remember it fondly.

I'd be the first to admit that this isn't a specifically Icelandic dish, but you can buy it in many diners and restaurants all over the country.

Orly batter:
300 ml (10 fl.oz.) light lager or water
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt (the original recipe says 1 tbs, but this must be an error)
1 tbs cooking oil (the original recipe says 1 tsp, but this must also be an error - there needs to be more than 1 teaspoon of oil in the batter)
1 egg yolk
1 egg white

Mix together the lager or water, sugar, salt oil and egg yolk and thicken with flour until the batter is the thickness of pancake batter. Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature. Whip the egg white stiff and fold into the batter just before you use it.

May be used to coat fish, scampi/langoustines, shrimp or vegetable fritters.

To make fish Orly:
Haddock fillets, boned and skinned, or other white fish – cod or sole is good and anglerfish is divine
flour for dredging

Cut the fish fillets in pieces about 3 by 2 inches. Pat the fish pieces dry, season if you wish and dredge in flour. Dip to coat in the orly batter and fry in a frying pan or a deep-fryer (set temperature at 180 to 200 °C (355 to 390 °F)) for 2-3 minutes. Batter coating should be golden when cooked.

Generally served with chips/fries, cocktail sauce and coleslaw.
I also like to serve it with rice, salad and sweet-and-sour sauce.

  • Stir peeled Arctic shrimp or finely chopped vegetables into the batter and drop lumps of it into hot oil with a tablespoon. Makes great finger food.
  • Cut fish fillets into finger-sized strips, batter and fry. Another great finger food.
  • Cocktail sauce, garlic sauce, sweet-and-sour sauce or sweet chili sauce make a good dipping sauce for food in Orly.


I've added photos to several recipes

Here's a list, if you want to take a look. 
Most of the photos can be viewed in a larger size by clicking on them.


Pineapple pudding - Ananasfrómas

A decorated pineapple fromage
Light and frothy cold puddings made with egg and thickened with gelatine are known as "frómas" in Icelandic and as "fromage" in Danish. Those who know their French will realise that this is the French word for "cheese". How it underwent the change in meaning from French to Danish is not known.

This recipe is in all likelihood originally Danish. This is a popular dessert in my family that my mother makes  for special occasions. With a bit of adjustment, it can be adapted to other kinds of flavours. For example, I adore the lemon version.


250 g sugar
5 eggs, whites and yolks separated
12 sheets of gelatine
2 cups double cream or whipping cream
2 small cans (8. oz.) pineapple rings in juice, cut into small chunks (retain 2-3 rings for decoration)
Pineapple juice from the can
juice from 1 lemon

In separate bowls, whip together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy, whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks, and whip the egg whites until stiff.

Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for about 10 minutes, remove and squeeze out the water. Put about 200 ml (4/5 cup) of pineapple juice in a saucepan and add the gelatine. Over low heat (or in a water-bath) melt the gelatine in the pineapple juice, stirring well to eliminate lumps. Cool to room temperature (plunge the bottom of the saucepan into cold water to speed up the cooling process). Pour through a sieve into the egg and sugar mixture, stirring constantly and carefully to mix. Add the lemon juice and stir in carefully. Fold in the cream and then the pineapple pieces. Finally fold in the whipped egg whites.

Pour into bowls and allow to set. These can be either a couple of big serving bowls, or individual serving bowls or dessert glasses. Decorate with remaining pineapple rings and whipped cream. Red cocktail cherries can be added for a bit of colour.

Serve cold, with or without whipped cream.

This pudding makes an excellent filling for sponge cake. To use, allow to set enough to be spreadable without running, and smooth on top of one cake layer, allow to set and top with another cake layer.


Date cake with caramel sauce - Döðluterta með karamellusósu

My friends call this cake "that heavenly date cake with the caramel sauce". It is apparently an old recipe, but someone must have rediscovered it recently, because it has been served a lot at birthday parties and ladies' handicrafts clubs lately.

I haven't got a clue where the recipe originally came from, but in Iceland it's known either as döðluterta með karamellusósu, which simply describes what it is, or as Dillonskaka or Dillon's Cake, which could suggests Irish or British origins. However, it might, and this is supported by information from some older ladies I know, be named after Lord Dillon, a British aristocrat who came to Iceland in 1834, fell in love with a local woman and built a house that he gave her before he left the country. It was a famous scandal at the time, as they had a child out of wedlock and were prevented from marrying by his family. She ran a guest house in the house he gave her and sold meals there for many years. Today the house stands in the Árbær museum and is a café.

235 g (8.3 oz.) stoneless dates and a little bit of water
1 tsp baking soda
120 g (4.2 oz.) butter, soft
5 tbs sugar
2 eggs
300 ml (approx. 1 1/4 cup) flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 tsp baking powder

Put the dates in a saucepan and pour in enough water to barely cover the dates. Bring to the boil, turn off the heat and let stand for a few minutes.
Add the baking soda to the saucepan and stir well. Dates should come apart into a thick paste.
Whip together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one by one. Add the dry ingredients and vanilla and mix well. Finally add the stewed dates.

Bake in a well-greased springform pan, for 30-40 minutes at 180°C (356°F).
Remove from oven when done, let cool slightly, then remove from pan and serve warm with the sauce on the side.

Caramel sauce:
200 g (7 oz.) butter
200 g (7 oz.) brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
200 ml (1/2 cup + 1/3 cup) cream

Put all ingredients together in a saucepan and cook together over slow heat, stirring continuously for 5 minutes or until slightly browned. Pour into a jug or sauce boat and serve warm on the side with the cake or pour directly over the cake and serve. This sauce is also excellent on ice cream.


Danish pastries, part 3: Long Danish

Now its time for the "long Danish" I mentioned in the previous post. You will need the dough, prepared as in the previous post, but rolled out into strips, about 15 cm wide and slightly shorter than the cookie sheet you will bake them on. The thickness of the dough should be about 5 mm.

You will also need:
Almond paste (recipe in the first post) and thick jam, e.g. strawberry or raspberry OR egg custard
Pearl sugar
Flaked almonds

Spread the jam down the centre of the strip of dough and spread or pipe the almond paste on top. Fold the sides into the centre so they overlap slightly and press together. Gently transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg, milk or water, sprinkle the pearl sugar and flaked almonds on too, and bake. This is called an old-fashioned Danish in Iceland.

If you prefer custard to jam, you spread the custard down the centre of the dough strip instead of jam and leave out the almond paste. Brush with beaten egg, milk or water and sprinkle the pearl sugar and flaked almonds on top.

To bake:
Arrange on a cookie sheet, about 5 cm apart. Let rise at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, then bake at high temperature (225°C) until a light golden colour (should take about 12-15 minutes). Let it cool and then pipe icing in a zig-zag pattern over the pastry and allow to set before serving.


My first award

I've just won a web award, my very first:


Danish pastries, part 2: Spandauers

The most popular types of Vínarbrauð in Iceland are the "lengja", which you could simply call a "long Danish", and the type known in Scandinavia as "Spandauer", which is a one-portion squarish Danish with custard or jam centre. In Iceland, depending on where you come from, you either call them "sérbökuð vínarbrauð" (individually baked Viennese pastries), Dönsk vínarbrauð (Danish) or "Umslög" (envelopes). Today's instructions are for Spandauers. The most popular filling for Spandauers is custard, but jam or fruit are also good.

To put it all together:
Prepare the pastry dough as given in the last post. Cut the dough into even-sized squares. For 10 cm squares put 1 tbs of custard (or thick jam, e.g. raspberry) in the middle of each square. Fold one corner into the middle, then the opposite corner, then repeat with the other two corners. Do not crimp or overlap, as the corners are meant to pull back from the middle while baking.

You can also make pinwheels:
Cut slits into each corner, about half-way to the middle, put in the filling, then fold in every other point of the pinwheel. Press together the points.

Arrange on a cookie sheet, about 5 cm apart. Let rise at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, brush with beaten egg, milk or water and bake at high temperature (225°C) until a light golden colour (should take about 12-15 minutes).

Remove from the oven and cool. Use a piping cone with a narrow point to make even zig-zag streaks of icing on top of each pastry. Serve.


Danish pastries, part 1: The basics

I got my first request for Vínarbrauð several years ago, but somehow I never got round to posting a recipe until now. I am posting this in three parts.

The pastries known to most of the rest of the world as Danish pastries are called by a name that means "Viennese Bread" in the Nordic countries. In Icelandic it's Vínarbrauð. The story says that Danish bakers learned to make a type of leavened flaky pastry from Viennese bakers, perhaps similar to croissant pastry, and made it their own, Here is a longer version of the story (the article also contains images of a few of the possible variations). These kinds of pastries are very popular in Iceland, and you can buy them in every bakery and many supermarkets. I am going to give recipes for the three most popular types of vínarbrauð: Spandauers and two varieties of what are called "lengjur" in Icelandic.

For the pastry you will need:
500 g flour
ground cardamom to taste
50 g margarine
50 g fresh yeast
50 ml water
50 g sugar
1 egg
250 ml cold milk
200 g margarine or butter

Sift the flour and add cardamom (sorry, no amount is given in the recipe. The one time I made this I used 1 tsp). Dissolve the yeast in 50 ml lukewarm water. Take the 50 g of margarine and crumble into the flour. Add the milk, dissolved yeast and egg. Knead until smooth. Rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Roll out into an approximately 35 cm square. Take the 200 g. butter or margarine, which should be firm but not hard (my Danish recipe book say "soft enough not to tear holes in the dough and hard enough not to melt the dough" - guess it's a matter of practice), and cut it into thin slices. Using a cheese-slicer will ensure an even thickness. Arrange the margarine slices to cover 1/2 the dough square. Now fold the unbuttered half over the other one. Roll out gently into the original size. Repeat this folding and rolling process 4-5 times (or use the method in this video)

This process is called laminating. The dough can now be cut into the various shapes these pastries can take.

Other recipes you might need, depending on which pastry you intend to make:

1 egg
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs potato flour or cornflour
250 ml milk
vanilla essence or other desired flavouring, to taste

Heat the milk to boiling in a large saucepan. Whip together the egg and sugar until light and fluffy, sift in the potato flour, mixing well and gradually add the hot milk (a thin, slow stream is best). Put the custard into the saucepan and stir continuously over medium heat until the mixture starts boiling. Then remove from the heat, add the flavouring and cool. This custard should be very thick and should be completely cooled when put on the pastry.

Almond paste:
100 g almonds
100 g icing sugar
1-2 egg yolks

Blanch and peel the almonds and chop them very, very finely (or grind them in a coffee grinder, not quite to flour consistency). Coconut flakes may be used instead of part of the almonds. Mix in the sugar and gradually add a half-whipped egg or egg yolk while stirring the mixture. Stop adding the egg when the mixture is fairly thick but still spreadable.

300 g icing sugar
50 ml hot water
Optional: A couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder for cocoa icing, or a few drops of red food colouring to turn the icing pink (there are often two colours of icing used, usually either white and cocoa, or white and pink.

Stir together until smooth.

Finally, until next time (when I give the instructions for Spandauers), here is an article about Danish pastry from Saveur magazine.


To Rosemary

My reply to your e-mail bounced, so I'm posting my reply here in the hope that you will visit the blog again and see it:

Hello Rosemary,

I hear from time to time from people who have been stationed in Keflavik or who have accompanied their spouses there, and it's always interesting to see what foods they miss (usually the fish and the hot dogs, but also miscellaneous other stuff).

As it happens, both Gunnars mayonnaise and smoked lamb can be ordered on-line through the website nammi.is. The following links will take you to the right pages: for mayonnaise: http://nammi.is/mayonnaise-250-ml-p-1398.html
and for smoked lamb: http://nammi.is/ss-smoked-leg-of-lamb-13001700-gr-p-391.html

However, you should check if there are any import restrictions either product before you order.

Best regards and I hope you get the chance to visit Iceland again.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with nammi.is and do not get paid for mentioning them here. I have never used them myself and don't know what kind of service they give, but I have never heard anything bad about them.


Brúnkaka/brúnterta II - the brown sugar version

This is a big recipe, enough for 6 cookie sheets. You can use it to make 1 1/2 cake or a six-layer cake. It is hard to make it smaller and still retain the correct thickness of the dough.

11/2 kg flour
900 g brown sugar
6 tsp baking soda
9 tsp ground cloves
10 tsp ground cinnamon
8 tsp ginger
900 g butter or margarine
6-7 eggs

600 g butter, softened
900 g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2-3 tsp vanilla essence

Rhubarb jam

  •  Mix together all the dry ingredients on a clean, dry table and crumble the cold butter/margarine into it until well mixed. (Use your hands to squish it in, or use a pastry cutter).
  • Make a mound of the mixture and make a hole in the centre of it. Add the eggs and syrup and knead until well mixed. (This does not as much kneading as bread, only just enough to get everything well mixed).
  • Divide the dough into six parts. Dust each with flour and roll out into even-sized portions onto well greased cookie sheets.
  • Bake at 180°C/350°F (convection oven) for 13-15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and remove the cake layers immediately from the cookie sheets and lay onto baking paper that has been sprinkled with sugar. Cool completely before going to the next step.
  • Layer the buttercream evenly onto all but one layer and assemble the cake. Some prefer to spread a thin layer of jam on top of each layer of buttercream, while others will make two buttercream layers and one jam layer, and others will skip the jam entirely.

To make the buttercream:
Whip the butter and icing sugar together until light and well mixed. Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence and mix well.

Once the cake is assembled, it is best to wrap it in a slightly damp cloth (very slightly damp - wring it as well as possible) and pack it tightly in a plastic bag and leave it overnight to soften so it will not crumble as much when cut. To serve, trim the edges of the large cake and cut into smaller, rectangular pieces, then slice them, or leave each piece whole and let people serve themselves.


Brúnkaka/brúnterta I - the syrup version

Brúnkaka" simply means "brown cake" in Icelandic, and the alternative name, "brúnterta" means the same, although "terta" comes from the same root as the English word for "tart". In Icelandic "terta" is a fancier alternative to calling a cake "kaka".

Unlike the "Lísu brúnterta" recipe that I once posted, this one gets its colour not from cocoa powder, but from syrup or brown sugar and spices. I am posting two recipes, one today with syrup and one tomorrow with brown sugar, as some people may not have access to golden syrup.

My grandmother makes these year round, but this Christmas season I discovered that for two of my friends, this cake is closely linked with Christmas from them.

Here is the syrup version:

1 kg flour
500 g white sugar
5 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cloves
5 tsp ground cinnamon
900 g butter or margarine
500 g golden syrup (Lyle's is the brand most Icelanders use)
4 egg

450 g butter, softened
600 g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla essence

Rhubarb jam or stewed prunes

  • Mix together all the dry ingredients on a clean, dry table and crumble the cold butter/margarine into it until well mixed. (Use your hands to squish it in, or use a pastry cutter).
  • Make a mound of the mixture and make a hole in the centre. Add the eggs and syrup and knead until well mixed. (This does not need as much kneading as bread, only just enough to get everything well mixed).
  • Divide the dough into four parts. Dust each with flour and roll out onto well greased cookie sheets. Each portion should just about fill one cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 180°C/350°F (convection oven, so adjust temperature for regular oven) until golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and remove the cake layers immediately from the cookie sheets and lay onto baking paper that has been sprinkled with sugar. Cool completely before going to the next step.
  • Layer the buttercream evenly onto all but one cake layer and assemble the cake. Some prefer to spread a thin layer of jam on top of each layer of buttercream, while others will make two buttercream layers and one jam layer, and others will skip the jam entirely.

To make the buttercream:
Whip the butter and icing sugar together until light and well mixed. Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence and mix well.

Once the cake is assembled, it is best to wrap it in a slightly damp cloth (very slightly damp - wring it as well as possible) and pack it tightly in a plastic bag and leave it overnight to soften so it will not crumble as much when cut. To serve, trim the edges of the large cake and cut into smaller, rectangular pieces, then slice them, or leave each piece whole and let people serve themselves.


Traditional foods for the Þorri midwinter feast

It's the first day of Þorri today, a day called "Bóndadagur" in Icelandic. It originally meant "farmer's day" but has the additional meaning of "husband's day", which is how modern Icelanders interpret it. On this day it has become a tradition for wives to do something extra special for their husbands, like bring them breakfast in bed, give them flowers or take them out to dinner. The husbands then do the same on "Konudagur" ("wives' day" or "women's day"), which begins the old month of Góa. Thus you could say we Icelanders celebrate two Valentine's Days, although that hasn't stopped florists and chocolate producers from trying to get us to celebrate that as well.

Another tradition for Þorri is for us to look back to the nation's past and dine on some of the old traditional foods that were daily fare for our ancestors. Below is a link to my Þorri post, which in turn has links to all the Þorri recipes I have posted. I am trying to preserve the comments, so I will not be bringing it back to the top. If you want to leave comments, please leave them by the original post.



Icelandic Christmas recipes

Since the holiday season in upon us I decided to gather together all the Christmas recipes I have published on this blog. I chose to do it this way rather than repost them because the comments get lost when reposting. I plan to make this an annual post, with new recipes added as they come along, so if you have comments, please comment on the recipes themselves, unless you don't mind if your comments go missing every time I repost this list.

So here they are, starting with the Christmas dinner dishes:

Starters or desserts:

Main dishes:

Side dishes and accompaniments:

Cakes and cookies:


Rjómaterta III: Púðursykurmarengs - Cream cake III: Brown sugar meringue

This is a simple and impressive fancy cake – if you can avoid breaking the meringue!
If it does break, no matter: simply crush the meringue and layer it in dessert bowls or glasses with the cream, or toss it with whipped cream, fresh fruit and chocolate bits to make a smashed Pavlova.

4 egg whites
400 ml brown sugar

1 cup cornflakes and ½ tsp baking powder

For the filling:
Whipping cream
Chocolate bits, chocolate-covered raisins, salted peanuts (all optional)

Whip together the sugar and egg whites (and baking powder if using cornflakes) until sugar is melted and mixture is stiff. If using, fold in cornflakes. Smooth into two greased round baking tins, or put into an icing bag and squeeze onto a cookie sheet covered with baking paper in a circular shape (good idea to make a guide on the paper beforehand with a pencil and a plate). Bake at 150°C for 1 hour. Cool.

To make a simple but tempting cream cake, put whipped cream between the layers a day before serving and refrigerate overnight. Chopped chocolate, chocolate-covered raisins and/or salted peanuts area a good addition to the whipped cream.


Cold bread casserole

Have I mentioned the Icelandic taste for bread dishes? Here is one more:

This casserole, decorated with cucumber and red bell pepper.
Sweet mustard
White (French) bread

4 hard-boiled eggs
1 small can crushed pineapple, minus the juice
15-18 slices of ham, julienned or cut into small squares
1 small Camembert cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 leek, pale part only, finely chopped (you can also use chives or spring onions)
1 tsp Season-All (or to taste)

Garnish, to be prepared shortly before serving:
Red bell pepper, finely chopped
Green bell pepper, finely chopped
Arctic shrimp, cooked

Smear a thin layer of mustard inside the casserole dish. Remove the crusts from the bread, tear the bread into small pieces and line the casserole dish with it. Mix together the remaining ingredients, except the bell peppers and shrimp. Refrigerate overnight.

Garnish just before serving, or if you garnish right away, make sure the shrimp and bell peppers don’t touch because the shrimp will absorb colour from the peppers. The toppings can be used to make patterns on top of the dish, if desired.


Rjómaterta II: Guðdómlegt Gums - Cream cake II

Once upon a time I promised to publish more recipes for fancy cream cakes, and here is one that’s a favourite with both young and old. The name, Guðdómlegt gums means Heavenly Mess.

4 egg whites
200 g sugar

Whip together until the sugar is mostly melted.

1/2 cup salted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
100 g dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp baking powder

Fold carefully into the egg-sugar mixture. Bake in 2 round baking tins with detachable bottoms, at 150°C for 1 hour. Cool.

Whip 1/2 litre of cream until stiff. Fold in some quartered strawberries, 1 mashed banana, a handful of salted peanuts and a handful of chocolate-covered raisins. Put between the 2 layers. Decorate with whipped cream, strawberries, salted peanuts and chocolate-covered raisins.

The other recipe


Flatbread III: Potato bread - Kartöfluflatbrauð

Here is a third flatbread recipe.

500 g potatoes, cooked, peeled and cooled
250 g rye flour (or more, if needed)

The amount of rye flour depends on how much moisture there is in the potatoes. Start with the given amount and add more if necessary. Mash the potatoes until smooth, or process in a food processor (take care not to over-process, or they may turn gummy). Knead the rye flour into the potatoes until you have a stiff, dense dough. Whole wheat flour may be mixed in with the rye flour. Roll out the dough into thin, round cakes. Dry-fry the cakes on a griddle or electric hotplate until browned with small burnt-looking spots.

Links to the other recipes:
Most commonly used recipe
Luxury recipe


Party casserole

I mentioned this dish in my post about the bread casserole, but was unable to find the recipe at the time. Well, here it is:

White (French) bread in slices, enough to cover the bottom of the casserole dish
400 g mayonnaise
1 tub sour cream (about 180 g, but a little more or less will not hurt the dish)
1 can Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup
1 small can asparagus
Grated cheese, e.g. Mozzarella or a mixture of Mozzarella and Gouda
1 1/2 small can mushrooms (I recommend using lightly sautéed fresh mushrooms instead)
10 slices of ham, cut into squares (for a vegetarian version leave out and just use more mushrooms)

Remove the crusts from the bread and cut into cubes. Cover the bottom of a greased casserole dish with the bread cubes. Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream and the soup. Add the asparagus. Pour the mixture over the bread and top with mushrooms and ham and sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake at 200°C for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.


Shepherd's pie

I have used the English name for this dish, but the dish itself is a logical invention that could have happened any place where potatoes and mutton are eaten. I occasionally make it to use up leftover Sunday roast.

250 g leftover meat (for this to be a real shepherd’s pie, it should be mutton. If it’s beef, the dish is called Cottage Pie)
25 g butter, margarine or other cooking fat
2 tbs flour
250-300 ml meat broth or gravy
Some left-over mashed potatoes

In case you don’t have left-over mashed potatoes:
750 g cooked potatoes
100-200 ml milk
25 g butter or margarine
Salt and pepper
1 finely chopped onion
Cheese, grated

Make the mashed potatoes, using this method but the above ingredients. Add the onion when the mash is ready to eat. It is also good to add one beaten egg or two beaten egg whites into the mash (I never do this, but it probably makes a better crust).

The meat can be either boiled or roasted, but this does not suit smoked meats.
Grease an oven proof dish and sprinkle in some breadcrumbs. Slice the meat and arrange in the bottom of the dish. Pour the gravy on top. Top with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle with some grated cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake at about 175°C for 20-30 minutes, or until hot through.

If there is no gravy or sauce, make some gravy with a little broth thickened with a paste of flour and water and a little bit of sauce browning added.


Potato Danish pastries

150 g butter or margarine, at room temperature
150 g flour
150 g cooked potatoes
Rhubarb jam
Some almonds, flaked
Pearl sugar

Peel and mash the potatoes until completely smooth. Knead together with the butter and flour. Roll out to a thickness of about 3 mm. Cut into strips of about 15 cm wide. Spread rhubarb jam down the center of each strip, fold in the edges so that about 2 cm strip of jam is showing between them. Brush with milk and sprinkle with flaked almonds and pearl sugar.


Chunky fish spread:

This is a recipe developed my myself and my mother. Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main dish.

1/2 fillet of cold cooked fish, e.g. cod or haddock (but salmon and trout work as well), cut into small pieces

3-4 cold cooked potatoes, cut into small pieces

1/2 onion or red onion, finely chopped

Mayonnaise to taste

Garlic powder

Mix together the mayonnaise and spices and add the rest, blending well. Serve on sweet, dark rye bread.

Note: I also like to add 1/2 a finely chopped red bell pepper to this spread.


Leftover fish salad

150 gr cold cooked fish, preferably salmon or halibut, cut into small pieces
Mayonnaise to taste
6 leaves of green salad
3 tomatoes
6 slices of lemon
Lemon juice

Add lemon juice and mustard to the mayonnaise, to taste. Wash the salad leaves and let them drain well, divide the fish pieces evenly onto the leaves and top with mayonnaise, 1/2 a tomato and a slice of lemon.

From 160 fiskréttir by Helga Sigurðardóttir

This is the last recipe from this book (for now, but I may return to it later).


Using up leftover fish: frying

I have already posted two recipes for using leftover fish: fish pancakes and the humble plokkfiskur, which is currently enjoying something of a renaissance. Here is one more leftover fish recipe, and two more will be posted soon.

You will need:
Enough cooked leftover fish and potatoes to serve four people, cut into bite-sized pieces
Cooked vegetables, if desired
100 g butter or tallow
Salt and pepper
Chives or onions, chopped

Heat the butter in a frying pan until it stops foaming. Gently fry the fish and potatoes and onions (if using) in the butter until heated through and slightly browned. Do not scramble the food around in the pan much – the fish pieces should be intact when served. Flavour with salt and pepper to taste, and if you’re using chives, sprinkle them over the dish before serving.

From 160 fiskréttir by Helga Sigurðardóttir


Fried smoked trout with scrambled eggs

There are two wild species of trout found in Iceland: the brown trout (Salmo trutta) and the arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus). Additionally, rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) have been released into some lakes and rivers. The collective name in Icelandic is silungur, the char being called bleikja and the brown trout urriði.

This is a nice brunch dish that can also be made with smoked herring.

1 large, whole smoked trout
6 eggs
6 tbs milk

De-bone and skin the trout and cut it into slices. Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the fish in it.

Scrambled eggs:
Mix together the eggs, salt and milk until well blended. Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring gently in circles until the mixture begins to thicken, then scramble the mixture back and forth until it is of the desired consistency.
Arrange on a serving platter with the fried trout and serve.

From 160 fiskréttir by Helga Sigurðardóttir


Halibut in cream sauce

Halibut has a number of names in Icelandic, reflecting its importance as a food fish. They include flyðra, spraka, lúða and heilagfiski. The last name means “holy fish”, presumably because it was popular Fridays food during the Catholic era.

Halibut grow to a gigantic size: the current record is around 330 kilos. One was recently caught off the coast of the West Fjords that weighed in at 219 kg. and was 248 cm. long. The flesh of these giants is rather coarse, but the flavor is delicious.

750 g halibut
1 tbs flour
Salt and pepper
2-3 onions
100 g margarine
100 g butter
50 ml cream

Fillet and skin the halibut. Cut into 2 cm thick slices.
Mix together flour, salt and pepper.
Slice the onions into rings.

Brown the margarine in a frying pan and fry the onions in it until golden. Remove and set aside. Put the butter in the pan, keeping back a small amount, and brown the butter in the pan. Dredge the fish slices in the flour mixture and brown over high heat for about 10 minutes. Arrange the fish pieces on a serving platter and top with the browned onions.

Deglace the pan with a little water, adding the cream and remaining butter. Strain into a sauce bowl.

Arrange poached potatoes on the platter on one side of the fish, and serve.

From 160 fiskréttir by Helga Sigurðardóttir


Fried cod cheeks

10 cod cheeks
1 egg white, beaten until it begins to froth slightly
Bread crumbs with salt and pepper to taste
200 g butter or margarine

Cut the cheeks away from the heads if needed. Clean well (scrape off the slime under cold running water) and pat dry. Dip the cheeks in the egg white and dredge in the breadcrumbs. Fry in the butter until golden brown. Sprinkle salt and pepper over them and serve with hot, poached potatoes.
May also be cooked in the oven.

From 160 fiskréttir by Helga Sigurðardóttir


Fried herring

6-10 fresh herrings, heads removed, gutted and cleaned
2 tbs flour
2 tsp salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
100 g butter or margarine

If the herrings are large, butterfly them, otherwise leave them whole. Heat a frying pan with the butter. Mix together flour, salt and pepper and dredge the herring in the mixture. Fry the herring in the pan until golden brown. Serve with cooked potatoes and white sauce with vegetables

This recipe also works with mackerel.

From 160 fiskréttir by Helga Sigurðardóttir


Herring rolls

“All the housewives in the country should be on the habit of acquiring at least one barrel of salted herring for the winter. The barrel must be stored in a cold place, for if the herring goes rancid it will not make good food. It is our duty, Icelandic housewives, to ensure that more is eaten of the herring than is now the case, this wholesome, fine food, which is caught in such abundance off our shores.”
Foreword to the chapter on herring dishes in 160 fiskréttir (160 fish dishes) by Helga Sigurðardóttir.

Helga Sigurðardóttir was Iceland’s version of Mrs. Beeton. She was not only a cook book author whose books can be found in many Icelandic homes, but also a cooking teacher . Several of the recipes on this blog originally came from one or another of her cookbooks, whether altered or unchanged. In the following weeks I will be posting a selection of dishes from this book, beginning with that gem of a fish, the herring.

2 salted herrings
2 bunches fresh dill, chopped
200 ml white vinegar
150 ml water
2 ½ tbs sugar
1/3 tsp pepper (in old Icelandic cookbooks ‘pepper’ usually means ground white pepper, as I am sure it does here)

Clean the herrings, fillet them and remove skin and bones. De-salt in cold water for 18 hours. Remove and pat dry. Sprinkle the dill over the fillets, roll them up tightly and tie off with cotton string. Put into a jar. Mix together the vinegar, water, sugar and pepper and pour over the herring rolls. Close the jar and let the herring marinate in a cool place for several hours. Cut the rolls into slices and serve, e.g. as canapés.


Blackcurrant jam - Sólberjasulta

Blackcurrants have come to be regarded as a superfood. They are very high in vitamin C, as well as being a good source of potassium, iron and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). They are also very tasty.

When I was growing up, my grandmother's house was surrounded by a hedge of blackcurrant bushes. I loved being able to go out into the garden and pick the ripe berries off the branches and pop them straight into my mouth.

1 kg blackcurrants
100-200 ml water
500-600 g sugar

Rinse the berries under cold running water and drain well. Put in a cooking pot and bring to the boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the berries burst, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until melted.

Pour into sterilised jars, filling them completely and closing them while the jam is hot. Should keep for a year, but if you want to make sure, add a preservative.


Redcurrant jam - Rifsberjasulta

I love redcurrants, both cooked and raw. I usually make redcurrant jelly, rather than jam, but the jam is good too, especially with smoked ham.

I sometimes make jelly from a mixture of redcurrants and stone bramble berries, which has a beautiful ruby-red colour and tastes delicious with strong cheese, and on the side with lamb and all sorts of game.

1 kg redcurrants
500-600 g sugar

Rinse the berries under cold running water and drain well. Put in a cooking pot and bring to the boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the berries burst, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until melted.

Pour into sterilised jars, filling them completely and closing them while the jam is hot. Should keep for a year.

To make redcurrant jam with a preservative, use

1 kg redcurrants
350 g sugar
1/2 tsp salicylic acid (or other preservative)

Make the jam as instructed above, them mix in the preservative before putting the jam in the jars.


Smoked salmon sandwich spread

300 g smoked salmon
3 eggs, hard-boiled
2 tbs mayonnaise
4 tbs sour cream
Aromat or Accent (may be left out)

Chop the salmon very finely, e.g. in a food processor, but do not process into a paste – there should be tiny pieces of salmon in the spread. Mash the eggs with a fork and mix together the eggs, salmon, mayonnaise and sour cream. Add a little Aromat and dill. Chill and serve with crackers or slices of white baguette.


Brauðterta – Icelandic style sandwich loaf: Tuna & egg

3 layers of bread (refer to the first sandwich loaf post for more information)

200 g mayonnaise
100 g sour cream
5 hard-boiled eggs
200 g canned tuna
1 medium onion
Aromat or Accent (may be left out or replaced with garlic powder)

Mix together mayo, cream and Aromat. Mash the eggs with a fork and drain the tuna well. Chop the onion very finely. Mix everything together and layer between the bread slices. Also put some spread on the ends and sides of the loaf and decorate with tuna, egg slices, and salad leaves.


Brauðterta – Icelandic style sandwich loaf: Ham and egg

Decoration: Ham, canned peaches, tomato rose and cucumber strips.
For 3 layers of bread (refer to the first sandwich loaf post for more information)

150 g mayonnaise
100 g sour cream
Aromat or Accent, to taste (may be left out)
Piquant seasoning
150 g thinly sliced ham
5 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 can green asparagus

Mix together mayo, cream and seasonings. Mash the eggs with a fork and chop the asparagus finely. Mix everything together. Put the spread between the layers of bread, spread mayo-sour cream evenly mixture over the loaf and cover with slices of ham. Garnish with, e.g. tomato roses, egg slices, cucumber, bell peppers, halved or quartered grapes, fresh parsley.

More decoration ideas:

Decoration: ham and red bell pepper.

A roll. Decoration: ham, red and green bell peppers.

A giant sandwich. Decoration: ham, canned peaches, red bell pepper strips, orange slices, asparagus and parsley.


Brauðterta – Icelandic style sandwich loaf: Shrimp

A double-wide. Decorations: Shrimp, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, eggs.
Continuing from last'week's post:

4 layers of sandwich bread
300 g mayonnaise
200 g sour cream
300 g Arctic shrimp
1/2 red bell pepper
6 hard-boiled eggs
Aromat or Accent (may be left out or you can substitute garlic powder)
I also like to use a teensy amount of freshly ground black pepper in shrimp fillings

A giant. Decorations: Shrimp, orange and lime slices, cucumber and a forest of parsley.
Mix the mayonnaise and sour cream until smooth and well-blended. Thaw and drain the shrimps well. Finely chop the pepper, mash the eggs with a fork and mix everything together. Put the spread between the layers of bread. Smooth a thin layer of mayo-sour cream mixture evenly over the loaf and garnish with large shrimps, egg slices and vegetables, e.g. bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes.


Brauðterta – Icelandic style sandwich loaf: Salmon and egg

I had planned to post a sandwich loaf recipe much earlier, but since I rarely make them and when I do I don’t use a recipe, I had to find a set recipe first. I finally did find it, in fact several of them, which I will be posting in the following weeks.

Sandwich loaves, or ‘bread cakes’ as they are called in Iceland, are an enduring presence at Icelandic celebrations where cakes are served. While not an Icelandic invention (I think they may have originated in the USA), they have been popular here for at least 50 years and there seems to be no stopping them. While the fillings change according to fashion and whim and we don’t use half as much mayonnaise in them as once was the case they continue to be a vehicle for cooks to display their talents with garnish, and a savoury palate cleanser in between nibbles of all the sweet cakes usually served at traditional birthday parties.

They are generally made from white bread, and you can buy the bread pre-cut for the purpose.

There are two kinds of sandwich cake bread available. One is basically a pan-baked loaf of white sandwich bread that has been sliced lengthwise, like this (for a bit of a laugh at the expense of yesterday’s cookbook authors, keep clicking the “next” button until you get to the end of the pictures).

The crusts are removed, leaving between 4 and 6 long slices of bread.

The other kind are rolls. These are big, thin slices of bread that look like the cake layer of a jelly roll before it's rolled up. They can either be rolled up or layered to make large sandwich cakes. In a pinch, the other kind can be used instead, but care is then needed when rolling them up.

These cakes can be made using any sandwich filling or anything you will find as a topping for Danish smörrebröd, but certain fillings are more common than others.

The most common are:
Ham and asparagus
Ham and egg
Shrimp salad (shrimp, egg, ham or shrimp, ham and pineapple)
Roast beef (roast beef with French-fried onions, remoulade sauce, and either sliced pickled cucumber or slices of canned peaches or apricots)
Tuna spread (tuna and egg and sometimes either chopped onion or sweet corn)
Salmon and egg

Traditionally, the fillings are held together with mayonnaise, and here arises a problem: Commercially made Icelandic mayonnaise is like no-other kind I have tried. It is not only thicker, but it is not as vinegary-tasting. I have on several occasions tried to make these kinds of fillings (in small portions suitable for sandwiches) with imported mayonnaise, but the only time it has worked out was when making tuna spread, and then only because I not only drained the tuna thoroughly, but I actually squeezed out all the juice before making the spread. Still, the flavour wasn’t as good. When I tried making shrimp salad with Hellman’s mayonnaise, the mayonnaise turned soupy and ruined the salad.

These days, a mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream is generally used, and sometimes the mayonnaise is dispersed with and cream cheese is used instead.

I never, ever use a recipe myself, but when you have never made one of these before a recipe is a good starting point. I rarely get the opportunity to make sandwich loaves, but I plan to take photos whenever I get the chance and will add them to show how these creations can be decorated. This and the other sandwich loaf posts are therefore going to become rerun posts, so if you leave comments, I will append your comments to the bottom of the appropriate post whenever I refresh it and bring it back to the top because Blogger erases the comments when you repost a blog entry with a new date.

And now for today's featured sandwich loaf:

Salmon & egg sandwich loaf
This is a delicious variation on the traditional salmon and egg salad loaf. A traditional loaf includes mashed hard-boiled eggs, but this uses scrambled eggs instead.

3 layers of sandwich bread

Salmon spread:
300 g smoked salmon, thinly sliced
5 eggs, hard-boiled
200 g mayonnaise
100 g sour cream

Keep back some extra slices of salmon

Chop the salmon and eggs into small pieces and mix well with the mayo and cream. Chill.

Scrambled eggs with salmon:
4 eggs
3 tbs cream
100 g smoked salmon
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly whip together the eggs and cream and season with salt and pepper. Purée the salmon in a food processor and add to the egg mixture, stirring lightly together. Fry the scrambled eggs until well done and set aside to cool.

Put 1/3 of the salmon spread on the bottom layer of bread, top with the second bread layer, then the scrambled egg, then more bread and end with salmon spread. Smooth the remaining salmon spread on the ends and side of the loaf. Decorate with thin slices of salmon (or cover the whole thing with salmon slices) and garnish with vegetables, e.g. tomato roses, slivers of red bell pepper or cucumber. Egg slices are also suitable decoration.


Skyr dessert

200 g oatmeal biscuits/crackers (e.g. Graham crackers)
60 g butter
1 tbs sugar

Crumble the crackers finely. Melt the butter and stir into the crumbs with the sugar. Press into the bottoms of several small serving bowls.

4 sheets gelatin
The juice of 1/2 lemon
300 g plain skyr
100 g sugar
2 eggs
150 g sour cream
1 tbs sugar

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Remove from the water, squeeze out the remaining water and put the gelatin in a bowl or the top of a double boiler with the lemon juice. Heat gently until the gelatin is melted.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Mix together sugar and skyr and add the egg yolks, one by one. Fold in the sour cream.

Lightly whip the egg whites with 1 tbs. sugar. Mix the gelatin into the skyr mixture and then gently fold in the whipped egg whites. Divide the mixture between the bowls and cool in the refrigerator.

This can also be made into a whole dessert, in which case use a large, deep pie dish.


Liver with bacon (Lifur með fleski)

I love liver with bacon. I haven't tried this recipe, but I plan to.

750 g liver
100 bacon
1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper
1/6 tsp ginger
1/6 tsp ground cloves
60 g cooking fat
400 ml boiling cooking liquid
150 ml cream
40 g flour
200 ml cold water

Clean the liver and cut into thin slices. Mix together the flour, salt and spices and roll the liver slices in it to coat. Lay a rasher of bacon on each liver slice and roll up the slices. Tie together with cotton string. Heat the cooking fat ion a pan and brown the liver slices in it. Add the milk and water and cook for 15-20 minutes. Thicken the sauce with the flour (make a paste with a little cold water to avoid clumping). Cook the sauce for a couple of minutes, then add the cream.

I imagine this would be nice with mashed potatoes, redcurrant jelly and a salad.


Stuffed sheep's hearts - Fyllt hjörtu

5-6 sheep's hearts (or 4-5 pig's hearts)
10-12 prunes (stoneless)
600-700 ml mixture of equal proportions water and milk
50 g butter
50 g flour
salt and pepper
sauce colouring

Chop up the prunes and stuff the hearts with them. Sew closed. Melt the butter in a pan and brown the hearts in it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add the milk/water mixture and cook for 1-2 hours. Remove the hearts from the cooking liquid.

Make a paste of the flour and a little bit of cold water. Bring the cooking liquid to the boil and stir in the flour paste to make a sauce. Add sauce colouring if desired.

Cut the hearts into slices, and serve with the sauce on the side.


Liver pate - Lifrarkæfa

I love liver pate, but I have never tried to make it, probably because you can get perfectly good liver pate in most supermarkets in Iceland. This sounds like a good recipe:

700 g liver
300 ml milk
2 cooked potatoes
1 tbs chopped, browned onion
3 eggs
100 g butter or 300 g fatty bacon
7 tbs flour
salt and pepper
dash of cardamom
1 fillet of spice-pickled herring (or about 10 anchovy fillets)

Soak the liver in cold water for about 30 minutes. Remove the membranes and blood vessels. Chop coarsely and put through a grinder 4 times, with the herring/anchovies, onion, and bacon (if using). Add the potatoes for the last round of grinding.

If you're using a food processor, dump everything above in at once and process into a smooth paste, using the chopping blades.

Mix together the flour and spices and mix into the liver paste along with the cooled melted butter (if using). Add the eggs and mix well. Finally stir in the milk, little by little.

Grease a pate mould and press the raw pate into it. Cover with a cheesecloth and cook in a water-bath(*) for about 1 hour.

May be served hot or cold. A classic delicious Danish smørrebrødrecipe calls for dark rye bread with warm liver pate, bacon and mushrooms.

I like liver pate best smeared on Danish rye bread and topped with pickled red beets. The first time I brought such a sandwich with me to school for my mid-morning snack, the other kids thought the sandwich filling was raw meat!

(*) Water-bath: Heat an oven to medium temperature (about 180°C). Bring to the boil enough water to cover the bottom of an oven-proof pan (e.g. a jelly roll pan). Put the pate mould into the pan, pour the boiling water into the pan and put immediately in the oven to cook.


Stuffed leg of lamb

This is a rather good Sunday dish. If you don't know how to de-bone a leg of lamb, either buy it de-boned or get your butcher to de-bone it for you.

1 leg of lamb (about 2 kg. before boning)
50 g prunes, stoneless
30 g dried apples
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper

Soak the apple slices to soften. Rub half of the salt and pepper on the inside of the leg of lamb and stuff with the prunes and apple slices. Sew closed. Rub the remaining salt and pepper on the outside of the meat.

Put meat into a greased oven pan and roast at 250°C for about 90 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the steak shows 160°C. Start by roasting for 10-20 minutes, then add water to cover the bottom of the pan, to a depth of about 1 cm. Baste the meat with the cooking liquid every 15 minutes or so. Top up the water when it starts to boil down.

About 10-15 minutes before the steak is done, remove it from the oven, pour the cooking liquid into a saucepan, through a strainer. Put the steak back into the oven until a nice crust has formed. While it is in the oven, make the sauce:

Skim the fat off the surface of the cooking liquid. Heat in the saucepan. Make a thin, smooth paste from a couple of tbs. of flour and a bit of cold water. When the cooking liquid boils, stir the flour paste into the boiling liquid, stirring with a beater. Pour slowly and when you feel the liquid starting to thicken, stop pouring. Gently simmer the sauce for a couple of minutes, to remove the raw flour taste. Adjust the flavour with salt and pepper, and if you use it, add a little sauce colouring to get a nice, brown colour.

Serve either whole or sliced, with potatoes (poached, caramelised or mashed), sauce and whatever other side dishes you like (I like redcurrant jelly, salad and peas).


Twice-baked buns - Tvíbökur

Twice-baked bread keeps well and is good in all kinds of sweetened soups, like Sweet Soup, Crowberry Soup, and Cocoa Soup.

250 g flour OR

100 g bread or all-purpose flour and 100 g whole-wheat flour

t tsp baking powder
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
75 g butter or margarine
100-150 ml milk

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cardamom and add the sugar. Add the softened butter or margarine and rub into the dry mix until the mixture is crumbly. Add the milk, no more than needed to make the dough stick together. Knead until smooth and roll up into sausage shapes. Cut into even-sized pieces and roll into balls. Arrange on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 180°C until light brown.

Remove the buns from the oven and cool until they can be handled, then cut in half, put back on the cookie sheet and dry in the oven at a low temperature.

Serve with the above-mentioned sweet soups or with coffee.


Flatbread II - Flatbrauð II

There is already one recipe for flatbread on this blog, but I came across another one that I thought would be interesting to post for comparison. The first recipe, which is the basic, traditional recipe, is just rye flour, salt and water, but this one is more elaborate, and would most likely have been made only in richer households, since it contains three types of flour, The use of a raising agent should also mean lighter bread.

200 g whole-wheat flour
200 g bread or all-purpose flour
200 g rye flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
450-500 ml milk

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Bring the milk to the boil. Add the milk to the dry mix, stirring it in with a wooden spoon while it is too hot to touch and then knead it. When fully kneaded (smooth and even), divide into 10 pieces. Flatten and cut out into round pieces to fit the size of the skillet. Prick and bake on each side until the bread looks dry.


A little message to my readers


Salting meat - Saltkjöt

Someone e-mailed me not too long ago and asked for a recipe for salting mutton. This is the recipe in my mother‘s old cookbook. I haven‘t tested it, but am relying on my grandmother‘s advice for the information that was missing, such as the minimum brining time and how long it will stay preserved.

The recipe contains saltpetre (potassium nitrate), the use of which has been mostly discontinued in Iceland due to health concerns. Saltpetre was used as an extra preservative and it also gives the food a characteristic pink hue. It may be safely left out, but the meat may not keep for quite as long as it would otherwise. The sugar tenderises the meat.

Meat may be dry salted or brined. Dry salting is best for lean meat and brining for fatty meat.

For 50 kg of meat (mutton, lamb, horse, beef, pork, etc.):

Salting mixture:
3 kg salt (coarse pickling salt works best)
250 g sugar
2 litres water
(30 g saltpetre)

The meat should be cut into in serving-sized pieces (half-cutlets, steaks, etc.). It should be clean and should preferably be brined or salted as soon as it has cooled after butchering.

Choose a clean, watertight container with a tight lid for the salting/brining (a barrel is traditional). Its size should depend on the amount of meat you want to preserve. It should always be as close to full as possible.

Dry salting:
Mix together salt, sugar and saltpetre (if using). Sprinkle a little of the mixture on the bottom of the barrel. Roll the meat pieces in the mixture and pack them tightly into the barrel in layers. Press down. Sprinkle a little salt over each layer and pour 100 ml water (2/5 cup) water over each layer. End with a solid layer of salt.

Put a lid or something that fits snugly into the barrel on top of the meat and weigh it down, e.g. with bricks. A brine will form as the juices leak out of the meat. Make sure that the meat is all under the surface of the brine (thus the weighing down). Leave the meat in the barrel for at least 3 weeks, in a cool place. Should keep for up to a year if kept cool.

Brining is adviceable for warmer weather and fatty meat. To make the brine, mix salt, sugar and saltpetre in approximately the percentages in the recipe for the salting mixture, and dissolve in cool water until a raw potato floats in the brine. Pack the meat in layers as in the previous recipe, pouring in the brine when the barrel is almost full. Keep topping up with brine as it seeps into the meat layers, and weight down when the meat has settled and the barrel will take no more brine.

Before cooking the salted/brined meat, soak it in plenty of water as needed (overnight or longer, depending on for how long it has been in the brine, changing the water a couple of times).

This meat may be cooked and served with cooked potatoes and cabbage. The stock may be used to make pea soup.


Cod with roe and liver

Fresh cod roe becomes available in late winter, and is a lovely addition to the fresh seafood available year round.

My mother would serve roe with cooked cod's liver, cooked cod or haddock, and potatoes, sometimes with melted sheep's tallow (with cracklings) or butter, and rye bread on the side.

To cook the roes, drop them into boiling salted water and cook for 15 to 45 minutes, depending on their size. The roe is cooked when firm and of an even pale pink colour all the way through.

Drain well and serve warm or cold. Cold roe can be sliced and used as a topping for bread.

To cook cod liver, soak in cold water for about 30 minutes, to allow any nematodes to crawl out (this is why I do not eat fish liver). Remove the membrane from the liver, drop into heavily salted boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes. Some like to cook the liver, fish and roe together, but as the liver imparts a strong flavour to the cooking liquid, I recommend cooking it separately.

If the roe is to be served with fish, the fish may be cooked in the same pot. Filleted fish may be cut into pieces about 5 cm wide and cooked with the roes for the last 7-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish pieces.


Cod roe omelet - hrognaeggjakaka

Cod roe should be available in fish shops now, and I usually treat myself to some once or twice during the season. (I really must check tomorrow). The traditional way of serving it is to cook the "bags" of roe in salted water, along with the liver from the fish and some fish, either cod or haddock. Everything then becomes greasy and slightly liver-flavoured, which I do not like at all. (Just take a sip of cod liver oil and then tell me if you honestly like the taste). But it is not the taste that I dislike the most about cod liver, it is the nematodes. I don't think I will say more on the subject, as I don't want to put anyone off their food. Just don't look up the word if you are going to eat soon.

I usually cook roe in salted water with some fish but without the liver. While leafing through one of my cookbooks looking for recipes, I came across this, which I really should try – it sound delicious:

1/2 kg cooked cod roe (use canned if you can't get fresh). If you can get fresh roe, clean well under cold running water. Don't remove the membrane that holds the roe together. Cook in salted water for 15-45 minutes, depending on size.
70-100 g butter
Salt and pepper
1 onion
4 eggs
3 tbs cheese, grated (I would use Gouda)

Slice roe and onion and brown in a frying pan. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Mix eggs with salt and pepper and cheese. Pour into a hot frying pan and cook until the omelet is nearly done. Top with onions and roe slices, close the omelet and serve immediately.