22/09/2007

Icelandic cookbooks in English: Cool Dishes and Cool Cuisine

There are a number of Icelandic cookbooks available in English, most of them published in Iceland and aimed at the tourist market. Most are printed on heavy, glossy paper and some have gorgeous colour photographs in them, both of which makes them expensive. Buying one for the equivalent of 50 US Dollars or more and then discovering it isn't what you were looking for is an expensive mistake. Therefore I decided to review as many of them as I could get my hands on, to make it a little easier to decide which one to invest in.

Not all of the Icelandic cookbooks in the book stores are available from the library. I will stick to the ones I could get from the library, as I have been able to read them all the way through.

First up are Cool Cuisine and Cool Dishes, which is a baby version of the former. They were written by Icelandic food writer Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, with photographs by Gísli Egill Hrafnsson and published by Vaka-Helgafell in 2004.

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These books combine gorgeous food photography with Icelandic recipes, most of which are traditional, although some are more traditional than others. By that I mean that there are recipes in the books that go back over a century, side by side with recipes that are less than 20 years old. A few are new, inspired by Icelandic raw materials.

You can't go wrong with these books as souvenirs for yourself or as gifts for a true food lover. Unlike some of the other Icelandic cookbooks I looked at, they are purely about the food, and are representative of what Icelanders really eat. You will not find fermented shark in there, nor sheep's heads or pressed sheep's testicles, but some of the old traditional food is in there, like smoked lamb (only how to cook it, not how to smoke it) blood pudding and halibut soup with prunes.

Cool Cuisine is 147 pages long and has some 92 recipes, more if you count separately the dishes that come with recipes for side dishes.

Cool Dishes is 72 pages and the recipes number 42. All the recipes in this book are found in the other, and all of what I would call the 'necessary' recipes are in this one.

Verdict:
Of the Icelandic cookbooks I have been looking at, these two are definitely the best buys if you are looking for nice foodie coffee table books that are still useful as cookbooks.

Cost:
I checked the prices in the Penninn book store, which are representative of the prices you can expect to pay for these books. They may cost more in tourist shops.

As of the time of writing Cool Cuisine costs 2290 kr. and Cool Dishes costs 920 kr.

Practical information:
All the measurements in the books are in metric, including the teaspoons and tablespoons, and the temperatures are given in centigrade (Celcius).

5 comments:

Kristen's Raw said...

I love great photos of food :)

Kristen's Raw

Bibliophile said...

Than I'm sure you would like these books.

Isabel said...

I would like to either find a source for Surmjolk in the US or a way to make it at home.

Thanks!

Bibliophile said...

Isabel, try kefir. It is soured with a similar bacteria culture as súrmjólk. I haven't tasted it myself, but it's what Icelanders abroad buy when they start to crave súrmjólk, so it must taste similar.

tan said...

hi,i just came back from my icelandic holiday. i'm glad to mention that i got hold of cool cuisine while i was there. i thought the recipes are easy to follow and get. not to forget, authentic too!!