08 Dec

Christmas in Iceland

388431_2744590688033_340345582_nAccording to The Icelandic Tourist Board Iceland has become increasingly popular at Christmas. A record number of tourists is expected to spend the holidays there this year. It used to be a problem that restaurants and shops were closed for days during the festive season, but apparently that’s not the case anymore. If you are traveling to Iceland HERE’S a useful list of places open these days.

It can also be useful to learn some Icelandic phrases and in THIS ARTICLE you can learn 11 of them, such as;

‘9.  “Verða rauð jól í ár?”
Do you expect a snowless Christmas this year? – Every year, Icelanders (mostly Southerners) hope and dream of a white Christmas because in Iceland, it really isn’t Christmas unless the ground outside is covered in beautiful, white snow. A snowless Christmas is called ‘a red Christmas’, or rauð jól.

10. “Áttu malt og appelsín?”
Do you have malt and appelsín? – Once a year, Icelanders will mix two popular soft drinks together to create what’s called ‘jólaöl’, meaning Christmas ale (non-alcoholic). Malt and appelsín are drunk separately all year around, but ‘jólaöl’ is reserved for Christmas only. Every family has their very own secret ‘jólaöl’ recipe and the ratio between malt and appelsín differs from one family to the next.’

09 Oct

Icelandic delicacy at Borough Market

12066052_955169254576686_1571104862316647427_nFoodies interested in trying Icelandic food are in for a treat this weekend! If you go to Borough Market I highly recommend you try f.ex. flatbread with smoked trout or lamb, harðfiskur and skyr.

The Icelandic Pantry brings the best of Iceland’s cuisine to London and this is how they introduce it on Facebook:

‘From 7-10 October, Londoners will be able to experience a taste of Iceland when Icelandic farmers, fishermen and other independent food producers will be selling their produce at London’s famous Borough Market for the first time.

“The Icelandic Pantry” marks the first time Borough Market has hosted an Icelandic guest market allowing the primary food producers to travel from Iceland to speak directly with UK shoppers and sell their products.

Shaped by the harsh climate, Icelandic food traditions are inspirational to modern food producers. From blueberry-cured lamb to artisan pastries, the world’s only geothermally produced sea salt to an eco-whey drink blended with wild Iceland moss and Arctic thyme, Icelandic producers are renowned for their unique and innovative approaches to food and drink production.

The country’s different regions are represented with organic lambs fed on angelica to give it a special flavour from West Iceland, hot-smoked mackerel from the East and artisan rhubarb brittle from South Iceland will all be there. Some foods also give an insight into Iceland’s rich history, such as a special flatbread dating from the settlement in the 9th century.

Farmers markets are growing in popularity in Iceland and The Icelandic Pantry is the country’s largest artisanal food fayre, taking place in Reykjavik. Founders, Eirný Sigurðardóttir and Hlédís Sveinsdóttir have brought together 14 of the Icelandic producers to travel to London in October.

Eirny Sigurðardóttir says: “For the first time, Icelandic farmers are traveling to London to sell their products there. The purpose of the trip is not only to introduce Icelandic food culture and products to Brits, but it’s also a learning experience for us, which will help us grow and improve.”

Borough Market’s David Matchett added: “The Icelandic Pantry event is an opportunity for the city’s food lovers to sample and learn about Icelandic cuisine, as well as a chance for local and small scale producers from the country to showcase and talk about what’s special about what they eat to a new UK audience. Icelandic people are among the healthiest on earth and are also one of the most resourceful, living in a harsh and unforgiving environment. They also have a focus on sustainability, which is a way of life rather than an aspiration, so as a market we have a lot of shared values and are excited to welcome them here in October.”’

Enjoy!

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24 Sep

An Icelandic restaurant pops up in London

425594_405887002760625_337106445_nIt isn’t often people can visit a restaurant from Iceland in London, but now is the chance. During the last weekend of October, a restaurant with the ideology of the Icelandic restaurant Friðrik V vill open in a space called A_SPACE, near the Angel tube station.

Friðrik’s V speciality is that the restaurant does not have an à la carte menu. Instead, the guests are invited on a surprise trip, where the chefs create a magical evening, cooking from the freshest material from Iceland.

This pop-up restaurant will be open three nights, from the 29th – 31st of October. A five course surprise menu with selected drinks will be served. Booking has started and there’s limited seating.

Information and booking:

fridrikvlondon@fridrikv.is

www.fridrikv.is

Friðrik V on Facebook

tel. (354) – 461-5775

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16 Sep

Watch them try Brennivín! – videos

440px-Brennivin2This is how Wikipedia describes the Icelandic Brennivín, something everyone visiting Iceland simply has to try:

‘Brennivín is a clear, unsweetened schnapps that is considered to be Iceland‘s signature distilled beverage. It is a popular Icelandic liquor and special-occasion alcohol shot, and the traditional drink for the mid-winter feast of Þorrablót. It is made from fermented grain or potato mash and flavoured with caraway, and for this reason can be considered anaquavit.[1] The steeping of herbs in alcohol to create schnapps is a long-held folk tradition in Scandinavian countries. Brennivín has a unique and distinctive taste similar to vodka or Scandinavian akvavit. It is typically bottled at 80 proof.’

I find Brennivín rather disgusting, to be honest. It reminds me of my teenage years, when beer was banned in Iceland. The youngsters drank Brennivín, distilled spirit people produced at home, or even some home-brewed horror. My taste buds never agreed with any of it.

There are several videos on Youtube where people from all over the world try Brennivín.

Enjoy!

And sometimes people even sing about Brennivín.

16 Aug

Surreal queues

11875084_10206204729731274_8047293525790926619_oIt’s interesting being a tourist in your own homeland. I’ve been surprisingly cold since I arrived in Iceland 10 days ago. Always wearing a coat, when other Icelanders wear t-shirts. I marvel the landscape and nature in new ways and enjoy every single drop of the fresh water, straight from the tap.

I’ve been admiring how many good Icelandic designers there are and listening to marvellous new local music. There is no doubt about the fact that our talents lie in arts.

Then there are times when I just don’t get my fellow Icelanders. For the longest time, it was impossible to get Icelanders to form a proper queue. They simply couldn’t bring themselves to stand in a line and wait for something. When people from other nations waited politely for their turn in a bank or at the bus stop, Icelanders would stand in some irregular blobs, pushing each other around. However, things have changed recently. All of a sudden, Icelanders seem to love waiting in queues. I think it’s their new hobby. What else could possibly explain what I witnessed yesterday?

The American global doughnut company Dunkin Donuts opened a shop (they actually call it a restaurant) here for the first time a few days ago. Yesterday, there was still a long line of people outside, waiting for their turn to buy a doughnut. What made it extra weird was witnessing that queue merge with a never ending line of people waiting for a taste of bacon at the Bacon festival taking place on Skólavörðustígur across the street.

 

Pretty surreal.

Bacon Festival queue

Bacon Festival queue

29 Jul

Smells like urine, tastes like heaven

hardfiskurMy favourite Icelandic snack is ‘harðfiskur’. It is wind-dried fish, usually cod, haddock or seawolf. It’s been beaten until it has softened somewhat, and it’s absolutely delicious served with butter.

‘Harðfiskur’ is a very healthy snack, very rich in protein. Each bite has to be chewed thoroughly and it may take some time to get used to. Don’t let the smell scare you away from trying it. ‘Harðfiskur’ smells of ammoniac so that’s quite horrible as you can imagine.

In the past, ‘harðfiskur’ was eaten instead of bread in homes that couldn’t afford flour for baking on special occasions. Nowadays however, ‘harðfiskur’ is unfortunately very expensive and regarded as a luxury product in Iceland.

 

 

21 Jul

Two Doors Down

IMG_5367If you happen to be in London, there’s this little coffee shop in Kentish Town I highly recommend. Two Doors Down opened only a year ago but has become very popular since and was recently chosen the best new coffee shop by the  Coffee Stop UK awards.  I’ve been a regular almost from the first day.

I love the combination of the best flat white you can possibly get and chatting to the owners, Rich and Klara, in a truly cosy atmosphere. I’ve talked to other guests quite often as well because, somehow, they make everyone feel like home. They’ll probably even remember what you like! The food’s also really good, f.ex. the toasted sourdough with fresh avocado, tabasco, lemon and cracked pepper or the homemade quail egg sausage rolls.

To be able to create and maintain an ambience like that in a coffee shop is pretty magical.

Website

Address: 73 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8NY

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30 Jun

Eton Mess with an Icelandic twist

11539196_10205856922076300_1370616124779925279_oI had guests over for dinner the other day and decided to make a dessert dedicated to both islands, Great Britain and Iceland. The outcome was Eton Mess with an Icelandic twist, using skyr. If you want to know more about skyr I wrote about it in an earlier blog post.

Ingredients

450 gr/15.8 oz  skyr

100ml/3.4 oz  double cream 

 dash of Ribena blackcurrant juice

3 x 7.5cm/3in   meringue nests, crushed

300 gr/11 oz  blueberries

almond flakes

coconut flakes

Preparation method

Roast the almond and coconut flakes in a dry pan, until golden. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream lightly and fold in the skyr and blackcurrant juice.

Add the crushed merengue and blueberries.

Divide into four glasses or bowls.

Decorate with almond flakes, coconut flakes and blueberries.

Bon appetit!

31 May

It’s scone crazy!

Cream teaWhen it comes to traditional British food, I’ve promised myself to try everything at least once. Marmite. Yeah, once was enough. Cream tea on the other hand is something a lady must have regularly. Good thing I’m not a lady then, ’cause it‘s really rich and leaves you feeling like a stuffed puffin. Tastes good though, can‘t deny that.

 The reason it‘s called cream tea is not that they pour cream into the tea. Cream tea is a combination of a scone with clotted cream and jam and a cup of tea. However, Cream tea should be served with milk. It got its name from Devonshire cream, or clotted cream as it‘s usually called, produced in the county of Devon. The texture of clotted cream is somewhere between whipped cream and butter and it is not as light as whipped cream. It‘s a bit like what you get when you whip the cream too much.

Fun fact. It matters to some people whether you spread the clotted cream or the jam beforehand. This has been the subject of a long standing rivalry between Devon and Cornwall. In Devon, you traditionally spread cream on the scone first, then you top it with jam. In Cornwall, it‘s the opposite. Jam first, then cream. I’ve tried both methods and haven‘t been able to decide which is better myself, so I’m not taking sides.

The debate doesn’t end here though. They can’t even agree on whether the pronunciation of the delicacy should be “skoan”, or “skon”. So what do you think? Clotted cream or jam first? Skoan or skon?

15 May

Jamie Oliver and skyr

Jamie Oliver in May 2013.Today it’s Jamie Oliver’s annual Food Revolution Day. For years he has been educating people about food and encouraging everyone to bring fresh, wholesome foods to the table. Cook from scratch. For this year’s Food Revolution Day, Oliver has launched a global campaign and petition to urge school boards to make practical food education compulsory in their curriculum. He has even launched a song, where stars like Hugh Jackman and Paul McCartney perform. Here you can read all about his campaign and listen to the song. The photo is from Food Revolution Day 2013.

I wonder if Jamie Oliver has ever heard of the Icelandic super food skyr. It’s possible to buy skyr in the UK now, thanks to the Swedish-Danish company Arla. They call it Icelandic style yogurt and promote it like this; “High in protein, low in fat and reduced in sugar, Arla Skyr is made from all natural ingredients, making it a great way to give yourself a boost throughout the day.” Made in Germany. Many Icelanders haven’t been too happy about this. Here you can read about that.

The skyr from Arla is not too bad in my opinion. It’s even better than some of the brands in Iceland, sold as skyr. Arla’s skyr is nothing like the “real” skyr though, the natural delicacy I grew up eating in Northern part of Iceland during the sixties and seventies. Skyr isn’t yogurt. Not originally. It’s actually a fresh acid-curd cheese made from skim milk. Read more about it here.

I think Jamie Oliver would probably like skyr and he would definitely prefer the old, traditional kind.