Everyone has been asking me about Iceland; my friends, my boyfriends’ Australian football team and one of my favorite food bloggers. Everyone is asking where to stay, when to go and what to eat. This is of course a hard thing to answer but now is a great time to visit because the Kroner is so low. Iceland is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and if you are not afraid of wind and a bit of cold there is no bad time to visit. Granted you could get stuck with bad weather, but that can happen anywhere. Well, at least that is what Icelanders tell themselves. I will tell you the same, but if money is of no concern then the summer months are particularly special, because the mountains are impossibly blue and the pastures intensely green, and the oceans pastel. The same beauty can be found in the winter but it is transient because the daylight is limited with this said you can experience hour long sunsets where the light is so impossible warm and peachy it can cling to the landscape for many hours.
In terms of food this is a hard thing to answer. As a food blogger I get a bit stressed about recommending restaurants, because frankly, Icelanders as a rule do not go out that often to eat because it is too expensive and when they do they want something fancy and decidedly not traditional. They do however go out for coffee and cake, which is a great way to spend an afternoon in Reykjavik. With this said there a lot of great Icelandic places to eat, and because Icelandic food is locally sourced you cannot go wrong if you order fish or lamb.
Truth be told, the best dish I ever had in Iceland was boiled fish with butter. It does not get any better than that. I grew up HATING fish, so much so, that I would groan audibly when my mother would serve us frozen cod casserole (sorry mom). When my grandfather told me that Icelandic fish was a whole other story because it was so fresh, I did not believe him (goodness I was bratty!). Going to Iceland with my grandparents at the age of 10 was a seminal experience; it was the first time I had ever been on a real vacation and the first time that I recall tasting fresh fish. I remember waking after the night flight in the afternoon with the smell of fish in the air, I was hungry and skeptical. Boiled fish? Goodness I was proven wrong it was one of the best meals I have ever had. I will always remember it, and I love my grandfather for serving it to me. I cannot say like Anthony Bourdain that he knew he was going to be a chef after tasting a fresh oyster on a boat in France but it certainly left an impression on me; that freshness and simplicity are the key to good food. I remember going on and on to my grandfather about how fresh fish was entirely different then the frozen fish my mother bought at Lloyd’s. As you might guess, I went on and on about things then too, I almost have to wipe a tear when I think about how important and smart my grandfather made me feel. I was only 13 when he passed away but I will never forget that trip to Iceland with him and my grandmother.
You cannot get better cod or haddock or monk fish then in Iceland, so if you are at restaurant order it, you will be rewarded. Or better yet ask the server what fish is freshest. Icelanders’ eat a lot of fish and dairy products; they are also one of the longest living people on earth. Icelandic dairy products are grass-fed and because of this they are packed full of healthy omega 3’s just like the fish they consume. This must be the secret to their longevity. My grandmother’s oldest friend is an active woman in her 90’s. I asked her what she has for breakfast each day and she told me: “Yogurt and toast.”
Icelandic yogurt is amazing; it is less sweet then our American version and is made with full fat milk which makes the yogurt creamy. I prefer more fat then corn syrup personally, especially if the fat is grass-fed. If you want to really experience an Icelandic staple, you can try Skyr, in Icelandic homes it is whipped with sugar and served with whole cream on top. Skyr is a fat free, fresh cheese curd type thing. It is hard to explain, it tastes a lot like yogurt but is filled with protein. If you were training for a strong man competition you might want to eat a lot of this! I recommend going to a supermarket and getting yogurt to try, it is well worth it!
This brings me to my recipe which uses fresh whipped cream which is something all Icelanders consume a lot of. Nothing tastes as good as Icelandic whipped cream. Icelandic Pancakes, which are very similar to French crepes but Icelanders serve them either rolled with sugar, or with fruit jam and freshly whipped cream.
1 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup melted butter
Preparation: mix to together making sure not to mix it too well. Using a crepe pan, pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan and smooth out and cook until done, flipping midway.
heavy cream, whipped(no sugar needed)
a nice jam, I like wild fruit preserves
To assemble you place jam on one quarter of the pancake, add cream and fold four ways.
More to come on Iceland!