The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Nordic Tales

The North has always fascinated me. The northern the better. Perhaps it is the legends of trolls, giants, and fairies or the bleak and bare landscape or the sense of remoteness from the crowds. One or all of these reasons made me want to travel to Iceland and I never did. Until last May when R. was invited to present a paper.

It is lucky that Easyjet flies up there saving up a considerable amount of money and going during that time of the year is not very pricey either being off season. Many of our friends seemed concerned we would have found terrible weather but in fact it was sunny most of the time. Of course, we left Spring in Cambridge to plunge back into Autumn. But that was expected and we were prepared.

The countryside is enchanting. At times resembling the farthest points of Scotland, at times filling imagined lunar scenes with its black sand and conic stone and mossy bumps. It must be hard living there. The wind cuts your face and there is nowhere to hide. Flat and bare. People must be inevitably helpful as nobody would survive (or at least used to) alone.


We mainly saw Reykjavik with its coloureful houses, rough port, and calm roads.



But we also ventured ourselves with a little Japanese hired car to the Lagoon of Jokulsarlon passing waterfalls, vulcanic beaches, and fields of heather. The lagoon is a 4 hour drive but well worth it. Translucent blue blocks of ice breaking from the nearby glacier and drifting towards the sea to die on the shore under a pale sun. 


Exceptedly food is focused around fish. And as I love fish I was happy. Icelandic fish'n chips was what we were welcome with. And fish stew - plokkari. We had one each for a few days and every time the recipe was different. The stew in particular changed from one place to another depending on the amount of milk, broth, and vegetable added. In a reasonably priced, stylish but simple place near the harbour we tasted it with local beer (Viking, what else?) and rye bread, slightly sweet and soft.


If you don't like fish, don't dispair. You can always live on Icelandic hot dog (a mix of different type of meat and unknown!), lamb soup, and cinnamon buns!

We loved the stew and tried to reproduce it at home. Here is the recipe that we followed:

500g smoked cod or haddock
500g potatoes
350ml milk
1 white onion
35g butter
3tbsp flour
2 tbsp chopped chives

Bone, skin and flake the fish. Heat the milk gently on low heat. Peel and chop the potatoes into small cubes. Cook in salted water.
Chop the onion and sprinkle with flour. Melt the butter in a pan and cook gently the onions until golden brown.
At that point (having kept an eye on the milk as it shouldn't boil) pour the milk over the chopped onions. Stir and add the flaked fish.
Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes until all flavours have combined. Season to taste.

The first time was finished under the grill with cheese on top. The second time was left in a slightly soupy way. The last time was almost like an undone fish cake. Serve it with steamed vegetables.

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