28/07/2006

Baking-powder bread - Hveitibrauð með lyftidufti

My mother sometimes makes this delicious bread. We usually eat it while it's still hot out of the oven, with butter and cheese.

500 g flour OR 400 g flour and 100 g whole-wheat flour
6 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp sugar
300-350 ml milk, OR a mixture of water and milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
milk or egg for brushing

Sift together the dry ingredients, and add most of the milk. Knead until smooth, adding milk as needed. Form into a loaf. Make shallow cuts into the top of the loaf. Brush the loaf with milk or beaten egg. Bake immediately. Bread should be baked on the lowest rung in the oven, at 175°-200°C, for about an hour. It will be crusty and tastes best while warm. It's very good with butter and cheese, but I prefer to eat it with just butter.

27/07/2006

Puffin in milk sauce - Mjólkursoðinn lundi

I don't care much for puffin and other sea-birds as food, but many people love them and eat them whenever they can. This recipe resembles the recipe for rock ptarmigan, in that the birds are cooked in milk.

4 puffins
50 g smoked bacon
50 g butter
300 ml milk
300 ml water to taste salt

Puffins should be skinned or carefully plucked and singed. Remove the innards and discard. You can use the breasts alone, or cook the whole birds. Wash well in cold water and rub with salt, inside and out. If you are using whole birds, truss them. Lard the breasts with bacon fat. Brown the birds on all sides, and stuff them tightly into a cooking pot. Heat the milk and water and pour over the puffins. Bring to the boil and cook on low for 1-2 hours (test the birds for softness). Turn the birds occasionally. Remove from the cooking liquid and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

The sauce:
30 g butter
4 tblsp flour
400-500 ml cooking liquid
to taste salt and pepper
as needed caramel/sauce colouring
to taste redcurrant jelly (optional)
to taste whipped cream

Melt the butter and stir the flour into it like you were making white sauce. Strain the cooking liquid and gradually add to the butter/flour mixture. Add colouring and spices to taste, and redcurrant jelly/cream, if using.
Serve with boiled and/or caramelized potatoes and lightly boiled vegetables, like carrots, peas and brussels sprouts.

Recipe taken from Helga Sigurðardóttir's "Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).

26/07/2006

Oven-pan cake - Skúffukaka

An old family favourite, and the first cake I learned to make - in fact I know the recipe by heart. This is a very versatile recipe. The recipe can also be used to make an apple-cake, spice cake, or a batch of muffins.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbs dark cocoa, or more, to taste
150 g margarine, melted
2 eggs
1-1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix the dry ingredients well together in a bowl. Add the eggs and milk and then the melted margarine and mix well. Although this batter is supposed to be just mixed, I prefer to whip it slightly - it makes the cake wonderfully light and fluffy.
Pour into a greased oven-pan (a deep, square one), and bake at 175° C for about 30 minutes in the middle of the oven. The cake is done when it feels firm when you press gently on it with your hand. Allow to cool and spread with cocoa icing.

Varieties:
-Leave out the cocoa, and make a white cake. Spread with cocoa icing when cool.
-Cinnamon cake: Make a white batter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (see instructions below) before baking. For an even more spicy cake, experiment with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and/or powdered cloves.
-Apple-cake: put slices of apple, about 1/2 cm thick, on top of white dough in the pan, before sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar.
-Mix in grated chocolate or chocolate chips instead of the cocoa and pour into muffin pans.
-For a slightly tropical taste, put grated coconut on top of the still wet cocoa icing.

Cinnamon sugar: Mix together about 1/4 cup of sugar and about 2 tsp of cinnamon.

25/07/2006

Icelandic Rhubarb compote - Rabarbaragrautur

It's rhubarb season, so here is a recipe to try.

Rhubarb grows in abundance in almost every vegetable garden in Iceland, right alongside the potatoes. In the summer, it is mostly used for soup and grautur (compote). It is preserved mostly as jam, but it also freezes well, and tastes excellent when preserved in syrup. There are many homes where rhubarb soup/grautur is eaten throughout the winter. It is also good for desserts (especially pies and compotes) and chutneys, and it makes excellent wine.

My mother used to make rhubarb compote about once or twice a month through the summer when I was little, but after my brother decided that he didn't like it, she hardly ever makes it anymore.

3/4 litres water
3-3 1/2 tbs potato starch/cornflour
250 g rhubarb
100 ml water, cold
200 ml sugar

Wash the rhubarb and chop into small pieces. Drop into cold water and bring to the boil. Cook until the rhubarb pieces separate. Add the sugar and thicken with the potato starch. Don't close the pot, it makes the rhubarb loose its colour. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and serve hot or cold, with cream or half and half.

-To make rhubarb soup: follow the above recipe, but only use about a quarter of the starch. Serve hot.
-Replace part of the rhubarb with strawberries for a delicious alternative.
-If the soup/porridge looks unappetizingly green, add some red food coloring. This will not be necessary if you are using the red rhubarb variety.

P.S. Rhubarb will discolour aluminium cooking pots.

24/07/2006

Lisa's spiced chocolate cake - Lísu Brúnterta

This is one of the cakes my mother always makes for holidays like Christmas and Easter, and for birthdays and other special occasions.

500 g flour
350 g sugar
250 g margarine or butter
2 eggs
3 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbs dark cocoa
as needed milk

Cream together the sugar and softened margarine or butter. Mix in the eggs. Sift the flour with the spices, baking soda and cocoa. Add to the margarine mix, one tablespoonful at a time. Alternate with splashes of milk, and mix well in between (batter should be medium thick). Pour into cake tins and bake at 190°C until firm. Cool.
My mother makes these cakes about as thick as her thumb, and uses three layers of cake and two layers of vanilla butter icing. Tastes great with whipped cream.

Freezes well.

Devils' Cake - Djöflaterta

Devil's Cake with cocoa icing.
This devilishly good chocolate cake is very popular all over Iceland, and you can buy a slice in most cafes and bakeries, although they are usually covered with buttercream icing and sprinkled with dessicated coconut.

I like it best when it has been frozen and thawed before glazing, because the cake will then be nicely moist.


Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs or 1 egg and egg 2 yolks (if you're making Angel's créme icing)
1/2 cup dark cocoa * (or more, if you prefer your cake really dark and chocolatey. Proper Devil's cake should be almost black in colour)
100 g margarine/butter (soft)
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add milk and mix well. Add eggs, soft margarine/butter and vanilla essence and mix well. Pour into two cake pans and bake at 175° Celsius until firm (usually 25-30 minutes). Remove gently from pans and cool.

When cold, spread one half with rhubarb jam (leave it out if you don't have any), and spread cocoa icing over the jam. Put the other half on top and cover with icing. OR use

Englakrem - Angel's Créme Icing:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites

Boil water and sugar together until a clear syrup forms. Cool slightly. Be careful not to burn. Whip the egg whites until they are stiff and form peaks. Continue whipping and pour the warm syrup very slowly into the egg whites. Continue whipping until mixture is cold. This créme should be quite stiff. Spread on the cake and decorate with chocolate shavings.

With chocolate buttercream icing.
Variations:
  • Put chocolate chips in the batter for an extra chocolatey taste.
  • Cover with cocoa-butter icing. Put mashed bananas between the layers.
  • Put white butter icing between the layers and serve.

21/07/2006

Butter icing for cakes and cookies - Smjörkrem

Since I am about to start posting some cakes and cookies that require butter icing, here is the recipe for this excellent substance.

125 g sweet butter or margarine
125-200 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
to taste: flavouring (see notes)
1 tbs cream (optional)
few drops food colouring (optional)
a pinch of salt (leave out if you're using salted butter)

Soften the butter at room temperature, or put in the microwave for a few seconds. Whip together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Adjust amount of sugar according to how sweet you want the icing. Add the egg yolk and flavouring, and cream, if using (will make the icing smoother). Frost the cake and enjoy.

Notes:
Vanilla essence is the usual flavouring for white icing, but many other flavours are excellent. Rum, sherry, amaretto/almond and hazelnut are good flavours for many kinds of cake. Fruit, berry and flower flavours, such as orange, lemon, strawberry, cherry, peppermint or rosewater, are good with vanilla-flavoured cakes.

Other variations:
-add some cocoa powder or melted chocolate to make chocolate-flavoured icing
-flavour with fresh, strong coffee. This combines well with chocolate.

Wedded Bliss - Hjónabandssæla

I don’t know where the name for this yummy cake originates, but I think it’s a good one. I learned to make it in home economics class when I was in elementary school.

200 ml Oatmeal
100 ml Whole wheat flour
100 ml Flour
100 ml Brown sugar, well packed
1/4 tsp Baking soda (optional)
100 g Butter/margarine, semi-soft
1 Egg
As needed: Rhubarb jam or stewed prunes (go to he bottom of the page)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the butter/margarine and mix well with your hands. Add the egg and mix well. Press the dough into a round baking tin, saving some (a small handful or so) for the topping. Spread with the jam and crumble the rest of the dough over the cake. You can also use the leftover dough to make a pie lattice for the cake (reserve more dough for that)). Bake at 200°C for approx 20 min. or until the cake takes on a dark, golden color. Delicious hot or cold.

20/07/2006

Icelandic Christmas cake with variations (tea buns, marble cake, lemon cake) - Jólakaka (tebollur, marmarakaka, sítrónukaka)

Probably not Icelandic in origin, but we have certainly made it our own. Although we call it Christmas Cake, we actually enjoy it all through the year. My mother usually bakes up a big batch of these cakes in one go. They freeze well, and are always popular with guests.

This versatile recipe is also good for making tea buns, and, with minor changes, Marble Cake, Lemon Cake, Sand Cake, Fruitcake and Spice Cake. Christmas cake is traditionally made with raisins, but as neither I or my mother like raisins in cakes, we usually substitute them with chocolate chips.

Ingredients:
150 g margarine, soft
150 g sugar
1 egg
250 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
150 ml milk
100 ml raisins or chocolate chips or 50/50 of both (optional)
1/2 tsp lemon, cardamom or vanilla essence

Margarine, milk and eggs should all be at room temperature.
Beat together sugar and margarine until it takes on a pale, almost white, colour. Add the egg and continue beating until light and fluffy looking. Add flavouring essence and mix well. Sift together flour and baking powder and add, small portions at a time, alternating with small doses of milk. Mix well in-between. Stir as little as possible after all the flour has been added, as over-stirring will make the cake dry and tough. Fold in the raisins/choc-chips (if using), by hand. Dust them lightly with flour before mixing - it will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bowl.

To make Christmas cake:
Pour into a loaf pan, filling it 2/3 to the top. Bake at 175-200 C, on the lowest rack in the oven. Use more heat under the cake than on top. Baking time is approx. 45-60 minutes. The cake is ready when it shrinks from the edges of the pan, but test with a pin just in case. It should be well and evenly browned on all sides, with a peak down the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. Cool on a rack - if you can resist eating it while it is still warm!

To make Marble cake:
Use vanilla essence for flavouring. When the dough is fully mixed, divide in half and add melted chocolate (65 g) or sifted dark cocoa (2 tbs + 1 tbs sugar) to one half. The marbling is done by layering the dark and white dough. The amount of marbling depends on how many layers you use. Pour the dough in the baking tin in layers, beginning and ending with white dough. Drag a knife or spoon down the middle of the dough to marbleize. Bake as instructed.

To make Tea buns:
Drop by the teaspoonful on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven until golden in colour.

To make Lemon Cake:
Use lemon juice (1 1/2 - 2 tsp) or lemon essence (1 tsp) and grated lemon peel (from 1/2 a lemon) to flavor the cake. Spread with lemon flavored icing if desired.

This lovely recipe and it's variations comes from the book Nýja Matreiðslubókin by Halldóra Eggertsdóttir and Sólveig Benediktsdóttir.

Icelandic blueberry/bilberry soup - Bláberjasúpa

It's almost blueberry season in Iceland, so here is a recipe to try.

What we call bláber (blueberries) in Iceland are actually the related bilberries. Either bilberries or blueberries can be used in this recipe.

Bilberries in the wild:


250 g blueberries or bilberries, fresh or frozen
1 + 3/4 litre water
approx. 150 g sugar
30 g potato starch or cornflour
100 m cold water

Drop the berries into boiling water and cook on low until they burst, 3-5 minutes. Mix together potato starch/cornflour and cold water into a smooth paste. Add sugar to the soup and stir until melted. Thicken with potato starch/cornflour mix. Serve and enjoy.

-Use more thickening mixture to make a blueberry pudding. Pour into a bowl before it stiffens and sprinkle sugar on top. Serve warm or cold with milk or cream (or half and half).

19/07/2006

Coconut Drops & coconut cake - Kókostoppar og kókoskaka

Coconut drops
These little drop cookies are more like sweets that cookies, especially if you dip them in melted chocolate. This recipe makes about 20-25 cookies.

2 eggs
150 g sugar
225 g desiccated coconut

Whip together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the desiccated coconut. Drop by the teaspoonful on a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 200°C until light golden brown (approx 10-12 minutes). Serve as is, or dip the bottom half of cooled cookies in melted chocolate.

Coconut cake
This cake is delicious by itself (especially when made with chocolate chips), or you can layer it with jam/jelly and decorate with whipped cream.

200 g margarine or butter
200 g sugar
2 eggs
200 g flour
180 g dessicated coconut
1 tsp baking powder
chocolate chips to taste (optional)

Beat together softened margarine and sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one and mix well. Mix together flour, coconut and baking powder, and chocolate chips (if using). Add to sugar-egg-margarine mixture. Dough will be very thick. Spread into 3 round cake tins and bake at 180°C, until done (coconut will take on a light golden colour).
Layer with fruit jam or preserved fruit and cream.

18/07/2006

Chocolate "Snake cake" - Súkkulaði-slöngukaka

A chocolate version of the delicious snake cake. Plain version

3 eggs
125 g sugar
50 g potato starch or cornflour
2 tbs dark cocoa
1 tsp baking powder

Cream together the eggs and sugar. Add the dry ingredients (sift them first) and mix carefully. Bake like the other snake cake. When done, turn over onto a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with sugar. Roll up with the paper to store. When you want to serve the cake, gently unroll and smear one side with fruit jam, and top with whipped cream (about 150 ml is suitable). Slice and serve.

Variations:
-Instead of cream and jam, use vanilla buttercream or cream with mashed fruit. Banana is especially good.
-Smooth half-frozen ice-cream custard on the cake, roll up and freeze before serving.

Recipe taken from Helga Sigurðardóttir's "Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).

Bibliophile's Pepperoni sauce for chicken, fish and pasta

This is a flavourful sauce that I use for chicken, fish and pasta. This makes a meal for two.

1/2 onion, chopped
50-100 g mushrooms (less for chicken and fish, more for pasta), sliced
10-15 slices of pepperoni, quartered (from the smaller kind of pepperoni sausage. If you have the big slices where one is enough to top a slice of bread, halve the amount and cut into more pieces), OR equal amount of bacon (will be less flavourful)
1 tbs tomato purée
150 ml cream
garlic to taste
salt, if needed

200 g chicken (breasts or thigh meat) or white fish, cubed
1 cup of rice (or more if you simply love rice or need to make the meal bigger)
salt, pepper and your favourite chicken or fish spice blend
Additional for fish:
½ cup flour
cheese, grated or sliced

OR

enough pasta (farfalle or rotini) for two people

Heat oven to 180°C (170°C if you have a convection oven like I do). While the oven is heating up, cut the chicken or fish into bite-sized cubes and prepare the onions, mushrooms and pepperoni. If using fish, mix salt, pepper and spice blend with flour and roll the fish pieces in the flour. Brown chicken or fish pieces on all sides in a hot frying pan. Put into a deep oven-proof dish.
Put the mushrooms, onions and pepperoni in the pan and fry over medium-hight heat until the onions and mushrooms are soft. Add the tomato purée, garlic and cream and mix well. Taste the sauce to see if it needs salt. Pour the sauce into the oven-proof dish and if you're using fish, top with cheese. Put in the oven and cook fish for about 15 minutes, chicken 25-30 minutes. Cook the rice in salted water according to packet instructions while the pepperoni dish is in the oven.

Serve with rice and a fresh salad.

For pasta:
Start the pasta cooking and while it cooks, prepare the sauce according to instructions, letting it boil down a bit in the pan to thicken before serving over hot pasta.

17/07/2006

Fried rock ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) - Steiktar Rjúpur

This is THE Christmas dish in many Icelandic homes, although not in mine. I must admit that I have never tasted ptarmigan, but this is such a typical Icelandic Christmas dish that I had to include it here. Some of my friends claim that there wouldn't be any Christmas in their homes without it. For some, it has to be birds shot by their father, brother or uncle, but these days more and more people don't feel like going through the whole process of shooting, hanging, plucking and cleaning the birds. They people simply go to the next supermarket and buy the birds ready to cook.

3 rock ptarmigans, plucked, cleaned and ready for cooking
75 g fatty bacon
90 g butter/margarine
450 ml boiling water
450 ml boiling milk
2 tsp salt
300 ml cream
2 tbs flour
caramel colouring for the sauce - optional

Cut slits into the bird's chests and lard with strips of bacon fat (this is to ensure that the flesh will not be too dry). Truss the birds. Melt the butter in a cooking pot and brown the birds on all sides in the fat. Miw water and milk, heat to boiling and pour over the birds. Add the salt and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove the birds and strain the cooking liquid. Thicken with a mixture of cold water and flour. Add the cream and adjust the flavouring to taste. Divide up the birds and serve with mixed vegetables, pickled red cabbage, redcurrant jam and caramelized potatoes.

Optional: add a little redcurrant jam to the sauce for extra flavour.

News: Icelandic foods in the USA

29 shops in the Whole Foods Market chain in the Mid-Atlantic states are now offering Icelandic skyr (vanilla and blueberry flavors, with strawberry and unflavoured coming soon), cheeses and lamb. Icelandic chocolate (Síríus Konsúm) will be available soon, and fresh Icelandic fish will be available in the fall.

The Icelandic exporter expects to start selling the same products in Whole Foods Markets in the North-east USA, including Boston and New York, in September.

Source: Morgunblaðið

14/07/2006

Bibliophile's summer refersher

Here's a refreshing summer drink that has a taste reminiscent of a popular Icelandic soft drink, Mix, only not quite as sweet.

1 part pure pineapple juice
1 part Sprite Zero (or regular Sprite or 7up if you prefer it sweeter)
ice
decorations (optional): pineapple ring, paper umbrella, straw

Pour the pineapple juice into a highball glass, add the Sprite and top up with ice. Decorate and add a straw.

For a sunset effect, pour a little bit of Grenadine down the side of the glass after you pour the Sprite and allow it to settle on the bottom before you add the ice.