14/04/2009

Skyr mousse

Here is the first of the modern skyr recipes.

Note on the measurements: I have rounded all the ounces to the nearest whole number. It does not make any difference for the recipe.

Mousse:
500 g / 18 oz. plain skyr
75 g / 3 oz. sugar
200 ml / 7 oz. cream
3 sheets gelatin
1 vanilla pod
50 ml / 2 oz. cream

Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Reserve the seeds and discard the pod (or reserve for making something else).

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for 5-10 minutes and lightly whip the large portion of cream.

Mix together the skyr, sugar and vanilla seeds.

Heat the small portion of cream, and cool slightly. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin and dissolve in the heated cream. Mix carefully into the skyr mixture and then fold in the whipped cream.

Pour into small mousse forms or individual serving bowls and freeze.

Serve with fresh fruit and fruit sauce.

Here is a strawberry sauce that’s good with skyr mousse:
150 g / 5 oz. fresh strawberries
50 g / 2 oz. sugar

Wash and hull the strawberries. Put the berries in a food processor and purée thoroughly. Pour into a saucepan, add the sugar and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cool before serving.

The mousse can be used as a topping for a cake: Bake a sponge cake in a springform tin, remove and cool. Put the cake on the dish you intend to serve it on, put the side part of the springform around it, pour in the mousse and cool until stiff. Remove the springform and decorate the cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Serve, if desired, with the strawberry sauce on the side.

Another idea: Crumble some Graham crackers and add a little cinnamon. Pour over a little melted butter, stir well and press into the bottom of a serving bowl and allow to set before adding the mousse. Decorate with fruit and whipped cream and serve with the strawberry sauce.

11/04/2009

Skyr expanded

For centuries, Icelanders ate skyr mostly as it was, perhaps with some milk or water stirred in to make it go down more smoothly. In latter times it has usually been thinned with milk, sugar has been added and it has been served with cream or milk. If the season is right there might be bilberries or crowberries stirred in. If the skyr was the main course, a piece of rye bread with butter, or perhaps a piece of blood sausage or liver sausage would often be served on the side. Or it might be mixed 50/50 with cold porridge and served with cream.

But there are many other ways to serve or use it as an ingredient. I like it with half-and-half and brown sugar or maple syrup. The wife of the Icelandic president has declared that she loves it with honey. Some sprinkle muesli on it. Others prefer fruit.

You can get all sorts of flavours from the factory, besides the plain. The ones I can remember off the top of my head are:
  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry-blueberry
  • Peach
  • Vanilla
  • Raspberry
  • Banana
  • Apricot & vanilla
  • Melon-passion fruit
  • Cappuccino
  • Pear
  • Raspberry-peach

All of them are available in portion-sized containers, some with plastic spoons attached (depends on the producer). The flavoured types are best kept cool, but the plain variety will keep quite well for a couple of days at room temperature. I recommend the KEA brand.

You can even get skyr-drinks, which you should try if you like drinking yogurt.

You can also use skyr to make more elaborate dishes. Some time ago, a woman e-mailed me from the USA and told me about having eaten skyr brulée in a restaurant in Reykjavík. She liked it enough to ask me to find her a recipe for it. I still haven’t found a recipe, but I have been experimenting and will post the results here once I am happy with the recipe.

On my other food blog, Matarást, you can find a recipe for Moussaka made with skyr. The original called for using Greek yogurt in the topping, but plain skyr gives results that are just as good.

Skyr also makes an excellent ingredient in various kinds of tempting desserts. I don’t know who it was that first thought of using skyr in place of cream cheese in a cheese cake, but I salute them. Not only is it healthier than cream cheese by virtue of being fat-free, therefore reducing the fat content of the dessert considerably and hopefully the guilt of eating it as well, but it is also very, very tasty. The fresh, slightly tart flavour of skyr and its light texture make a nice alternative to the creamy taste and thick, heavy texture of cream cheese.

Some of the new (or new-ish) Icelandic recipes I am translating and testing for future inclusion on this blog include skyr desserts. I realise of course that if you don’t live in Iceland or in those areas of the USA where the Whole Foods Market chain is selling skyr, you will not have an opportunity to try these recipes (unless you know how to make skyr at home), but I would like to suggest using Greek yogurt, quark or fromage frais instead. It will not give you the exact flavour or texture of skyr, but you will get some idea of what the dishes are like.

08/04/2009

Changes to the blog

I am changing the direction of this blog a bit. Henceforth is is going to be not only about traditional Icelandic foods, but about what Icelanders like to eat in general.

So far I have mostly written about traditional Icelandic food, most of which is still being cooked and served in Icelandic homes. But the food many of the younger generations like best can also be called Icelandic, even if it includes such obvious new imports as passion fruit, Parmesan cheese or prosciutto. Therefore I am going to change tack and start including more modern Icelandic recipes here. To separate the traditional food from the modern, I have labelled all the traditional recipes as such.

Some of the food I have labelled “traditional” is really rather new, like cocktail sauce, rice pudding and hot chocolate, but I have labelled it as traditional by dint of its either being so lastingly popular that it has been proven not to be a fad and therefore likely to continue lasting, or because it or its use is unique to Iceland. Do keep in mind when searching for recipes that “traditional” may have as little as a 20 year history behind it.

A number of the recipes may look familiar to foreign visitors, which simply indicates that Iceland is not a closed country and we like to try foreign recipes as much as the next nation.

03/04/2009

Easter eggs

Easter will be here soon, and because we Icelanders have a notoriously sweet tooth I thought I would write about Easter eggs.

Photobucket

Icelandic Easter eggs are invariably made from chocolate, although you will find Easter decorations made from hen's eggs. A couple of months before Easter you will start seeing small chocolate eggs in bright wrappings in supermarkets, grocery stores and candy kiosks all over the country. These contain a piece of paper with a proverb or saying, and some also contain a few pieces of candy.

Photobucket

Then, about a month before Easter, racks upon racks of bigger eggs start appearing in shops. They range in size from goose egg to bigger than an ostrich egg and are generally made from milk chocolate, although you can now get at least one type of dark chocolate. They also come designed for diabetics and people with food allergies. All the eggs contain candy and a proverb, and are decorated on the outside, usually with an artificial baby chicken on top, but sometimes with plastic figurines for kids. At least one producer is boosting sales by hiding cell phones inside some of the biggest eggs.

Here is a typical Icelandic Easter egg. I'm planning to buy the dark chocolate type for myself and will post a picture later.

Photobucket