Being an island, Iceland naturally relies on
the sea that surrounds it, and the economy is more or less based on
fishing and fish processing. Traditionally, fish is either cooked and
eaten fresh, or preserved by salting (söltun), drying (þurrkun),
smoking (reyking), or partly drying
Skate (skata and tindabykkja) and shark (hákarl)
are allowed to ferment (kæsing).
The most common fish caught off Iceland's shores is cod (þorskur),
which is mostly exported. The majority of Icelanders prefer to eat
haddock (ýsa). My own favourite is halibut (lúða,
heilagfiski). The traditional way of serving fish, whether fresh or
preserved, is as "soðning": plain, boiled fish, served with
potatoes and sometimes with melted sheep's tallow. Cod roe and liver are
considered a delicacy by many. These are seasonal treats, and so is the
fatty flesh of the male lumpfish (rauðmagi). Other common
species include carpelin (loðna - mostly processed into
fish-meal), herring (síld), saithe (ufsi), ocean
perch (karfi), plaice (skarkoli) and ocean catfish/wolf-fish (steinbítur),
to name a few. Mackerel (makríll) and tuna (túnfiskur)
fishing has recently begun. Angler (skötuselur) and dogfish (háfur)
also find their way into the trawls and nets of Icelandic fishermen,
along with some more exotic species like moonfish (guðlax).
Crustaceans include arctic lobster (humar), arctic shrimp (rækja)
and many species of crabs. Only the lobster and shrimp are caught
commercially. Many types of shellfish are found - the only widely caught
species is the scallop (hörpuskel) - but there is also some clam (kúskel)
Skate and shark are mostly eaten on special occasions. Salted and
putrefied skate - the smellier, the better - is a popular meal on the feast of
on December 23rd . Shark is a typical "gross-out food", offered
to unsuspecting foreign visitors along with a shot of "Brennivín"
schnapps. It is traditionally eaten at Þorrablót feasts,
cut into very
small pieces, although some people keep it in the house and eat
some every day.
Freshwater fish also provide a part of the diet of many Icelanders.
Arctic char (bleikja), trout (silungur, urriði), and
salmon (lax) are all indigenous to Iceland, and so is eel (áll),
but few (if any) people bother to catch it. The most popular introduced
species is rainbow trout (regnbogasilungur).
Iceland is home to some of Europe's most famous salmon rivers.
A testament to the clean environment of the country is the fact that a
good salmon river runs through the capital, Reykjavík.
* Sole, flounder, cod, haddock or other
** I generally use Paxo,
but homemade crumbs are also good.
*** use your favourite blend, or substitute with Season-All.
Break the egg and beat to break the yolk,
add a splash of milk (if using) and mix
well. Mix salt and spice with breadcrumbs. Cut the fish into pieces,
across the fillet. Width of pieces can range from 2 1/2 to 5 cm (1-2
inches), depending on taste. (Just make the pieces uniform in size.) Set up your workplace: first, a plate with fish pieces, then
a bowl with beaten egg, then a bowl with breadcrumbs, then the heated
frying pan on the stove.
Melt half the margarine/butter (or use equivalent in cooking oil) on a
medium hot frying pan. When the margarine stops frothing, add
the onion slices to the pan and fry until it begins to brown. Remove from
the pan, and add the rest of the margarine.
Now you can start frying the fish: Coat a piece of fish in egg, roll to cover in breadcrumbs, and put
on the pan to fry. Continue until all the fish is on the pan. Turn when
the underside of the pieces begins to brown, and fry on other side until
Arrange the fish pieces on a serving plate, quickly heat the onions
through on the pan, and pour onions and the remainder of the frying fat
over the fish. If you want the fish to be less greasy, you can serve the
onions and fat on the side.
Serve with lemon wedges, a fresh salad and cooked potatoes.
This salad is also good with crumbed
2 med. Tomatoes
1 tblsp. Mayonnaise
Cut tomatoes and cucumbers into
1/2 cm thick slices, then cut slices into narrow strips. Put in a bowl with
and stir to coat the vegetables.
My mother sometimes deliberately cooks more fish than is necessary for one
meal, and uses the left-over fish and potatoes to make these pancakes.
They are popular with the whole family, and an excellent way of both using
up leftovers, and getting finicky eaters to eat fish.
really more of a guideline than a recipe. It recipe will yield enough
pancakes for 2 people.
Take leftover cooked fish pieces (preferably plain boiled
fish, about 1/2 a fillet), remove any bones and flake with a fork.
Put in a bowl with finely chopped, cooked potatoes (2-3 small ones); one small, finely chopped
onion; and garlic to taste. Stir in some flour (approx. 3 tblsp. in a
recipe for two), and 1 tblsp. potato starch. Flavour with salt, plus your
favourite fish-spice (I use flavour
enhancer (Aromat), and Season-all). Add one beaten egg. Thin to the desired
consistency with milk (should be like thin porridge). Fry on
a medium hot skillet until golden, and serve with potatoes and melted
butter, and tomato wedges on the side.
This marinated herring is a family favourite, although I must admit that
we prefer to buy it ready made rather than make it from scratch.
laurel leaf, broken into pieces
First, the salt herring must be de-salted: Wash the fish under cold,
running water. Soak in plenty of cold water for
24 hours, changing the water every few hours. Fillet and soak in cold
water for 1-2 hours.
Cut each fillet diagonally
across, into finger-wide pieces, OR roll up, beginning at the tail end.
Slice the onion. Put the herring into a sterilized jar, layering with
onion slices and spices. Stir together vinegar, water and sugar until
sugar dissolves. Pour over herring until covered. Close the jar, and
give the herring a few days to marinate properly.
-arrange on a slice of rye or pumpernickel bread with slices of
banana and hard boiled egg. Serve with or without this sweet curry
Mix some mayonnaise with half as much sour cream. Add some honey to
make it slightly sweet (don't use too much, or the sauce will be too
sweet). Add some mild or medium hot curry powder to taste. The sauce
should be creamy and smooth, with a definite curry taste and a hint of
honey. Pour over the fish and fruit on the bread and top with slices of
-cut the fish, egg and fruit into small pieces and mix
into the sauce. Serve as a salad.
There are jokes about this food - it can be either a delicacy or a
disaster. During the "good" old days, when (in some homes)
fish was served - ad nauseam - five days a week, this was the standard way
of using up leftovers. If you didn't finish the fish at lunch, this was
what you could expect to be served for dinner. I sometimes get it at my
grandmother's, who rarely throws away leftovers.
ca. 700 gr.
ca. 500 gr.
Any kind of cooked fish can be used, but to make this
authentic, use cod, salt cod, haddock, or halibut.
Remove all skin and
bones from the fish and flake with a fork. Cut the potatoes into small
pieces. Make white sauce: Melt the margarine/butter over medium
heat. Stir the flour into it, until smooth and thick. Continue stirring
and add a small amount of milk. When the mixture boils, add more milk.
Repeat this process until all the milk is used up. When the
sauce is done, add the fish and potatoes and warm through.
-add some onion to get more flavour. Chop it finely and
cook along with the sauce.
Take one small, whole halibut. Cut off the head, tail and
fins. Scrape off the slime and loose scales under cold, running
water. Cut the fish into slices, about as thick as your thumb is wide. Mix
together flour, salt and pepper. Coat the slices with flour mixture and
fry in the hot fat until done (3-4 minutes on each side). Remove from
the pan and arrange the steaks on a serving
dish. Slice the onions and brown in the fat, remove and put on top of
the fish. Pour some water on the frying pan, roll it around and pour
over the fish. Serve with cooked potatoes, green salad and lemon wedges.
-Try grilling the fish steaks: cut into large cubes and thread
onto skewers with onion pieces, fresh mushrooms and pieces of red bell
My grandmother was the first in the family to buy a microwave oven, and
uses it a lot. This is her recipe for a quick fish gratin with
Take 1 fish fillet, preferably haddock or cod -
but any firm, white fish will do.
Skin and cut into pieces. Take some raw potatoes, carrots, a
small rutabaga and some cauliflower. Slice carrots, cut
cauliflower into small florets and chop rutabaga and potatoes
into bite-size pieces. Layer into a microwave-safe casserole
dish. Break a couple of eggs into a bowl, add some milk and
spices (salt, pepper, and fish-spice mix). Mix
well. Pour egg mixture over the fish and veggies. Top with grated
cheese. Nuke on High until the vegetables are tender and the egg
mixture is cooked.
Grafinn lax/silungur - Pickled
salmon/trout (Gravlax or lox)
The Norwegians and/or Swedes invented the Gravlax, and it is a
national dish in both countries. This pickled salmon is an excellent
entrée and has in recent years become a necessary part of any cold
buffet in Iceland. It is almost always served in the
same way: thin slices on toast with mustard-dill sauce.
I'm including two gravlax recipes here, one
with MSG and another one without it. I'm also including two recipes for
mustard-dill sauce, one simple, the other not so simple. The pickle mix
is just as good when used with trout.
The following pickle is enough for two medium salmon fillets (from a 3-4 kg.
dill weed (fresh)
Mix all ingredients together. Apply an even layer of the mix on the
fish. Wrap each fillet in plastic wrap and then in kitchen foil, skin
down. Leave in the refrigerator for 4 days. Remove the gravlax from the
packaging and gently scrape off the spice mix. Cut the fish into very
thin diagonal slices, across the fillet, and serve on toast with
You can use the spices from the fish to
make the sauce, but I would only do so if it will be eaten right away. If you need to store the sauce for more than a few
hours, use fresh dill.
The second recipe:
This spice mix is good for two 400 g. fillets of salmon.
black peppercorns, ground
enough dill weed to cover the fish
Mix up a batch of the pickle mix (don't mix in the dill), and divide
in half. Cover the bottom of a serving dish or
other container with dill. Lay a salmon fillet on top, skin down, and
cover with one batch of the pickle mix. Put the other half on the other
fillet. Cover the first fillet with dill weed and lay the other fillet
on top, skin up, head end to tail end. Cover and weigh down, for
example with a heavy cutting board. Keep in the refrigerator for about
48 hours, turning every 12 hours or so. When ready, gently scrape off
the pickle mix and pat dry. It will keep for a few days in the
refrigerator, or a couple of months in the freezer. Serve as above.
Mix mayonnaise, mustard and honey. Add dill, salt and pepper, or
pickle mix from the gravlax. If using dried dill, allow the sauce
to stand for at least 10 minutes before
Recipe 2 (Deluxe gravlax sauce):
Hot (Dijon) mustard
egg yolk (optional - makes the sauce smoother)
salt and white pepper
to taste (use plenty)
fresh dill, chopped
Mix together mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and egg yolk (if
using). Add the oil slowly, while beating constantly. Continue until the
sauce is creamy and smooth. Add the dill.
-if you don't like dill, leave it out of the sauce, and scrape it off
the fish before eating.
Serving suggestions for Gravlax:
-Serve the traditional way: top some toast OR rye/pumpernickel bread
with thin slices of gravlax and pour or spread the sauce on top.
-serve it New York-style: spread cream cheese on a fresh
bagel and top with gravlax. In New York (and probably other places in
the U.S.A), gravlax is called lox.
-At a website I visited (sorry, can't remember which), it was
suggested that gravlax be eaten on thin slices of black bread, with
lemon and pickled cucumber salad on the side, in addition to the sauce.
-Another site suggested serving it with asparagus: Arrange
the gravlax on a slice of toast and top with spears of asparagus.
Fish balls are one of the many ways in which Icelanders
like to cook fish, and the recipes are numerous. When I was little I loved
to eat fish-balls in pink sauce (see recipe below), mostly because of the
colour of the sauce!
fillet white fish (cod, haddock or saithe
are traditional), skinned and de-boned
1 1/2 tsp.
Finely chop or grind the fish fillet and onion. Mix
together in a bowl (or just throw both ingredients into a food processor
and let it do the work). Add the dry ingredients, mixing well. Add the eggs and
then the milk (the fish-dough should be just thick enough to stick
together when you form it into balls). Form small balls with two
tablespoons or use your hands. Fry in oil or butter over low heat, until
done. Serve with fresh salad and boiled potatoes. Ketchup also goes well
-If you must have some sauce on your fish-balls, serve with
melted butter, brown gravy or cocktail
sauce, or make pink sauce.
These are two ways to make pink sauce:
-1. Make basic white sauce and add
ketchup until it turns pink. Serve with fish-balls.
-2. When the fish balls are just about done, add 250 ml.
water to the pan. Take 1 1/2 tblsp. flour and 100 ml. water or milk and
mix into a smooth paste. When the water on the frying pan boils, add the
flour paste. Add 1 tsp. fish stock powder and 50 ml. ketchup or tomato
sauce. Cook for 5 minutes.
recipe uses the same basic fish dough that is given in the above recipe for fish
400 gr. fish dough into a loaf pan (fill the pan no more that 3/4). Cover
with aluminium foil to avoid burning. Pour boiling water into a roasting
pan (or usa a Bain
Marie) and add the loaf pan with the fish dough. Cook in a 180°C oven for
40-50 minutes, making sure that the roasting pan is always at least half
full. When ready, remove from the loaf pan. Serve
upside down, decorated with sliced lemon, cooked shrimp, tomatoes and
Serve with white sauce, melted butter, caper sauce,
shrimp sauce, asparagus sauce, or sauce Hollandaise.
Take about half a cup of mayonnaise and stir well to
prevent it from lumping. Cut the herring into small slices and the apple
and beet into small cubes. Add to the mayonnaise and mix well. The salad
should be a rose-pink colour - if not, add some of the juice from
-serve with rye bread or
crackers. Top with slices of hard boiled egg (optional).
-replace half the mayonnaise with sour cream for a
This is a fairly unusual dish which I occasionally make.
The sauce is also good on pasta.
pepperoni sausage (depending on how strong it tastes),
sliced and chopped
1 1/2 tsp.
flour mixed with salt, pepper, garlic,
Cut the fish into slices, about 2,5 cm (1 inch) wide. Cut
each slice in half. Roll in spiced flour and brown in hot oil. Remove from
the pan and arrange in a casserole dish. Fry onions, mushrooms and
pepperoni until onions and mushrooms are soft. Add tomato paste and cream
to the pan and stir well. Pour over the fish, top with silces of cheese
and bake at 180°C for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and
bubbly. Serve with pasta or rice, garlic bread and a fresh salad.
fiskur með lauk og osti –Fish casserole with onions and cheese
fillets (white fish), boned and skinned
Cut the fish into chunks and arrange in a greased casserole. Add salt.
Finely chop the onion and sprinkle over the fish. Sprinkle bread crumbs
and cheese on top, and dot with small pieces of butter. Bake in a 175-200°C
oven for 20-30 minutes. Serve with boiled potatoes and a salad.
the salted fish in the casserole with the chopped onion and butter. Bake
for 8-10 minutes at 175°C. In the meantime, mix together 50 ml. cream,
100 ml. milk, 1 tblsp. breadcrumbs, and 2 tblsp. grated cheese. Pour over
the fish and continue baking for 15 minutes.