Jo's Icelandic Recipes

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Meat, Game & Poultry

The last time I added a recipe to this page was in May, 2002.
All given temperatures are Celsius

The most widely consumed meat in Iceland is lamb and mutton, but consumption of poultry (mostly chicken), pork and beef is on the rise. Horse-meat is also eaten.  The consumption of whale meat is a highly sensitive issue, but many will buy it whenever possible. Some people also eat seal. Game is also popular, such as reindeer, goose, ptarmigan and some types of sea-birds, especially puffin. 

Sviđ og sviđasulta - Sheep's heads and sheep's head jam Sunnudags-lambasteik - traditional Sunday roast 
Beinlausir fuglar - "Boneless Birds"  Lifrarbuff - Liver patties 
Steiktar Rjúpur - Fried rock ptarmigan  Lifrarpylsa - Icelandic style Haggis 
Lambakćfa - Lamb Pâté Rúllupylsa - Rolled Sausage
Biximatur - Leftover meat medley Mjólkursođinn lundi - Puffin in milk sauce


Sviđ & sviđasulta - Singed sheep's heads & sheep's head jam (head cheese, brawn)

Sheep's head jam is a traditional meat product that can be found in any Icelandic supermarket. It is usually eaten fresh, but during the Ţorri season you can also get whey-pickled head jam. There is also a pig's head version, svínasulta,  which includes spices. This variety food is known as head-cheese or brawn in English. 
Some recipes include gelatin, but it is generally not necessary if the cooking liquid is allowed to thicken during cooking (by not adding water unless it seems to be completely evoparating).
6 ea. sheep's heads, singed (see instr. below) as needed water and salt
How to singe and otherwise prepare sheep's heads for cooking: Take the fresh heads and singe them with fire until all the hair is burnt. Use a stiff brush to clean the heads under running cold water. Clean the area around the eyes and inside the ears especially well. Saw the heads in half lengthwise and remove the brains (less messy if you freeze them first). Cook them with the skin.
Preparation: Pack the heads into a cooking pot, sprinkle with coarse salt and add water. It's not necessary to let the water cover the heads completely. When the water boils, skim off the scum. Cook, covered, until the flesh begins to separate from the bones, 90-120 minutes at the least. Heads meant for jam need longer cooking. Heads that will be eaten without further preparation  generally need only 60 - 90 minutes cooking, and should only be cooked until the flesh is cooked through, but has not started to separate from the bones.
Make the jam: When the heads are cooked, remove from the cooking liquid.  Heads that will not be made into brawn are put on a platter and served right away, or allowed to cool. Heads that will be made into jam are taken and the meat cut off the bones and into coarse pieces. You can include the skin or leave it out as you wish. Put the pieces in a loaf pan and put a light weight on top. Allow to cool at room temperature and then put it in a refrigerator to set completely.  To make more of the jam, include some of the cooking liquid in the mix. The cooking liquid will set better if singed sheep's legs are cooked with the heads.
When the brawn is set, it can be eaten fresh or preserved in whey.
Serving suggestion: Sheep's heads are served either hot or cold. Either way, they are usually served with plain, boiled potatoes, rutabagas ( cooked with the heads) and white sauce. I hear lemon-sauce is also good with sheep's heads.
Brawn, fresh or preserved, is usually served buffet-style (Ţorrablót) with several other kinds of variety meats, fish, bread and boiled potatoes. Thinly sliced fresh brawn can be used as a topping for bread or a filling for sandwiches. My personal favourite is fresh brawn with potato salad.

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Sunnudags-lambasteik - Sunday roast

In many Icelandic homes this is the mandatory Sunday meal. I like this food a lot, but not every Sunday! Some families also serve roast lamb for Christmas, either a leg or saddle.

Take a leg of lamb with bone (approx. 1 1/2 kg.). Wash under running cold water and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. I also like to use Aromat (flavour enhancer), Season-All, garlic and coriander. Quarter an onion and put in a roasting pan with the meat. It's good to rub the meat with the onion before seasoning. Cover and insert into a heated oven (175-200° C.). Allow the meat to brown on the outside, about 15-20 minutes. Pour in some water to cover the bottom of the pan, and add more water as it evaporates. Baste the meat with the water and juices. The roast should stay in the oven for about 2 hours. After about 1 1/2 hours, take the roast out and pour off the cooking liquid. Return to the oven without covering, to brown. Use the cooking liquid to make the sauce (see recipe below).

Alternate method: If you have enough time, slow-roast the meat. Treat as above, cover and insert into a 200° C. oven. Lower heat immediately to about 125°C. Allow to brown and add water. Slow roast at 125°C. for 1 hour, then turn up the heat to 150°C. and roast for another hour. Turn up the heat to 175°C. and roast for a third hour. Pour off the liquid and put uncovered into a 200°C. oven to brown. Icelandic lamb is very tender, and this slow cooking method makes it so soft that it almost melts off the bone, while still retaining the flavour.

Sauce to serve with Sunday roast: Pour the cooking liquid off the meat through a strainer. Put the onions in the strainer and mash into the liquid. Skim off the fat. Heat to boiling. Mix together some water and flour into a smooth, thin paste. When the liquid boils, add the flour paste, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to thicken. Stir well to mix. Strain if the sauce is lumpy (sift the flour to avoid this). Heat to boiling again, and add some cream (not strictly necessary, but improves the flavour and smoothness). Adjust the flavour with salt/spices if necessary.

For an authentic Icelandic Sunday roast, serve with the sauce on the side, boiled or caramelized potatoes, green peas and rhubarb jam. For my part, I like to leave out the peas and jam and serve instead a fresh salad and some sautéed mushrooms. If you feel like eating anything else after this heavy repast, ice-cream is the favoured dessert. Home-made ice-cream is especially good.

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Lifrarpylsa - Liver Sausage/Haggis

There are many ways of preparing liver, and the following is one method of preparing a good, nutritious meal from lamb's liver. This delicacy has "relatives" in various other countries. The most famous is do doubt the Scottish Haggis. 
1 kg  lamb's liver  50-100 gr.  flour 
ca. 450 gr.  rye flour  3/4 l  milk 
150 g  oatmeal  30 gr.  salt 
1 kg  sheep suet  Sheep's stomachs/tripe (optional) 
Wash and clean the liver and remove all blood vessels and membranes. Mince the liver thoroughly into a paste. Mix with milk and salt and then rye flour, oatmeal and flour. The mixture should be thick. Chop the suet, finely or coarsely, depending on your tastes, and mix with the liver paste. This mixture is traditionally sewn up into sheep's stomachs, but sausage skins or plastic bags that are suitable for cooking in can be substituted. Fill the bags and close them well. One lifrarpylsa is about the size of a man's clenched fist. The cooking time given is for this size.
Drop the sausages into boiling salt water and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours. When the sausages are dropped into the water, it is a good idea to prick them few times with a pin to prevent them  from bursting. Turn over occasionally. Eat hot with boiled or mashed potatoes, cold with porridge or skyr, or use as topping on bread. Frying is a good way to use up leftover sausage. You can either brown it in the pan with some sugar, or sprinkle some sugar on it before eating. Serve with mashed potatoes. 
Liver sausage is often preserved in skyr-whey, along with other traditional foods, such as blood sausage, sheep's head jam and whale blubber. This pickling produces a sour flavour that is definitely an acquired taste! Food preserved in this way is traditionally eaten during the old month of Ţorri, at festivals called Ţorrablót

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Lifrarbuff - Liver patties

My mother used to make Lifrarbuff fairly often when I was a kid, especially in the autumn when it was available fresh (autumn is the main season for the slaughter of sheep). 
500 gr.  lamb's liver  1/2 - 1 cup  flour 
1 ea.  egg  3 ea.  potatoes, raw 
1/2 - 1 cup  milk  2 medium  onions 
1/2 tsp.  baking powder  to taste  salt, pepper and/or other favourite spice 

Remove all membranes and blood vessels from the liver and peel the potatoes. Peel onions and chop coarsely. Mince together liver, potatoes and onions. Mix in flour, baking powder and spices. Add the egg. Thin the mixture with milk, until it is the consistency of porridge. By this time it should look like a disgusting mess. 

Drop the mixture by the tablespoonful on a hot frying pan and fry on both sides until firm. Serve with butter-fried onion rings, mashed potatoes, green peas and rhubarb jam. Fried eggs are also good with this dish. 

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Beinlausir fuglar - "Boneless Birds"

I have no idea why this dish is called "boneless birds". My aunt often serves it at family dinners, and it is a great favourite of mine. To the basic recipe of meat and bacon she adds mushrooms and onions. Use lamb for preference.
1 1/2 kg.  lamb, beef,  or horse meat  50 gr.  butter/margarine 
to taste  salt and pepper  500 ml.  water 
100 gr.  bacon  30 gr.  flour 

Traditional preparation: Cut the meat into thin slices, and roll each in a mixture of salt and pepper. Put a slice of bacon on each slice of meat, roll up and tie up with twine. Brown on a hot pan. Add the water and cook until done through. Use the flour to thicken the sauce. Serve with potatoes, rhubarb jam and green peas.

Easy method (Recommended), with bacon and mushrooms: Cut the meat into bite sized pieces and brown on a frying pan. Put in a pot with the water and bring to the boil, lower cooking temperature to simmer. Cut the bacon into pieces, fry lightly and add to the meat. Cut one large onion in half and cut the halves into thin slices, crosswise. Fry on a pan until transparent and add to the meat. Cut some fresh mushrooms (about 1/2 kg.) into slices and fry in butter until soft. Add to the meat. Simmer until the meat is done. 

Flavour the dish to taste with salt and pepper, and Season-All (optional).  I always add a touch of garlic as well. You can make a sauce out of the cooking liquid by thickening with flour, but I recommend just pouring everything into a large bowl and serving it up that way. People will be wanting to drink the cooking liquid afterwards! By using more water, you can make this into a hearty, warming soup. 
Serve with potatoes - boiled or caramelized - and a fresh salad. 

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Steiktar Rjúpur - Fried rock ptarmigan

This is THE Christmas dish in many 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 are too lazy to go through the whole process of shooting, hanging, plucking and cleaning the birds. These people simply go to the next supermarket and buy the birds ready to cook.
3 ea.  rock ptarmigans, ready for cooking  75 gr.  fatty bacon 
90 gr.  butter/margarine  450 ml.  boiling water 
450 ml.  boiling milk  2 tsp.  salt 
300 ml.  cream  2 tblsp.  flour 
caramel colouring for the sauce - optional 

Cut slits into the bird's chests and draw strips of bacon through (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. Heat water and milk 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 the birds and serve with mixed vegetables, dried fruit (stewed), pickled red cabbage, redcurrant jam and caramelized potatoes. 

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

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Rúllupylsa - Rolled Sausage By request.

This is a good way of using up cuts of meat that are often considered inferior because of their high fat content. This sausage is generally used as a topping for bread.
1 kg.  mutton, pork or beef bellies, and fatty scraps of meat. Mutton or pork is best. 
2-3 tsp.  salt  1/2 tsp.  saltpeter (optional) 
1 tsp.  sugar  1 tsp.  ginger 
1/2 tsp.  ground pepper  1 tblsp.  onion, finely chopped 

Wash and dry the bellies. If they contain ribs, remove them. Beat with a meat hammer to soften. Cut the bellies into a regular shape, large enough to roll up. Cut the rest up in strips. Rub the spices on one side of the bellies and arrange the meat strips on top. Roll up the bellies tightly, taking care to obtain an even thickness. Hold together with a fork or some toothpicks, and sew closed with twine. Start at the middle and work towards the ends. Truss up with more twine. Rub with a mixture of salt and saltpeter, 3 tblsp. salt and 1 tblsp. saltpeter. Preserve by freezing, salting or smoking (leave out the onion and use less spice if smoking). Cook for 1 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on size. The sausage is done when it can be easily pierced through with a pin (use a slender knitting pin). When it's done, it should be pressed - place on a cutting board, put another cutting board on top and weigh down with something heavy. Keep it pressed until cold. Cut into thin slices and serve on bread. 

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Lambakćfa - Lamb Pâté

In Iceland, it is economical to buy a half or even whole sheep carcass (divided into various cuts) to keep in the freezer, and sometime you just don't know what to do with all this meat! This pâté is a good way to use up those scraps that you don't know what to do with, and cuts that have begun to dry out from being in the freezer for just a little too long.
5 kg.  meat on the bone (lamb or mutton)  1 1/2 kg.  sheep suet (optional) 
120 g.  onion, quartered  150 g.  salt 
2 tsp.  ground pepper  2 tsp.  allspice, ground 
1 tsp.  cloves, ground     

Note: If you leave out the suet, use fatty meat. Some fat is necessary to hold the pâté together.

Wash the meat and cook in a little water with the suet (if using), onions and salt. When the bones can be easily pulled from the meat, it is done. My mother likes to pour off some of the cooking liquid at this point, and continue to gently fry the meat in its own fat for a while (at a low temperature - it must not burn). Put the cooking liquid aside and skim off the fat - do not throw away! Remove the bones and gristle from the meat and run it through a grinder or food processor with the onion pieces. Don't grind it too finely - it must have some texture. 

          Knead the pâté (use a mixer with kneading hooks) and thin with the cooking liquid and fat. It should be fairly thick. More fat makes it more spreadable. Add the spices to taste. The colour of the pâté should be pale, almost white. My grandmother likes to whip the pâté, which makes it very light. 
          To store, pour into molds (a deep cake mold or bread pan is fine). Allow to cool to room temperature before putting in the refrigerator to cool completely. Remove from the mould and cut up into suitable pieces. Wrap up in kitchen foil, pack into plastic bags and freeze. 
          Alternative storing methods include pasteurizing in jars, pouring into cheesecloth bags and dipping in melted tallow or keeping it in brine (not used anymore - to my knowledge). For short term storage, pour into jars or bowls and pour melted fat on top.
          Slice or spread on fresh bread.

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Mjólkursođinn lundi - Puffin in milk sauce

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 ea. 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. Draw strips of bacon through the breasts. Brown the birds on all sides, and stuff the birds 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 Sigurđardóttir's "Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).

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When I went to sixth-form college I lived in a dormitory and ate all my meals in a cafeteria. Whenever the cook had amassed enough leftover meat, whe would be served "biximatur", a medley of fried meat leftovers with potatoes and onions. Much like my recipe for leftover fish, this can be quite good, or it can be a disaster. Serves 5.
250 gr. cooked meat* 500 gr. cooked potatoes
1 large onion 100 gr.  margarine**
1 tsp. salt dash pepper
*can be anything: beef, mutton, pork, horse or sausage.
**or substitude with cooking oil
Cut the meat and potatoes into small cubes. Peel and slice the onions. Fry the onion slices in the margarine on a frying pan until they take on a golden colour. Add the meat and potatoes and fyr until heated through and starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper.  
Serve with fried egg and ketchup (optional), and a fresh salad.
Recipe taken from Helga Sigurđardóttir's "Matur & Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).

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