The food delights of Iceland

Iceland has always been on my bucket list and when the opportunity arose for me to go, I had to take it.  The first thing that dawns on you is how expensive everything is! After booking flights, accommodation and a couple of tours. I decided to do some research for food and other places to visit.

One place that was mentioned several times, was the hotdog place.  Now, there are several ‘wannabe’ hot dog places… don’t be fooled! You need to find the original with the long queue Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.  One of the cheapest meals and they take card too. These are lamb hotdogs that come with fried onion, crispy onion, special Icelandic brown mustard called pylsusinnep and a remoulade made with mayonnaise, capers, mustard and herbs and finally just normal ketchup. Definitely worth a try!

Bæjarins beztu pylsur hot dogs

This is the cheapest thing we ate and we came prepared with some porridge, snacks and tuna dishes to tide us over for breakfasts and lunch.  For example, a punnet of blueberries costs around £8 in the supermarket there.  We did learn late into our trip that locals shop at ‘Bonus’ but it has reduced opening hours but would be worth a visit if you want to purchase more items there.  Also, don’t buy bottled water there, tap water is delicious! 

I’m really not kidding about the tap water.  On my first night I was raving about the water on the table rather than the pricey wine!  You can top up your water bottle for free in Reykjavik downtown as there are a few water fountains and on tours you can ask for restaurants to fill up your bottle.

Our first night’s meal was at a Lobster restaurant called Torfan.  It wasn’t cheap but we didn’t go for lobster anyway as I was more tempted to try ‘Puffin’ (yes the cute, fat bird) and I’d never tried (or heard of) Arctic char.  The puffin was absolutely delicious!  The puffin was smoked with a blueberry glaze served with seaweed salad, pickled root vegetables and seaweed lava rock.

Blueberry glazed hot smoked puffin

The Arctic char is a cold water fish similar to salmon, rare to UK, but common in Nordic countries.  This was served with noisette potato purée, kale and hollandaise sauce.

Arctic char

Delicious meal and if you order a ‘small’ wine you actually get a carafe, which is pretty decent!

If you visit Fontana Spa, you will have a chance to try fresh geothermal baked rye bread which is slow baked in the natural hot springs for 24 hours.  This is quite a heavy bread and quite sweet, but definitely worth a try with some butter.

Geothermal baked rye bread

Another snack, you have to try is the famous skyr (pronounced skeer), which is sort of a mixture between a thick yoghurt and marscapone cheese.  It has a mild flavour but I chose to have the mixed berry version.  It is low fat and high in protein, and I’ve started to see it more on the shelves of UK supermarkets, but I wanted to try it whilst I was there.

Skyr Icelandic yoghurt

For any coffee lovers, I would recommend seeking out Reykjavik Roasters.  I don’t drink coffee myself, but my two friends do and they gave this a two thumbs up. It’s also very near to Hallgrimskirkja (the stunning church modelled on waterfalls in Iceland).

For more dining, I recommend looking at the restaurants near the old harbour. It’s apparently where locals go and the fish there is great.  Ask for catch of the day as you’ll get the freshest fish and you won’t be disappointed! 

Our final meal was a recommendation by my colleague, who said that I would need to book this asap. I managed to get a table at the very small restaurant, Fiskmarkadurinn, or the easier name of Fishmarket. We all opted for the nine course tasting menu, but unfortunately they couldn’t accommodate a garlic intolerance so just two of us had this.  I’ve pooled the photos into a grid, and I’ll do my best to remember each dish!

Fishmarket IcelandTop row L-R: bitter lemon glazed Arctic char, robata grilled minke whale, potato purée with smoked cod, potato chips, sea truffles and basil oil

Middle row L-R: masala rock shrimp tempura with jalapeño cream, seaweed and rock melon, Volcano maki and scallop nigiri, maki with salmon and langoustine tartar and scallop nigiri with yuzu, salted cod with potato purée 

Bottom row L-R: Icelandic mussels steamed with beer and served in a lobster broth, Grilled Icelandic lamb, confit of lamb shank, pickled beetroot and fried mushrooms and finally the amazing dessert! Dessert consisted of: chocolate lava cake, raspberry sorbet, passion fruit cheesecake and fresh fruit.

All in all, a pricey but totally delicious experience of a meal with a little theatre thrown in. 

I definitely recommend Iceland for the culinary delights, the scenery and the northern lights. And if you want to bring back an amazing treat for colleagues, pick up some ‘Ris Buff’ which are chewy candy bits covered in milk chocolate with rice crispies. 

Another tip is if you want Blue Lagoon face masks, buy them at airport as it is cheaper…not cheap but cheaper!

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A meal at Monica Galetti’s Mere

My mum is a big Masterchef fan and watches each series religiously.  With all 3 of us being foodies and quite adventurous with our food, I thought this would be a perfect treat for Mother’s Day.  I booked for Monica Galetti’s new venture with her sommelier husband, ‘Mere’, which was also appropriate as mere means mother in French but is also the name of Monica’s own mother.

My Dad managed to keep the secret (mainly because he forgot where I told him I had booked!) and it wasn’t until we sat down, that I explained why we were at this particular restaurant.

The decor had a nod to New Zealand with a wall of wine, Paula shells on the walls and Maori art, which we admired as we had the early booking of 6pm.  The menu was simple and seasonal and (as always) we all opted for dishes that we would not ordinarily cook ourselves.  I also look up restaurants on instagram to see what is on offer and what I like the look of, so for a starter, I opted for ‘Pork boil up’ which was ham hock with a watercress doughboy, sweet potato and horseradish with a spiced broth. Delicious! I wanted more!

Pork 'boil up'
My parents opted for mammole artichoke which was crispy and unusual and a dish of octopus which was tender and moist.

Next came the main course and as I never cook squab and the fact that it was a nod to Moroccan cuisine with a pastilla, I had to choose this.  Squab glazed with rhubarb, served with a ras el hanout pastilla, cauliflower and chard. I never eat skin, but on this rare occasion I ate everything as it was so tasty.  My Dad went for the lobster, which looked divine! 

Squab and pastilla
There was enough room for dessert and I wanted something light and fresh, which was what made ‘Blood orange’ perfect in this situation.  A mousse with yoghurt sorbet and meringue with ruby red grapefruit. A citrus and sweet burst.  The dish it was presented in was lovely but it wasn’t presented in the prettiest way.  This is where I envied my Dad, knowing that his dessert was very instagrammable. He loves rhubarb so I wasn’t at all surprised when he ordered the dessert with rhubarb and crime fraiche layers, shortbread and white chocolate sorbet.
Grapefruit & meringue

Rhubarb and white chocolate ice cream
With a 3 course meal and 2 glasses of wine, the meal wasn’t cheap but I never expected it to be.  However, it might be slightly overpriced and the placemats seemed out of place.  I also didn’t notice the salt and pepper grinders until after the meal had finished and to be honest they didn’t need this on the table at all.

I’d say it was a great experience, even if we didn’t get to meet Monica herself (we were there early after all) but I’d go for birthdays or something as a treat, especially if the person is a Masterchef fan.

Aubergine and lentil bake with a herb crumb recipe

I used to HATE aubergines growing up, even my parents had to almost bribe me to eat any on my plate.  I don’t mind them so much now, as my tastebuds have changed and this dish really played with my senses and I didn’t miss the meat at all!

This dish is also gluten free, vegetarian, vegan and low carb, which is win-win for a lot of people right now!

Aubergine and lentil bake
Ingredients 

  • 2 aubergines (eggplant)
  • 2 cans of chopped tomato
  • 1 can of green lentils (or 1 cup of cooked lentils)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 red onion (finely diced)
  • 1 lemon (zested and juice of half)
  • Handful of pitted green olives (chopped)
  • 1 tsp of fresh oregano (dried is also OK)
  • 1 tbsp of fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C
  2. Fry your garlic and onions together in some olive oil until soft, for about 5-10 mins
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, spices, sugar and lentils.  Add salt and pepper to taste and keep cooking for about 10 mins.
  4. Cut your aubergines lengthways and score each half with a criss cross pattern.  You might want to add a little salt to each slice to draw the water out and help keep the mixture absorbed once cooked.  You can also rub the slices with lemon to prevent browning if you might take a little while.
  5. Use a griddle pan and add some olive oil and griddle each side for about 5 mins each side.
  6. Once the aubergines have been cooked and the tomato & lentil sauce has reduced a little, place the aubergine into a large dish and spoon over the mixture.
  7. This should now cook for around 40-45 mins until the aubergines are soft.
  8. You can now prepare the crumb which is to be added once the dish has cooked. Chopped up the zest a little to make it finer and then add in a bowl with olives, parsley and oregano and lightly mix.
  9. Once the aubergines are done, remove from oven and sprinkle the herb crumb over the top.

And voila! Best to serve when still hot and you could serve this with asparagus or broccoli, or anything really!