When I think of Iceland I inadvertently have two thoughts come into my head: the music of Björk and geysers. A few minutes more and I start to think of boiled sheep heads, fermented shark meat, volcanoes, the music video of ‘Holocene’ by Bon Iver and the high proportion of people who believe in elves. With all these things considered – Iceland is incredibly high on my gigantic list of places to visit.
Being so geographically isolated and so far north, the people of Iceland have really had to get a bit creative with what could live in their very cold environs. I assume this is the reason why they came up with hákarl (fermented sleeper shark that sounds like it would have a taste resembling stinky tofu) and svið (a sheep’s head that’s been singed, cut in half and boiled with the brain removed.
In modern times, the cuisine of Iceland has started to morph and include more things like that couldn’t be found there naturally – like cocoa and a lot of different vegetables. For the purposes of crossing Iceland off the list, I figured that it would be worth visiting an Icelandic tourist website for ideas. After all, it’s not as if you can stroll to a nearby food market to buy chunks of purified shark.
Guide to Iceland directed me to this recipe for plokkiskur – which is literally translated as ‘plucked fish’ because of how you flake the fish before vigorously stirring it into the mix. The main ingredients in this are white fish, potatoes and a basic bechamel sauce to bind everything together. It’s traditionally served with the darkest rye bread Iceland has to offer… which I had to improvise as rye bread isn’t the easiest thing to find in the UK.
On a cold and blustery winter day like today, plokkiskur feels like the ultimate comfort food. It’s warm, slightly creamy, slightly stodgy and the pairing with rye bread is so incredibly right. This is also a pretty simple recipe to make and feels like something you would have come up with by bringing together some leftovers and eat whatever the result.
Translated to ‘cocoa soup’, think of this as a thickened Icelandic hot chocolate that would be delicious with some crispbread dipped in. I opted to serve it in some mugs that I got from my trips to the Vienna and Munich Christmas markets because that felt incredibly apt. Also, these are good Cup-A-Soup mugs, so why not use them for thick cocoa soup.
I used a recipe from the same Guide to Iceland page, but there are a number of subtle variations online, so might need to do a bit of further investigation whenever the days are cold and, for whatever reason, we have milk in the house. This isn’t super sweet like a Nesquik, more like if you had the chocolate part of a Swiss roll as a drink. Like with the plokkiskur, this was very comforting.
So, next week is definitely going to be a return to Africa as it’s now getting to be long overdue. Like I mentioned before, I have a pack of fufu flour from a local food store – so this is going to be my jumping off point into picking a country. One of the many that lists fufu as among their national dishes… which doesn’t really narrow things down too much.