Gleðileg jól! Happy Christmas from Iceland! With only about four hours of daylight in midwinter we can’t spend our time hiking up mountains like we love so much, and instead we shut the doors and stay warm inside, making and eating our favourite Icelandic Christmas foods together.
- Leaf bread – laufabrauð. Super thin, super delicious, and super beautiful; we get together to make this thin, deep fried, wafer thin bread. The pretty markings are made using knives or special rollers, so each piece is different and unique! Within Iceland you see them everywhere and Icelanders abroad will miss them terribly as they are hard to find outside of the country. Dusted with icing sugar, they are melt in the mouth heaven. Be warned, they are a hassle to make, you need to commit it for a whole afternoon, with plenty of glogg to drink. They may not be as flat as the shop bought ones but worth the extra time and effort! For an English language recipe watch this;
2. Marinated/pickled Herring – síld. As with a lot of our midwinter traditions we share them with the other Nordic countries, and we all all mad about fish, especially Herring. We like it in a light curry style sauce, served on a heavy rye bread, maybe with some raw onions…but a cheeky forkful straight from the jar when no-one is watching goes down a treat too! It is more tangy than fishy, and full of vitamins and omega 3 for healthy hearts. There’s nothing stopping you from trying this delight.
3. Almond Rice pudding – möndlu grautur. We don’t want to cause arguments here, so we acknowledge that whilst some eat it as a dessert others (us) eat it as a Icelandic Christmas breakfast food! It’s basically rice pudding with chopped almonds in, and ideally a caramel, or jam sauce with it, oh and white chocolate. There’s a lot of variations on when to eat this and how to make it, but however your family does it, it’s so good. If you are ever offered this, what ever time of day, say yes, it takes ages to make, and is worth every second!
4. Smoked lamb – Hangikjöt. We have a lot of sheep here, 2.5 sheep for every person. So if we aren’t eating fish we are eating lamb. It is traditionally served with a bechamel-like sauce, potatoes and peas, but it is also great cold; a slice on flatkökur (flat cake) goes down a treat. Traditionally, as we don’t have many trees here it was originally smoked over sheep dung! But that would be a rare delight to find now. If you want to learn how to make it yourself watch this video below.
5. Malt drink and fizzy orange – Jólabland – Malt og Appelsín -. This is a hard one to describe, these are two of our most popular fizzy drinks, and at Christmas they are mixed together (orange first to prevent over flowing) to create this almost non-alcoholic drink (malt is 1%). You can buy it premixed or make your own, but it’s not Christmas without it! It is extremely sweet, even by Iceland’s sweet-toothed standards, so prepare for a sugar rush! Maltextract has been made since 1915 and they made this deeply Icelandic advert to celebrate it’s centenary.
One that we aren’t a big fan of;
Prepare yourself for the most controversial Icelandic Christmas Food; Fermented Skate (flat fish) – kæst skata. Not for the faint of heart, this is possibly more pungent than the infamous rotten shark – kæstur hákarl – it used to be a Christmas stable, specifically on the Feast of Saint Thorlak, Þorláksmessa -December 23rd. Nowadays fewer and fewer people are eating it and we totally understand why. It’s so pungent that people living in apartment buildings might deeply upset their neighbours, multiple floors away, but serving this * cough * delicacy.
If you enjoyed learning about Icelandic Christmas food, and want to learn more about Iceland why not look at our favourite animals that we see on our yacht tours. Or our favourite waterfalls near Reykjavik?
What is your favourite Icelandic Christmas food? Do you cook any of these?