In lieu of plates, I made Flaikaka, or Icelandic flatbread, at our open studios. Flatbread is the oldest type of Icelandic bread and served like a cracker, classically at celebrations with sweet butter and smoked lamb
Here is how I made mine:
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Bring water to boil before adding it slowly
2 cups rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup boiling water
I rolled my batter into small balls, about an inch and a half thick, before rolling them out with a bottle. They are traditionally made a little larger, But I liked the size. I used the top of a jam bottle to cut the edges of my flatbread before poking the dough with a fork a few times to avoid air bubbles and sticking it on the stove.
The bread takes about 3 minutes to cook, you want the pan to be hot and the bread to get toasty and dark.
After I made these, I was told that the best way to keep the bread soft is to stick the bread in hot water right when you take if off the stovetop (for 2 or 3 seconds), then put the wet bread in a plastic bag.
Quick Pickled Onions
I love pickling onions, mostly for their flavor, but also because of the gorgeous pink color. I try to incorporate them into any recipe when I have the chance. Luckly for me, picked vegetables are an important part of the Icelandic diet. For a long time, the only “fresh” vegetables that people had access to where canned carrots and beans. Root vegetables were harvested and pickled, then stored in turf farm houses all winter.
Along with pickled onions, havari, pickled shark, is also pickled and jared in the fall, left to ferment until the late weeks of February when the harvest is most sparse.
I made basic pickled onions- I boiled a large kettle of water, sliced my onions into half inch rings, and bleached the onions with hot water before putting them in vinegar with sugar, peppercorns and garlic. They were pickled in about half an hour, I left them in the fridge overnight.
Rowanberry (Thors berries!) Jam
Jam is beloved in Iceland. Every summer, people take to the mountains and collect berries, some traveling for hours to forage for specific species. Every home I have been invited into has a pantry full of various jams. In Seyðisfjörður, at the annual autumn festival, there is a jam making contest. People come from neighboring fjords come to sample various jams and compete to win the title of the best jam recipe. I tried the most amazing rhubarb jam this afternoon, and when I asked the woman who was hosting me for the recipe, she said 50/50 rhubarb to sugar. Then she advised me that this is the case for almost every jam. What makes the jam distinct is the fruits, not necessarily from specific secret ingredients. I suppose this makes sense, and explains people travel across the country to pick the freshest and most unique berries.
Jam is eaten with sweet and savory foods, at all times of the day. You will see it with lamb and mushroom sauce at dinner, on pancakes with whipped cream and coffee in the afternoon, or on bread with butter in the mornings. Almost everyone makes it themselves, Icelandic jam isn’t something you will find at the supermarkets.
The Rowan Berries tree has become one of my favorite trees here. This is easy to say, as there are only three major types of short, Icelandic trees that grow around the fjords and waterline. Evergreen trees are typically man planted and placed in short “forests” on the mountain sides, while Birch and Rowan Berry trees grow together alongside waterfalls. The Rowan Berry tree reminds me of the East Coast autumn that I am missing, with bright yellow and orange leaves and red, festive berries. The Rowan Berry harvest season starts much later then other wild berries, after the first frost of the year. This year, it was September 20th. I learned that the frost removes the bitter taste from the berries, shortly after, the once bitter and hard berries become sweeter and soft and are snatched up by birds and harvesters.
I froze mine before cooking them into a jam, but even so, I found the taste a little too bitter, so I added honey and sugar, as well as a citrus reduction. All the recipes I have found in town call for apples, and seeing as both are non native, I felt justified in adding my spin to the recipe.
-2 Cups of Rowan Berries, frozen
-1 cup of orange juice
-a splash of vanilla
-1/4 cup of sugar or honey
Start by heating the Rowan Berries on the stove. They will quickly loose their vibrant red color and fade to a autumn yellow. As the berries defrost, add juice and vanilla. Stir the jam and allow juice to reduce. Begin adding sugar and tasting your jam until you get desired flavor. I made mine on the savory side and ate it with cheeses and fish on my Flaikaka bread.
What is SKYR?
Skyr is what makes the Icelandics so strong. From the vikings to the Icelandic futbal team, Skyr is credited for powering athletes and warriors throughout history. Skyr is technically a cheese, but it is treated like a yogurt. It is high in protein and low in fat. It is commonly served as a sauce with meat or dried fish, as a dessert, or, more often than not, eaten as a snack in a variety of flavors packed for single servings.
Skyr has been in Iceland as long as people have been here. The vikings brought skyr with them in the 800s, and has been preserved through family traditions; skyr is made by woman, traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. It is now mostly produced at dairy farms, at the supermarket you will find a whole wall of various brands and types of skyr, it is by far the most diverse and plentiful product at any store.
The end result, whether piled high on top of one another, or eaten individually on Flaikaka plates, was a array of locally foraged and sourced ingredients that created a colorful, edible landscape and interactive installation. Served with my Birch roasted Salmon and Vegetables.
People were hesitant when they first entered the space. More then once, I was asked if it was okay to touch to food; “When I first walked in, I thought this was an installation or a sculpture, then I realized it was edible.” People had a hard time adjusting to the idea of food as installation, they seemed to think that it had to be one thing or the other. Working in the medium of food, the result of any project is so dependent on the audience and how they respond to a situation. It was fascinating to watch people break social edicit and eat the art.