Survive the darkest days of the year with cats!

S.A.D. – seasonal affective disorder. Something you can’t avoid if you live around the Arctic Circle. Something that messes you up. Something that makes you sad. And weird.

When the days are short – and by short I mean only a few hours daylight if there’s no thick layer of clouds covering the sky – everyone goes a bit crazy.

Some start to party hard

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and even harder

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til they drop

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and tequila doesn’t make sense anymore.

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It’s time to discover FOOD

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and eat everything, however gross it might be.

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And feel bad about weight gain.

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It’s time to hide

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and immerse in such activities as sleeping

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sleeping

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and even more sleeping…

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…coz nothing brings joy in life any longer.

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But hey, I have good news!

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The 21st of December is almost here, and it marks the Winter Solstice. It means that from tomorrow on the days are getting longer, so it’s time to stock up on some more Vitamin D and hit the dancefloor to celebrate that this madness is NEARLY OVER!

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Laufabrauð

One of my favourite Christmas traditions in Iceland is

FOOD.

And not any food. It’s called laufabrauð a.k.a. “leaf bread”, a piece of deep-fried heaven. Before I start rambling about how perfect this dish is, let me tell you shortly about the history of the laufabrauð-tradition.10846774_998927930122718_2141940336_n

It was first mentioned around 1730, and originates from North Iceland. Making laufabrauð is a popular tradition nowadays in the whole country. Families get together to knead, cut and fry all day and the result is this beautifully decorated crunchy leaf-bread.

If someone feels adventurous, you can try to make it at home, it’s not difficult at all (believe me, if I can make it, everyone can).

10863472_998927906789387_493633115_nAll you need is:

1 kg wheat flour 30 g sugar 1 tbsp baking powder 1 tbsp salt 600 ml milk, scalded 1 tbsp butter

Some oil to fry, and a pot for frying.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Heat the milk to boiling point and melt the butter in it. Pour it into the dry ingredients and mix well. Knead into a ball of dense dough. Roll into sausage shapes and store under a slightly damp cloth, otherwise it dries out quickly. Cut or pinch off portions and flatten with a rolling pin. These breads are traditionally very thin – a good way to tell if the dough is thin enough is to check if you can read the headings of a newspaper through it. Cut into circular cakes, using a medium-sized plate as a guide to ensure even size. Decorate by cutting out patterns (it’s called leaf-bread because of the leaf-shaped patterns that are cut into it but feel free to unleash your artistic freedom). Heat the oil in a deep, wide pot. Prick the cakes with a fork to avoid blistering, and drop into the oil, one at a time, taking care that they do not fold (and that you don’t burn yourself). The cakes will sink as you drop them into the oil. When they resurface,  turn them over. They are ready when they are golden in colour, it only takes a few seconds to fry each one. Remove them from the oil and put on a piece of kitchen paper to drain. It’s good to press a plate or something similar on top of the cake to ensure that it will be flat enough. Stack up and allow it to cool. When cool, stack in a cookie tin. Stored in a cool, dry place, leaf bread will keep for a long time, but who wouldn’t want to eat them right away?

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They are usually served at Christmas dinners with hangikjöt (smoked lamb) or some butter. But you can eat them however you like, They make an amazing snack if you’re bored with potato chips and feel like trying something new.

A lovely Christmas tale about food stealing trolls and a man-eating cat

Most people would think that Christmas in Iceland is a white fairytale with Northern lights and fluffy, snow-capped mountains. I am here to prove you wrong: back in the old days, the thirteen days before Christmas was used to scare the hell out of kids with the Icelandic Yule Lads. However, this tradition of totally freaking children out was banned, and the Christmas trolls have become more kid-friendly, they are still coming down from their mountain on the 12th of December, to put either candy in well-behaved or rotten potatoes in naughty children’s shoes, and play mischiefs on you for two weeks. If you are cautious enough, you will have a chance to see them projected somewhere in Reykjavík, committing their petty crimes. The Yule Lads live in a cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields with their mother Grýla, their father Leppalúði and with the big black Yule Cat. Grýla, the Christmas Ogress has the ability to detect misbehaving children and hunts for them during Christmas time, as her favourite dish is NAUGHTY KID STEW. tumblr_mevbeplikb1qd9ee3o1_1280 12th December You should be careful about your sheep, because Stekkjarstaur would be more than willing to suckle the milk form the yews, if he could use his knees to kneel (which he cannot). 13th December Keep an eye on your cow’s milk, Giljagaur likes his latte with only milk foam. 14th December This should be the day when you hide your pans in the kitchen, as Stúfur loves to steal the crust from the meal you prepared for your late-night binge watching session. 15th December You like licking the spoon when baking? Þvörusleikir likes licking spoons even more. Put those spoons away if you don’t want them touched by sticky troll fingers. 16th December Pottaskefill will gladly make your day easier by stealing and cleaning your messy pots with his filthy troll tongue. Thanks Pottaskefill for sparing me the minutes I would have spent with putting the dishes in the dishwasher. 17th December Wow man, these guys really like licking stuff. If you had an idea of putting your wooden bowls under your bed on the 17th, don’t do it, if you don’t want Askasleikir to take care about cleaning them up. 18th December It’s dark and it’s cold outside and you are curled up in your bed readying yourself to take that long-wanted, well-earned good night’s sleep. This is the moment when Hurðaskellir comes to keep you up all night with slamming doors. Bummer, you should have gone partying after all. maxresdefault 19th December We have already phrased a lovesong about our undying love for Skyr. On the 19th of December, everyone should keep their precious skyrs within reach in case Skyrgámur comes to take it away. No, you won’t Yule Lad, there are things that you can mess with, skyr is not one of them. 20th December Skyr is not enough, on the 20th of December, Bjúgnakrækir arrives to rob you of your sausages. Damn, if you are not careful, you will end up with no food on Christmas day. 21st December Gluggagægir is one creepy little guy, probably the first one to come up with the idea of reality shows, as he is one for familiarizing himself with your intimate private life by peeking through your window. I would draw those curtains, if I were you. 22nd December You will easily recognise Gáttaþefur as his nose arrives before the rest of his body. It is a perfect tool for him to sniff out cakes and bread. He will not be satisfied with the smell only, and would do anything to have a taste. 23rd December If you are one of the meat-lovers, you should keep away your precious treasure from around the fireplace, because on the 23rd, one thing will come down from the chimney and it’s not Santa Clause. It’s Ketkrókur with his meat hook to fish your dinner away. 24th December This is the day of Kertasníkir, who creeps after children to eat their candles. Seriously, what is wrong with this guy? Icelandic Christmas traditions also made me change my mind about one more thing: I always thought that Dobby is the only one who can be genuinely happy with a pair of socks as a Christmas present. Not in Iceland. Here, a pair of socks is a loving symbol of caring about someone not being eaten by a giant cat. Yes, if you do not receive a piece of clothing for the holidays, the Jólakötturinn comes and eats you for dinner. Merry Christmas. Now you know what to be careful about until Christmas day (basically everything, you’d better just reserve Christmas shopping to the last days in case someone comes and steals and licks your kitchen dry) (and make sure you buy a pair of socks for your loved ones), it’s time for us to get you more into festive mood with our Icelandic Christmas countdown. Ready, steady, countdown!

Icelandic delicacies – not another sheep’s head post

When I mention Icelandic cuisine to my non-Icelandic friends, they immediately frown then start to rant about some rotten shark challenge video they’ve seen on YouTube. ‘And is that true they eat <insert any gross fermented dish>?’

This is when I clear my throat and give a profound speech about my experiences with Icelandic food, that don’t only include sheep’s head, rotten shark, or pickled ram’s testicles. In fact, after spending years in the Land of Ice, I have never seen any Icelanders casually walking up to the fridge for some fermented shark bites. Being a moderately adventurous person, I appreciate delish bites and also like to try new things, be it Doritos flavoured ice cream or an exotic fruit that I haven’t heard of before, but there’s a line that shall not be crossed (and that line for me is somewhere around lyfrapylsa).

So please let me tell you about…

A FOODIE’S EXPERIENCES WITH ICELANDIC FOOD – A LIST UNCOVERING THE TASTY BITES:

1. Skyr – I can’t express my undying love for this dairy product that is something between cheese and yogurt and comes in a variety of  flavours – vanilla, banana, baked apples, berries, mango, strawberry, just to mention a few. You can even make your own healthy snack of plain, unflavoured skyr, brown sugar and some berries. Every time I taste skyr, my tastebuds burst into an ode thanking the person who accidentally left milk somewhere for too long. Someone said that cheese was milk’s leap towards immortality, but I think skyr is.

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2. Kleina – doughnut a’la Iceland. This fried pastry exists in all the Scandinavian countries, as well as in northern Germany under the names of: klenät, klena, klejne, kleina, kleyna, and fattigmann. It’s not too difficult to make at home, but you can buy them anywhere. In packs. Big packs. Which means you really need to make an effort not to eat them by yourself as “afternoon snack”. Your heart will be very grateful for that.

3. Flatkaka – Icelandic flat bread. You can eat it with any kind of paté or just some salted butter. Doesn’t look very mouthwatering but the taste makes up for it.

4. Sugar-coated potatoes – yes, it is what it is: small potatoes floating in caramel sauce. First you are suspicious about them. Then you smell them – not bad. Then you taste them. And you feel conflicted, because they’re actually quite tasty, especially when served with ham and some sweet corn. Yummy!

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5. Grjónagautur – when it’s cold and windy and rainy outside and you need something sweet and warm and comforting, there is one thing you can do: cook rice in milk, and serve it with some more milk and cinnamon-sugar. The adventurous ones can have some lyfrapylsa or slátur with it, but for me these are out of the question.

6. Hardfiskur – dried fish usually eaten in small bites with some butter on top. You might not want to kiss anyone after eating it, and your fridge will smell for weeks, but it’s definitely worth trying.

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7. Everything lakkris (or liquorice) – I hated it. I fought against it for so long. But on one occasion, when I bought a bag of nammi for a movie-night I realized too late that everything I had contained lakkris so I had no other choice but eating them. And for my biggest surprise, they weren’t as bad as I thought they would be.

8. Icelandic pancakes – these are just like any European pancakes or crépes. In Iceland, they’re traditionally served with cinnamon-sugar or some jam and an enormous dose of whipped cream. Even just thinking of them makes my mouth water.10814129_985077321507779_143593534_n

9. Kokteilsósa – a.k.a. the “pink sauce”. Mix some ketchup, mayonnaise and sour cream with salt and pepper – voilá. One of the Icelandic culinary claim to fame, so it was exceptionally painful when someone pointed out that the sauce might have already existed before the Icelandic version was made. But it doesn’t change the fact that it is pretty awsome if you eat it with french fires, sandwiches, salads, cakes, dip candy in them or whatever you like.

10. Kjötsúpa – Icelandic meat soup made of sheep, barley, veggies and magic. There is a kjötsúpa wagon in Reykjavik, find it, and buy some soup, you won’t regret it.

+1 Kókómjólk – chocolate milk! Although it’s not technically a food, we decided to put this on the list. Because it’s perfect.