The bases of Icelandic Cuisine

celandic Food – Bases of Icelandic Cuisine



Icelandic cuisine, as you would experience it today on a holiday in Iceland, has changed dramatically from what it used to be. Throughout the ages the people of Iceland have had to deal with the elements and Icelands unpredictable natural forces all the while trying to produce enough food to last through an often very hard winter. Icelandic people no longer worry about the coming winter and preserving food is now a matter of popping it in the freezer.

However, the most important ingredients in Icelandic cuisine today are still those produced by the traditional cattle and sheep farmers and the fishermen of Iceland.

Icelandic lamb

Icelandic farmers mostly focus on producing the world renowned Icelandic lamb which forms the base ofIcelandic cuisine and many of the traditional Icelandic foods.

The Icelandic sheep is a special breed, agile, strong and sturdy they are capable of surviving in extremely difficult conditions for extended periods of time. Their hardiness was proved true in the fall of 2012 when a sudden snowstorm buried thousands of sheep in a matter of hours, when the storm passed the farmers began digging the sheep out but that would prove to take days. Several months later sheep were still found emerging from the snow alive, though weak and were consequently nursed back to health.


Icelandic cattle

The Icelandic farmers who farm the native breed of cattle not only provide the countries chefs with beef and calf meat for Icelandic cuisine as they have done for centuries but also produce high quality milk from their free range cows which is then used to make dairy products such as the famous Skyr.

Icelandic cows spend their summers outdoors, and can often be seen on fields along the countryside roads lounging in the sun. This is an especially cheerful sight on the first days of summer when the cows celebrate their annual release from the barns by jumping and kicking the air in joy.  Icelandic cattle are an especially colorful breed with predominantly brown colors mixed with white, black and red.

This breed of cattle, which through a millennia long period of isolation became the distinctly Icelandic cattle, originally came to Iceland with viking settlers around the year 1000 AD. but are most closely related to a breed in Norway called Blacksided Trender and Nordland Cattle. As with so many of the native species of animals in Iceland the Icelandic cattle continue to be protected by strict disease-prevention measures and are considered to be a large part of Iceland’s cultural heritage and Icelandic cuisine.

 Icelandic fish

Icelandic fisheries not only supply Iceland with a vast range of high quality fish used in various dishes inIcelandic cuisine today but ship their catch all over the world. The Icelandic fish has been at the very core of Icelandic cuisine for decades now but was, in ages past, widely considered a supplement to the basic cattle and lamb diet of Iceland.

It was hard and dangerous work to catch fish off the coast of Iceland with the weather constantly threatening to change and the waters dangerously cold. Modern technology makes fishing in Iceland safer but has presented Icelanders with other issues such as sustainability and environmental concerns which are constantly being monitored and regulated. Iceland has exceptionally rich fishing grounds which yield quality ingredients to Icelandic cuisine.

The main reason for these rich waters lie in the currents of ocean water which are laden with nutrients, when they get closer to Iceland they hit an obstacle in the form of sub-oceanic ridges forcing them up towards the sunlight which, in the summer months lasts often 20 hours a day. This enables algae to bloom in enormous quantities, and thus form nutrients upon which the whole ecosystem thrives, a multitude of species of zooplankton convert these to food for ever larger organisms such as the Icelandic fish.