Our Favourite Thing: Kjötsúpa - Meat Soup
When I have guests over from abroad, I am often asked about the Icelandic food culture. What is traditional Icelandic food, and what defines Icelandic cooking?
For me, it's hands down the Icelandic lamb. Of course, people eat lamb all over the world, but the Icelandic lamb tastes different somehow. Baked, grilled, or roasted, it's simply the best. But if you want something traditional, you make soup.
Of course, people eat lamb all over the world, but the Icelandic lamb tastes different somehow.
We call it Kjötsúpa, direct translation would be "meat soup" and there is no need to specify what kind of meat. When you make Kjötsúpa, you obviously use lamb.
Every family has its own recipe, but the core ingredients are lamb, roughly cut pieces on the bone and preferably plenty of fat, dried herbs, potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Some people also add leek, onion, or other vegetables, and adding grain like rice, oats, or barley is not uncommon.
Everything about Kjötsúpa makes it the perfect mountain hut food, and that is where it tastes best.
Kjötsúpa was often served on Sundays or special occasions, even Christmas. Today this hearty soup is more commonly available and is a popular menu item in restaurants and roadside diners. You can even buy Kjötsúpa in the supermarket, ready for the microwave, which can be fine in a pinch but doesn't compare to the homemade version. If you make it at home, the trick is to make a lot of it. It takes some time to make, but it ages well and is best on the second or third day.
Everything about Kjötsúpa makes it the perfect mountain hut food, and that is where it tastes best. After a rewarding day of hiking in the highlands, you get to unwind in the mountain hut and enjoy a steaming, well-deserved bowl of Kjötsúpa with your fellow travelers.
About the Author
Barði started working for Icelandic Mountain Guides during the summer of 2012 and has been with the company ever since. He started part time over the summer season while studying Tourism in the University of Iceland and then joined Icelandic Mountain Guides full time after graduating.
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