Saturday, March 19, 2016

Kjötsúpa (Icelandic Meat Soup)

Homemade Icelandic Lamb Soup
Homemade Kjötsúpa
My Icelandic food saga would not be complete without a post on Kjötsúpa or Icelandic Lamb soup. In our 10 days in Iceland, we probably had soup almost every day, and in almost half of those days, we enjoyed a bowl of lamb soup. My hubby and I could not get enough of Icelandic lamb. It has a very mild flavor and very tender. During the fall in Iceland, this warm meaty broth was the perfect lunch after a morning of activities.

I wanted to get an Icelandic cookbook while I was there, but things were rather pricey. It’s quite understandable: they had to ship everything in. Fortunately, I found a lamb soup recipe in, of all things, the free Visitor’s guide. Score! This will allow me to get more souvenirs.

Icelandic Lamb Soup from Old Iceland Restaurant
Kjötsúpa from Old Iceland, Reykjavík
The recipe also calls for a tablespoon of herbs - but it was not very specific. I am guessing that this refers to Arctic herbs. I looked around and the price point was a bit too steep for me and it had added salt (which was probably key). I decided not to get it. However, one of the chefs shared with us that he used a combination of oregano and parsley. I also read that arctic thyme is part of the blend, so I added a teaspoon of that. In place of the added salt, I used a combination of salt and celery seeds to reduce the sodium impact.

Since I’ve been learning a lot of technique from watching Food Network (Chopped or Beat Bobby Flay, nowadays), I decided to add some twists to the original recipe: browning the lamb, pan roasting the veggies to bring out the natural sweetness, and adding the dried herbs at the beginning to bring out the flavors. I can use any extra flavor that I can get since I do not have Icelandic ingredients which benefit from the clean environment (no GMO’s) and glacier clear water.

Here’s what I have so far. Try it and let me know what you think.

Kjötsúpa (Traditional Icelandic Lamb Soup)
Based on a recipe from the Iceland/Reykjavík Visitor’s Guide

  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 14 oz of lamb (best to get the end of the neck, I was lucky enough to get some)
  • 3 1/4 cups of water
  • 1 medium sized onion (about a cup)
  • 1 cup of sliced rutabaga
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • 1 potato (about a cup)
  • 1-2 Tbsp of rice
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 2 tsp of dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp of celery seeds
  • 1/8 tsp of salt (use up to a 1/4 tsp, if you prefer)

  1. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Brown lamb on both sides for about 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer lamb to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add onions and cook until onions begin to soften.
  5. Add rutabagas, carrots, potatoes, salt, and herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Return lamb to the pot and add water. Cook at low heat for about 45 minutes.
  7. Add rice (At this point, you can shred the meat too and add it back in).
  8. Cover. Simmer until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender.

Lamb soup simmering
Simmer, simmer, simmer


Traditional Icelandic Lamb Soup
Kjötsúpa from Fjallakaffi, Modrudalur
I love this recipe. It did bring me back to our first evening in Reykjavík or that rainy day, in the middle of nowhere, where we saw an Arctic fox outside of the cafe or that other rainy day right after seeing the grandeur of Strokkur. This is a good local substitute without the airfare to Reykjavík.

Of course, this soup is not the same without the same quality ingredients as what you get in Iceland. Icelandic lamb is very good quality meat since the sheep in Iceland roam free in the hillsides and feast on grass all year. The water used in the broth is probably the best in the world. This is glacier pure water, so it is drinkable from the tap. This same water irrigates the herbs and vegetables in the soup and grass that the lamb munch on. This is what makes the soup so delicious.

In retrospect, I should have bought herbs from the local grocery store (which I love to visit) and could have purchased them at a more reasonable price than in the tourist shops. Of course, I am not sure how the TSA would react to bringing in herbs into the country. 
Lamb soup with lots of lamb
Kjötsúpa from Geysir Cafe - humble plating, but meaty!

Also, I did learn that each family had their own unique recipe. Some may not have any grains, while others may prefer oatmeal or barley. The vegetables may vary too depending on what is available in the market.

I am thinking this recipe will evolve with our family: most likely starting with the use of quinoa for grains and oh, do I dare say, adding kale! I think its a State law now in California that you must add kale to anything when you're cooking (joke).

Hope you enjoy!