With Cool Cuisine Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir has made an attempt to modernise Iceland’s traditional recipes for a global audience.
The result is a gem of a cookbook with numerous iconic recipes that can only be described as mouth watering. What makes this book absolutely fabulous is the fact that the recipes are flawless. Her method in each recipe is precise. A joy to cook!
Rögnvaldardóttir can be regarded as the keeper of Iceland’s traditional food heritage. She has taken up the trend started by Elín Briem, who produced the first influential Icelandic cookbook in 1889, later elaborated on by the Danish-flavoured cookbooks of Jóninna Sigurðardóttir and Helga Sigurðardóttir.
Rögnvaldardóttir has described Helga Sigurðardóttir as the ‘grand lady of Icelandic cooking,’ a title Rögnvaldardóttir probably now deserves for herself, if only because she has researched and interpreted the traditional food of this north Atlantic island with a passion and panache missing from most cookbooks.
Helga Sigurðardóttir championed what Rögnvaldardóttir has called ‘the epitome of Icelandic-Danish cooking, the comfort food modern-day Icelanders feel nostalgic about but rarely cook themselves; flour-thickened sauces, the Sunday roast leg of lamb, pork roast with cracklings, lemon mousse, prune compote, fish salad with mayonnaise sauce, meatballs in brown sauce with jam, and Danish apple charlotte’.
Rögnvaldardóttir has gone for traditional dishes that combine largely Icelandic ingredients – fish, lamb, potatoes, berries, game, sea birds and sea vegetables, and dairy produce – with a few overseas ingredients.
As she puts it, ‘many recipes mix traditional Icelandic ingredients and exotic vegetables, fruits, and spices’. She has been sparing with the exotic influences.
The result is a book full of interesting recipes. She has divided these into four areas – ocean, coast, countryside and mountain.
Curried Haddock with Pineapple, Pepperoni Haddock, White Chocolate Skyr Tart, Cocoa Soup, Cinnamon Rolls, Lamb in Curry Sauce, Dried Fruit Soup and Reindeer Steaks with Red Wine Sauce are her examples of the native-exotic tradition.
Then there are the dishes that are uniquely Icelandic – Rye Flatbread, Skyr with Berries, Iceland Moss Soup, Braised Wild Goose, Juniper-Cured Salmon, Blood Pudding, Leaf Bread, Smoked Leg of Lamb, Trout with Dulce Sauce, Marinated Seabird Breasts, Halibut (or sweet-sour) Soup, Grilled Langoustines and Fish Balls.
Cool Cuisine does not do justice to the range of work produced by Rögnvaldardóttir. Her best work has not been translated from Icelandic, and this delightful colour production only hints at her culinary genius. It disguises some of the most tantalising recipes available from any cookbook anywhere in Europe.
She makes the relevant point herself. ‘It has never been so easy to cook good food – and never so easy not to cook at all.’
An English language edition is available online.
All books reviewed in FE will shortly be available to purchase direct from Small World Wholesale.