Blog - Curry Twist

Lamb Burgers With Feta Skyr Sauce In Iceland

Icelandic history tells us that the first person to settle in that country was a Norwegian clan chief, Ingólfr Arnarson, who brought his family to what is now the site of the city of Reykjavik in 874. At the time it must have felt like one of the remotest corners of the world, and even today when you travel through much of Iceland it feels as if no people have ever set foot there before you. The landscape seems much more suited for the giants and trolls that populate Icelandic sagas than ordinary human beings.

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All over Iceland volcanoes belch fire and lava while steam rises from vents in the ground. The island lies along the junction of some of the earth's great tectonic plates, and huge rifts appear in the ground which shift when earthquakes occur. Giant waterfalls thunder over dizzyingly high cliffs, throwing up a mist that drifts across the surroundings. The landscape is one of stunning beauty, with rolling green meadows through which rivers wind.

Many of the fearsome Vikings whose depredations terrified Europe for centuries set sail from Iceland, raiding along the coasts of England and France. It was not until the 12th century when Christianity was finally widely accepted across the Scandinavian countries that the ferocious raids finally ceased.

Þingvellir is the site where the Viking clans would meet each year, starting in 930, and make decisions. It is today celebrated as the site of the oldest parliament in the world and is a major tourist attraction in Iceland. It lies in a rift valley, with towering rock cliffs on both sides, and you can still see the sites of old cabins that were built and rebuilt centuries ago on the same locations every year.

Iceland is famous for its geysers, some of which erupt frequently and throw up steam and hot water tens of meters up into the air each time. It is a remarkable sight to see a pool of water bubble gently and then, all of a sudden, roar and throw up a massive plume before subsiding again.

The countryside is dotted with small family run farms, nestled among the mountains. Magnificent Icelandic horses with shaggy manes run playfully in the fields, while cows and sheep graze peacefully nearby. The scene is so idyllic and picturesque that you can stop your car by the deserted roadside and take as many photos as you want!

On our recent trip, we stopped off for lunch at Efstidalur II, a popular farm and B&B. Not only is the scenery around the farm stunning, the food is memorable too. Famous for their home made ice cream and burgers, the place is well worth a stop. We had their incredible house made skyr sauce with our burgers and might never go back to using mayo again!

The feta skyr sauce in this recipe is easy to make and versatile to use. The salty, tart flavours of the sauce go well with the lamb burger. It makes a great salad dressing too and can be thinned out with a little buttermilk if desired. If you wish, you can substitute mint in place of the dill. If you'd like an alternative to lamb burgers, try spicy Masala chicken burgers

Lamb Burgers With Feta Skyr Sauce

Feta Skyr Sauce:

1/4 cup each: crumbled feta, plain skyr or Greek yogurt

1 tbsp each: lemon juice, chopped fresh dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Lamb Burgers:

1 lb ground lamb

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 cup each, finely chopped: red onions, fresh parsley

4 hamburger buns or Kaiser rolls, sliced horizontally in half

Toppings:

Fresh leaf lettuce

Sliced ripe tomatoes

Sliced red onions

Sliced cheese (optional)

To make skyr sauce, combine all sauce ingredients together in small mixing bowl. Mash well with a fork to blend. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Combine all burger ingredients in large mixing bowl, mixing well with your hands to incorporate. Divide into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a thick patty, flattening it to fit the size of the bun.

To cook burgers, either grill them on a medium hot barbecue or pan fry them in a skillet over medium heat until done to your liking.

To assemble burgers, evenly spread the feta skyr sauce on top and bottom halves of all the buns. Line bottom halves with lettuce leaves. Place a cooked lamb burger patty over lettuce. Top with cheese (if using), tomato and red onion. Cover with top halves of the buns.

Serves four

Lamb Soup With Roasted Root Vegetables In Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, the biggest city in Iceland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Despite having two thirds of the country's population residing here, Reykjavik manages to retain a quaint, small town charm.
Reykjavik's founding is remarkably well documented, with the names and stories of the first Norse settlers who arrived here in the 9th century meticulously recorded. However, it was only in the 19th century, when it became Iceland's seat of government, that it began to outgrow its origins as a farming settlement and started to become a real town. 

Today Reykjavik has become one of the most visited cities in Europe, with millions of tourists arriving to experience the city's vibrant nightlife and see the stunning beauty of the sea and land surrounding it. The biggest landmark in the city, visible wherever you are, is the Hallgrímskirka church. From there you can walk through most of the compact old city, whose streets are still named for the old Norse gods: Thor, Odin, Loki and Freya. The heart of Reykjavik is centered around a pretty little lake surrounded by churches and buildings, which is a great place to watch birds that land on the water or to feed the ducks that make it their home.

Reykjavik harbour, from which Viking ships set sail a thousand years ago on the raids that terrified all of Europe, is today a great place to stroll. The boats sailing out no longer carry fearsome warriors but rather tourists eager to see whales and puffins. The old fishing sheds and boat repair shops have been converted into trendy cafes, craft breweries and boutiques, which are always thronging with tourists.

Icelandic cuisine is all about local seafood, pasture raised lamb and dairy - especially Skyr, a type of thick, creamy, almost cheesy yogurt which, once tasted is utterly unforgettable and addictive! Icelandic chefs get wonderfully creative in cooking the incredible variety of seafood that abounds in the Arctic waters around. And with a slogan that proudly proclaims "Icelandic Lamb - roaming free since 878", you know it's going to be very good! Since the sheep nibble on grass and herbs all summer long, the meat is lean and uniquely flavoured.

We ate buttery tender local lamb every chance we got, in Reykjavik restaurants, in hugely popular hot dogs, in burgers and our favourite - in smoked lamb sandwiches.
Icelandic lamb soup is a very old and traditional dish, showcasing the best of cold weather cooking with simple ingredients. We happened upon it quite by chance at a small restaurant attached to a gas station in the middle of (seemingly) nowhere. The soup was warming and especially satisfying when eaten in front of a breathtaking view of mountains! 

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The delicate flavour of herbs mingled with the sweetness of roasted root vegetables comes through in every spoonful of this simple, satisfying soup. Roasting intensifies the inherent sweetness of the vegetables but if you're in a hurry, you can skip that step. Serve with lots of crusty baguette to make a meal of it!

Lamb Soup With Roasted Root Vegetables

4 tbsp oil, divided

1 heaping cup each, peeled vegetable chunks: parsnip, turnip, potato, carrot

4 cloves garlic, halved through the middle

Salt and pepper to taste

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large sprig each, fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary

2 lb bone in lamb cubes or shanks

900 ml chicken broth

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 450F. Line a baking tray with parchment.

Combine 2 tbsp oil, vegetable chunks, garlic and salt and pepper to taste in large mixing bowl. Spread in an even layer on baking tray. Bake for 30 min or until vegetables are lightly golden and almost tender. Reserve.

Meanwhile, warm remaining 2 tbsp oil in deep saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion, thyme and rosemary. Saute 5 min until slightly softened.

Add lamb and brown for 5 min.

Add broth and more salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a gentle boil, skimming off the scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add reserved roasted vegetables, cover and cook again until they are very soft and lamb is very tender, about 1 hour or longer.

Cool and remove meat from bones, discarding bones. Discard thyme and rosemary sprigs as well.

If desired, refrigerate soup overnight and skim off all the fat from the top.

Warm soup before serving and garnish with the fresh parsley.

Serves four

French Onion Soup With Lamb In Aix en Provence

The Romans who founded the town of Aix-en-Provence twenty-three centuries agomay have been the first people that we know of to fall in love with the charms of Provence, but they were certainly not the last. Artists such as van Gogh and Cezanne have immortalized the olive groves, craggy red hills, breathtaking lavender and sunflower fields, and the brilliant sunshine that make Provence top the wish-list of any traveler.

The lively, bustling city of Aix contains everything that makes Provence irresistible.  It all enchants: the famous Cours Mirabeau, bordered by plane trees that form a leafy, green arch as you stroll along the sidewalks,  the baroque fountains spraying water in the summer heat, solemn churches, fashionable shops, and bustling cafes filled with university students.

And when it comes to tasting the flavors of Provence, nobody does it better than Aix. We were enthralled by the creative use of herbs, the inspired treatment of vegetables, the lovingly simmered stews and the delicately cooked seafood that we enjoyed at every meal. Traditional dishes such as Daube, French onion soup, Pistou, Ratatouille and Bouillabaise tasted like none other after the imaginative treatment they received at the hands of local chefs.

Classic French Onion soup done with a Provencal twist was one of my favorites in Aix. A little sprinkle of Herbes de Provence makes a world of difference to its flavor!

In my recipe, I use Herbes de Provence too, but first I season the lamb broth generously with whole spices to create depth of flavor and a subtle spicy aroma that goes well with Herbes de Provence. The shredded lamb and barley add another level of flavor to the soup, setting it apart from anything else you may have had before.

French Onion Soup With Lamb And Barley   

You can serve this rich, hearty soup the traditional way with a thick slice of rustic bread and some cheese melted over top, or you can serve it with bread on the side for dipping. Making and refrigerating the lamb broth a day ahead of time simplifies the process and also makes it easier to skim off the extra fat. You can, of course, make the soup vegetarian - substitute vegetable broth instead. It's delicious!
For a more classic version try this recipe of French Onion Soup

For the lamb broth:

3 lb lamb shanks (about 3 large)

6 cups water

4 cloves garlic

10 each: whole cloves, cardamom

1 tsp whole black pepper

1 inch stick cinnamon

Salt to taste

For the soup:

2 tbsp olive oil

2 bay leaves, preferably fresh

2 large sweet onions (such as Spanish or Vidalia), halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

½ tsp each: sugar, herbes de Provence

1 carrot, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

½ cup each: white wine, white wine vinegar, pearl barley

Combine all broth ingredients together in large saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 2 hours or until lamb is very tender.  Lift lamb out of broth, cool and shred.

Strain broth and skim off fat. Reserve broth.

Warm oil in deep skillet set over medium high heat. Add bay leaves and onions. Sauté for 10 min, stirring frequently until they begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium, add sugar and herbs. Saute for another 10 mins until onions are dark brown. Add vegetables, sauté 10 min.

Add wine and vinegar to deglaze skillet. Cook 5 min until slightly reduced. Add barley, shredded lamb and reserved broth. Stir gently, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour or until vegetables are very tender and barley is cooked.

Taste for seasonings, sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley over top if desired.

Serves four