25 Sept 2015

Cantonese Duck Legs with Hoisin Sauce, Spring Onions and Cucumbers in Mandarin Pancakes

Snædís, my wife, requested Chinese-style duck for her birthday dinner. And meeting this request seemed easy enough - or so I thought. The idea was to roast a whole duck and serve with mandarin pancakes. However, I managed to slightly mess up the logistics! I was working at the hospital the entire day before and forgot to buy the duck. I hurried to the store the following morning and only managed to find a frozen duck. I best step up my game!

I had read countless recipes for this dish a long time ago and I had obviously forgotten how time-consuming the process was. At the very least, you need 12 hours, most preferably a day and a half. At this stage, with the duck still frozen, all seemed lost! Regardless, summoned the gastro-spirit, sprinted to another store and finally came across duck legs! A slightly modified birthday wish would finally come true.

Of course, you can also use chicken legs or even goose - depending on availability - whether you are a city dweller or a great outdoors hunter!

Cantonese Duck Legs with Hoisin Sauce, Spring Onions and Cucumbers in Mandarin Pancakes

6 servings.

6 duck legs
1 jar hoisin sauce
4 tbsp honey
50 ml rice vinegar
100 ml soysauce
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 tsp sichuan pepper
1 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
5 spring onions


Mandarin pancakes
2 carrots
8 spring onions
1 pepper
1 spring onion
Rice (optional)
1/2 cucumber
1/2 jar hoisin sauce

You can easily make your own hoisin sauce - there are countless recipes online and nearly all of them are very different from the stuff you get in a jar (like I had this time). The take home message here, I guess; Time is of the essence - it always pays off to check preparation times!

Rinse the duck legs thoroughly in cold water.

I used Chinese five-spic powder which contains a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and fennel seeds. And in order to sharpen the mix, I added two cinnamon sticks, two star anise and a nip of sichuan pepper.

Then you can just plop the garlic and the ginger into a food processor! 

Chop the garlic and the ginger very finely.

Turns out the bowl was too small for all the abundance of food!

The duck legs were were put into large bowl and along with the soy sauce, oil and spring onion. Stir well together. Transfer to the fridge and allow to marinate for 4-6 hours. If you have the time, an overnight marinade would produce the best result.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the duck legs on an oven tray dressed in aluminum foil. Before putting the tray in the oven, I brushed the legs rigorously with the marinade, and then covered with a sheet of foil. Finally, toward the end of cooking, I removed the top sheet of foil and increased the heat to 225°C in order to give the skin some proper crunch!

While the legs bubbled in the oven, I cut the vegetables into thin slices and strips.

It looks glistening and crunchy right?

Rice was served with the food for those who wanted!

Or, better, served on a mandarin pancake blanket, which were warmed in the oven before serving.

We enjoyed this wine from Chile with the food - 2012 Trapiche oak cask Malbec. The wine packs a punch - loaded with cherries. Even a trace of smoke. Satisfying aftertaste which perfectly suited the food!

It is always time to enjoy!

20 Sept 2015

Flavorful Omelette with Spicy Shrimp Salad and Fresh Coriander

I think it's wonderful to start the day with a breakfast omelette. To be honest, I have eggs for breakfast probably four times per week. I love eggs! I am very grateful for all the recent research that has shown just how healthy eggs really are. Eggs are packed with nutrition and vitamins, and they keep you satiated for ages! I once read about research which revealed that people who ate one egg in the morning lost more weight than those who didn't have any eggs. Interesting - these findings suit my life style perfectly and I feel great after eating eggs!

This recipe is fantastic for those of you who follow the LCHF diet (low carbohydrates and high fat diet). For the rest of you, the dish is simply delicious and full of savory loveliness! If you're feeling brave, feel free to add more heat to the dish - your threshold of pain is the only limit! The shrimp salad can handle quite an amount of chili due to the contrasting mayo, sour cream and cream cheese. So just go for it. I stir the chili into the shrimp salad but I also use it as garnish.

Flavorful Omelette with Spicy Shrimp Salad and Fresh Coriander

2 servings


150 gr medium-sized shrimp
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp  mayo
2 tbsp cream cheese
3 tbsp grated cheese (optional)
1 red chili
1 tbsp chili sauce
2 tsp sambal oelek (optional)
1 tbsp fresh coriander
4 egg
1 tsp water
Salt and pepper

Break the eggs into a bowl, add a tsp of water and whisk together with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir together the sour cream, mayo and cream cheese. Chop the chili finely and add 2/3 to the mixture (save the rest for garnish). Then add the shrimp, chili sauce, sambal oelek and grated cheese. Mix well together.

Melt the butter in a pan. Pour the eggs into the pan and move around so the eggs come loose from the edges while they cook. When the omelette is almost cooked, spoon the shrimp salad over one half and fold the other half over, creating an envelope.

Garnish with the remaining chili and some fresh coriander.

This Sunday just turned into a feast!

17 Sept 2015

Friday Pizza Party: Long Live the Vegetarian Pizza!

Admittedly, I'm a card-carrying omnivore and a meat-eater par excellence and I always have been - readers of my blog are acutely aware of this fact, given the sheer volume of meat-orientated recipes. In both my cookbooks (published in Icelandic), there were no specific vegetarian chapters, I did though include chapters that focused on side dishes featuring only vegetables. However, I feel it's time to devote more attention to vegetables, and wholly vegetarian dishes. And since I've never been much of a fan of vegetarian food I see this as an opportunity to learn something new - new approaches and techniques, for example. We'll see how well I stick to the cause.

Friday Pizza Party: Long Live the Vegetarian Pizza!

"Pizza - that's such an easy start!" Some of you might say. But it's a perfect way to begin working with meatless ingredients because pizzas are both familiar and they lend themselves to experimentation. We made some pizzas with leftover meat for the kids, as my mother-in-law always says: Thriftiness is a virtue! Anyways, I stayed clear of the meat. My brother and I made the pizzas together and when I got home from work this voluptuous dough awaited me:

The following ingredients will yield awesome pizza dough:

700 g flour
300 ml lukewarm water
25 g dry yeast
25 g sugar (optional)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp salt

I rolled the dough very thin in order to recreate that authentic Italian pizza-feeling and I baked them on a specific pizza-stone in the oven.

One pizza was covered in multicolored thinly sliced peppers, jalapeno peppers, corn, cream cheese, grated mild cheese and red chili.

On another pizza we put zucchini, red onion, cream cheese, grated mild cheese and black olives.

My son, Villi Bjarki, helped with the pizza-making like many times before and is quickly becoming a master of flattening and preparing the dough!

A third pizza received a treatment of garlic oil, boiled potatoes and blue cheese - something along the lines of the English Stilton cheese.

Wonderful - this one was my favorite!

Finally, the cheese pizza galore - which was the most popular! The pizza had five kinds of cheese: Grated mild cheese, mozzarella, Boursin garlic cheese, thinly sliced blue cheese and Manchego cheese (made from sheep milk and hails from Spain). Pure deliciousness - don't be afraid to scatter a bit of jam over the pizza!

Happy tasty times!

We enjoyed a bit of bag-in-box red wine with the pizzas. Lindeman's Shiraz Cabernet is an Australian wine, a blend of  Shiraz and Cabernet grapes. It's medium bodied with notes of berries, mild tannin and an extended aftertaste which paired perfectly with the cheese pizzas!

The feast never ends!

13 Sept 2015

Cottage Feast: Thailand-inspired BBQ Blue Mussels and Halibut with Sweet Potato Mash

The last time the family and I were back home in Iceland we came upon some wonderful ingredients. As usual, we didn't stay too long in the city, but instead headed for our beloved cottage, my parents' cottage in fact, called Lækjarkot. The cottage rests by the roots of Esjan Mountain, overlooking a placid small lake and yet another mountain to the north. We stopped by one of my favorite fish mongers on our way out of town and there I discovered some proper goodies: Icelandic blue mussel and halibut steaks - both of which I absolutely love cooking. With ingredients of this caliber, cooking comes naturally!

Cottage Feast: Thailand-inspired BBQ Blue Mussels and Halibut with Sweet Potato Mash

For the soup (6 servings):

1 kg blue mussels
1 red chili
5 cm ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 glass white wine
1 can coconut milk
1 lemon
Handful of fresh parsley/coriander
Salt and pepper.

For the halibut:

2 large halibut steaks
4 tbsp garlic oil
1/2 tsp crushed dried chili
Few slices of lemon
Salt and pepper

For the sweet potato mash:

1 kg sweet potatoes
1/2 soft cheese
75 g butter
Salt and pepper

Add a few tablespoons of oil to the blistering hot wok.

Fry the ginger, chili and garlic until they soften and be careful not to burn the ingredients.

Pour the blue mussels into the wok and toss with the ingredients on the pan.

Next, pour white wine into the pan, reduce until the alcohol has evaporated and then add the coconut milk. Bring to the boil with the wok covered.

Cut the lemons into wedges and add to the wok along with the fresh coriander and fresh parsley.

Serve and enjoy!

Next step is to tackle the halibut steaks. First, brush the halibut with garlic oil, and then sprinkle a little bit of chili over and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Finally, arrange the lemon slices neatly on the steaks.

The halibut was allowed to marinate for an hour out in the cold!

The sweet potato mash is super simple. Simply peel and boil 1 kg of sweet potatoes. Drain and mash the potatoes until soft and fluffy. Add cheese, butter and of course salt and pepper.

My father prepared a so-called medieval grill which allowed us to grill the food over an open fire. First make the fire and heat the wood until it turns grey. Then just add more wood if needed to keep the fire alive.

The key is to keep the grill moving - in that way the food won't burn!

Remember to brush the fish with the marinade throughout the process.

Little remains but to set the table. Along with the sweet potato mash, I served a simple salad and a butter sauce.

We drank this great American white wine with the food. Beringer Founder's Estate Sauvignion Blanc from 2011. Pale-yellow color and fruit forward on the palate, even a touch of vanilla. Sprightly wine which paired especially well with the mussels!


10 Sept 2015

Oven-baked Salmon Enveloped in Maple Syrup with Warm Root Vegetable Salad

My wife, Snædís, traveled to Iceland last weekend and was fortunate enough to be able to join a fishing tour with her father and older sister,which took them to the heart of the meditative Icelandic countryside. The bounty was scarce this time around so I decided to cook salmon to honor her attempt of catching one. The recipe proportions are slightly smaller than usual given that only the kids and I were eating. 

Oven-baked Salmon Enveloped in Maple Syrup with Warm Root Vegetable Salad 

4 Servings (1 adult and 3 children)

700 g salmon
1 fennel
1/2 red pepper
200 g cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
100 g string beans
5 spring onions
4 tbsp garlic oil
2 tsp maple syrup
1 lemon
salt and pepper

For the sauce;

5 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp garlic oil
1 tsp maple syrup
salt and pepper

Roughly chop the vegetables.

Place the vegetables into an ovenproof dish and mix well together.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Pour the garlic oil over the vegetables and season generously. Transfer to an oven and roast for 20 minutes. Stir the vegetables occasionally while the cook.

Coat the salmon with maple syrup and place the lemon slices in neat rows on top.

Then put the salmon on top of the vegetables and transfer the lot into the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through.

This image is here only because I think it is beautiful. The smell in the kitchen was incredible!

Transfer the salmon onto a serving plate.

Allow the the vegetable to rest next to the salmon and pour the oil over. Garnish with fresh parsley.

The sauce is very simple. Mix together creme fraiche, garlic oil and syrup. Season to taste.

Serve with rice and perhaps a nip of white wine. I had this lovely bag-in-box cooling in my fridge. I have tasted this wine before from a bottle but the bag-in-box version was also nice. It is a light chardonnay, with rigorous fruit notes, tad of butter and a lasting aftertaste which paired well with the salmon.

It's always time to enjoy!


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