Return

Go back to main page

The chef

Hrönn Vilhelmsdóttur

Listen

Hrönn, the chef at Kaffi Loki, shows us around her restaurant

Skip back
Play or pause
Skip forward
00:00
02:27
Camera
Paper
Plus

Hrönn explains the origins of Icelandic cuisine:

“My name is Hrönn and I’m the chef at Kaffi Loki. I used to be a textile designer, but in 1990 I had the idea of opening a traditional Icelandic café with my husband and Kaffi Loki was born. It has now taken over my life!”

“Loki was one of the gods from Norse mythology and he was a tricky one. Sometimes he was very clever, but sometimes not so nice. Kaffi Loki is situated in Loki street in what’s called the neighbourhood of the gods. So, the street over is called Thor street and the one over from that is Odin’s street.

When we were planning this café, there was all kinds of new restaurants popping up in Reykjavik called Saporo and Nosatario and things like that, but none were Icelandic. We decided to do something very Icelandic. Simply, plain homemade food. We didn’t want to be like one of those chains where you can have everything.

"There are so many people who travel through their mouth and stomach."

Fish and lamb are the staples of Icelandic food. For many, many centuries the main challenge was keeping it so you could eat it, so a lot of Icelandic food consists of salted lamb and salted fish all kinds of smoked fish and all kinds of preserved food. These days we eat more fresh food, and at kaffi Loki we use a lot of fresh lamb. The lamb we use comes from the mountains and is very organic.

The other main characteristic of Icelandic food is rye flour, mainly because rye is just so much hardier than wheat. Therefore, all kinds of rye bread is very common, and we serve all kinds of rye loaves and flat bread in the restaurant.

Traditionally, people in Iceland didn’t eat much fruit or vegetables either. I think it was only in the 17th century that Icelanders started growing potatoes, so the diet was mostly just fish and lamb with a few turnips. Anything that was easy to grow in this harsh climate. Rhubarb is classically Icelandic for the same reason. As are all kinds of berries.

As Iceland has become more modernised, there is a lot of new trends in Icelandic food. That’s why a place like Kaffi Loki is important. It’s like we’re trying to preserve my mother’s way of cooking. I get to meet people from all over the world, and there are so many people who travel through their mouth and stomach. People like to taste new things and compare them to the food they have at home, so we always have people from all over the world stop by.

Most tourists like the food, except maybe the shark. Shark isn’t for everyone.”

Meat Soup

A recipe for kjötsúpa

Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 65 – 80 minutes

Lamb has been a staple of Icelandic cooking since the first settlers arrived on the island in 770AD. Prized for their milk and wool, sheep has always been the most common farm animal in Iceland is were once worth more alive than dead.

Kjötsúpa is traditional Icelandic meat soup and was a real life saver when food was scarce. Deceptively simple, old school recipes consist of lamb, potatoes, swede and carrots, thickened with oatmeal. Common around Reykjavik, more updated versions will often contain leeks, onions, dried herbs, pasta and even rice.

Ingredients:

  1. Lamb shoulder on the bone, cut into large pieces
  2. ½ onion, roughly sliced
  3. 1.5 litres of water
  4. 2 tbsp mixed dried herbs
  5. 400g/14oz swede, roughly cut
  6. 220g/8oz potatoes, peeled and halved
  7. 220g/8oz carrots, peeled and roughly cut.
  8. Oatmeal to thicken (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the lamb shoulder and diced onion into a large pan and cover in cold water.
  2. Heat until a rolling boil and leave for a few minutes. Then reduce heat and skim off any fat from the surface.
  3. Add the dried herbs, salt and pepper and then simmer for 40 minutes.
  4. Add the swede, carrots and potatoes and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes more until vegetables are tender.
  5. If you want, you can now add in the oatmeal to thicken the soup, or simply add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve, either spoon straight into bowls or for a more traditional experience, remove the meat and serve on a separate plate to the broth.