Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Icelandic Lamb Soup

We got back from Iceland late last week, and I already miss the stark landscapes, black lava fields, golden grass, slate gray sky, the buildings of Reykjavik  ... and, me being me, most of all I miss the food.

It was windy and rainy for much of our trip (which I didn't mind, because it made the scenery that much more dramatic) and we indulged in plenty of hot, soul warming soups, like this Icelandic lamb soup, a regional speciality. We enjoyed ours  on a raw, rainy day at the cafeteria at Gulfoss Waterfall. No wonder it's a popular dish - the free range, grass fed Icelandic lamb is the best I have ever had. Lucky me: I can get Icelandic lamb at Whole Foods.

And so, my first order of business on returning was making a huge batch of the stuff. It's quite a simple dish, and it's best on the second or third day, so make it ahead. And to go with it, it's essential to have plenty of dark rye or pumpernickel bread slathered in butter - preferably Smjorr - for dipping in the broth.

Icelandic Lamb Soup

2 pounds Icelandic lamb shank, on or off the bone (If off the bone, cut into 1 inch chunks)
8 -10 Icelandic lamb neck bones (about 2 inches)
5- 6 carrots, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
4 - 5 yellow potatoes, cubed
1 large rutabega (aka Swede), cubed
Arctic herbs, such as wild thyme and Anjelica root, to taste (I used an Arctic herb salt that I purchased in Reykjavik)
1 bunch curly parsley, plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper, to taste

Normally I like to sear the meats and build flavors in my soups, but I thought I'd go the traditional route for my first go-round. And after sitting in the refrigerator over night, the flavors had really developed quite nicely. 

In a large stock pot, just cover the lamb with water. Simmer for a few minutes and pour off the water. Place everything in the pot, cover with water with an extra couple of inches and simmer, covered, for an hour. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Remove the parsley, and refrigerate overnight. You will likely need to add more salt after re-heating. 

A glance at the ingredients list might lead you to believe that this is a bland soup, but once it's come together overnight it has a subtle rich lamb-iness that's just the thing for a cold winter's night. 


  1. NEver thought to a Lamb soup....but it must be delicious!!!! hugs, Flavia

  2. That sounds just beautiful...and I can see how a bowl of this would warm you to the bone. Yum. :)

  3. What an awesome experience. I could go for a bowl of lamb soup right now.

  4. Not sure I have tried lamb soup either but it looks amazing. I can't wait to see pics of the trip!

  5. Seems so easy but tasty and lovely photographs Trix! I'm all about the simple recipe now and letting it 'develop' its flavor. THis fits the bill and I'm sure I'll make it as these days I need tons of ready made meals for the week.

  6. so glad you are back and know you had a great trip - nice to see you bring back this lovely soup, like the rutabaga in it...
    how did your article on Cafe du Monde go? and where can I find it?

  7. The hubby loves lamb, but I've never made lamb soup! And wow, you are quite the traveler!!! Do you have room for me in your suitcase????

  8. Your recipe looks good :)
    Usually we don't keep the soup over night but we surely make double or triple portions to eat the day after :) and the soup is always better on day 2 or 3.
    The soup needs a generous amount of salt ans some families put a palmful of rice into the soup with the vegetables to add more "filling" to the soup.

    Glad you liked our country

  9. Hmmm... "stark landscapes, black lava fields, golden grass, slate gray sky" you could be describing Kona Hawaii as well. GREG

    1. No accident that they are both volcanic islands! Though having been to Hawaii, I somehow prefer Iceland's landscape ... it feels more intense and extreme somehow. (Though Hawaii is beautiful!)

  10. Actually, it doesn't sounds bland at all to me! I love lamb, although I have never tried it as a base for a soup. Funny, I had never really thought of Iceland as a culinary destination. To be honest, I had never really thought about it much at all… except as a place for geysers, volcanos, Cold War summits and Chess championships. But if the cooking is all like this, I bet I'd really like it. Looking forward to more posts coming up!

    Cheers, Frank

  11. My husband and I were there in November too. I love that lamb soup! I will try your recipe and hopefully it will turn out as good as yours.

  12. Ooh, thanks for posting this recipe! I too went to the same cafeteria at Gulfoss Waterfall (in March last year - it was absolutely freezing!) and the stew was delicious. I've been trying to find a similar recipe and will definitely try this :-) I love trying food and recipes from around the world so am thrilled to have found your site

  13. Yes it was lovely. Was there last week and am just cooking up a batch now. Lovely wonderful aroma... Just wish I had some crusty bread!

  14. Just back from Iceland and I had lamb soup whenever possible. Will be trying your recipe.

  15. I was recently in Iceland but didn't hear about this soup until I got back home. I will try the recipe soon; the weather is right.