Sunday, July 22, 2007

Masaman curry

It's been a while since the last recipe... Last time it was a Lebanese recipe, this time it's a Thai one (to celebrate Jó's half Thai-ness! :))

So, Masaman curry:
  • It's tasty
  • It's pretty easy to cook
  • So try it!
I got the recipe from this page, though I've made some minor changes to it. I've only done this with chicken, though the recipe calls for beef, and I'm sure lamb would work well too.

Ingredients (for four meals):
  • 2 tbsp Masaman curry paste (which you can buy from Mai Thai near Hlemmur, and store in a freezer)
  • A cup of coconut milk
  • One pound of meat cut into 1 inch cubes
  • A couple of large potatoes, cut in 1 inch cubes
  • An onion, cut in 8 chunks
  • 1/2 cup of cashews (peanuts should work too)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar

Also, I've added 1/2 tbsp of tamarind powder, 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon and some bay leaves, but you don't have to add those.

Heat up the coconut milk and curry paste over med/low heat for five minutes or so, and mix well. Add the meat, and some water (enough to cover up all the meat) and the spices / salt / sugar.

Stew for half an hour or so, then add the potatoes, onion and cashews. Cover and simmer for another half hour, adding water if necessary. When the potatoes are soft enough, you're done!

Note that the flavors in the meal take some time to come together, so you should cook this meal one day before serving it, and reheat a day later. Serve with rice, and enjoy!

There's a good recipe for a cucumber salad on that same page I linked to, you can look it up. Oh, and you should serve this with Rambutans and Longans for dessert, to complete the Thai experience :).


Last weekend, Jó and I went for another hike on Esja in the lovely weather. We didn't take the main hike (from the bus stop) which we took last time, but rather decided to avoid the crowds and go on another spot in the moutains. We settled on a hike going up to Móskarðshnúkar, a set of 3 rhyolite peaks in the south-east of Esja. We hiked the middle peak (a bit under 800m of elevation).

The hike was quite interesting, especially towards the top where the slope is quite severe and where stepping through the rhyolite stones feels like getting trapped in glassy sand. Rhyolite is a light, almost glassy volcanic rock that can take on yellowish colors. Those three peaks are a typical example, the amazing Landmannalaugar is another.

Little flowers


So... there should be a mountain right in front of us!

Near the top

The peak

Summit self portrait

Jó and the tabletop mountains behind her (you can even see a glacier from that spot, though not in this picture)

A snack on the way down

A cute waterfall with basalt columns

Sunday, July 15, 2007

-watching trip

Well, it was supposed to be a whale-watching trip, but there were no whales...

On Thursday we went on a whale-watching trip (departing from the old Reykjavík harbor). Neither Jo nor myself were hugely interested but it was cheap! (1000 ISK/person). The trip took about three hours, and the boat went around the Faxaflói bay trying to find some whales. It made a stop near "puffin island" and we got to see some flying puffins, unfortunately the boat could not get very close to the island (shallows?) so we didn't get a good view. But hey, we had close encounters with the orange-beaked birds last weekend so it wasn't a problem.

On the way to the boat I had seen a sign that promised a 97% success rate for whale-watching trip. I guess we were in the unlucky 3% then! Unless the numbers were a bit fudged. Still, it was nice to be on a boat trip, in the end. Takes you away from the city.

Luckily, I was able to spot a part of a whale yesterday. It was a few meters inland, in a plastic bag at the Sægreifinn restaurant by the harbor. So I bought it and cooked it, and it was quite tasty.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Last weekend Jó and I took a trip to Vestmannaeyjar, aka the Westmann Islands. These islands consist of one main island, Heimaey (13.4 square kms), surrounded by smaller islands. Only the main one is inhabited (about 4500 people), although some of the other islands are used for raising sheep.

The islands were mostly created 12,000 years ago as this is a highly volcanic spot. The latest addition was in 1963, when the island Surtsey emerged from the sea during a volcanic eruption. Notably, a volcano basically appeared on Heimaey in 1973 and destroyed one third of the houses in town.

Alright, enough with the trivia :).

Overall, Heimaey is a cute island, kind of a mini-Iceland. You can walk from the harbor through the town to the airport in 30 minutes. There are some very imposing cliffs and rocks on the north side (I would not try to climb those), and two volcanic cones you can climb (they're not very high, around 220 meters each). We climbed Helgafell, the older cone, but I'm sure we will go over Eldfell (the 1973 cone) if we return.

The people on the island are supposedly friendlier than mainland (main island?) Icelanders. In fact, a random person nodded to me as our eyes met at one point, which confirms that people are indeed friendlier. On the downside, the buildings in the island are slightly run-down, and the harbour area has a pretty bad fish smell (I assume it's from drying fish).

The town has a lot of puffin-inspired names, paintings and merchandise (even the street signs are shaped like puffins...). However walking around town you don't see any puffins, which is a bit annoying. But! Go to the cliffs, and there they will be... Plenty and plenty of puffins! They look quite cute and they are entertaining to watch as they fly from and return to their cliff spots. Moreover, as I can attest from my last meal in the island, they're quite tasty. Their meat is quite dense and dark, somewhat like whale meat, but much tastier. Puffins: cute and tasty, the perfect animal! (well, I guess lambs too fit into that mold).

And now for the onslaught of pictures:

Volcanoes and lava

Walking on the 1973 lava

The lava stopped by this water tank

The 73 volcanic cone, as seen from the older volcano


Puffin group

"Don't look to your left, but I think somebody is watching us..."

How YOU doin?

Fulmar in flight

The mascot shark of the football team. At least it didn't smell like urine

Close encounters of the sheep kind


Rock face

Jo v/s the cliff

How do you get to that building?

How do you get to that building? Part 2

Do you see the elephant?


On the ferry

Jó's flowery socks that I had to wear when I found out I forgot to bring any extra clothes (and my socks were wet)

A view of the town, from the old volcano

A fishy mural

A monument to the 200+ Mormon Icelanders that left for Utah in the 1800's.. For real!

A plane taking off from the local airport

Monday, July 2, 2007

Midnight sunset

The view from our window

And from down the street

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Last weekend, we went inland to a farm named Bjalli to meet some of Jo's relatives. It's just under a two hour drive from the city, and a world away.

The family farm isn't constantly inhabited anymore, but it's still visited quite often. Right next to the house are the remains of the sod houses which were inhabited a century ago.

The farm has a great view of Hekla and of a couple of glaciers.

Hekla is a very photogenic mountain, rising alone from the ground. It also happens to be Iceland's most active volcano, having last erupted in 2000. During the middle ages, it was considered in Europe to be one of the entrances to hell. Now that's notoriety!

That weekend also included Jónsmessa, which correlates with the longest day the year (near the summer solstice). So it's traditional to have a big bonfire, which was quite fun :). We were about a dozen people, and we went through a large pile of wood. Which, I found out later, was the remains of a horse stable there that was destroyed in the 2000 independence day earthquake.

We camped for the night in our new tent, and drove around the area the next day. We stopped at the local cemetery. I don't know, why but there is something strangely low-key and comforting about Icelandic cemeteries. Maybe it's the not-too-fancy plaques and the disorderly grass. I wonder how they will look in the winter though.


The farm

The sod houses (the grill is a later addition)

Wife and volcano

Running towards the glacier

A little stream


My face 2 seconds after having a swig of whiskey from a bottle that was passed to me

Midnight light

The road to hell?


... And sheep

Kindur undir jökli (aka Sheep under glacier)

A cemetery with a view