So today I’m transporting you back to fabulous Iceland to enjoy some of the special treats this unique country has to offer.
After an amazing morning exploring wide open spaces, waterfalls and geysers we were ready for some nourishment, and warmth too, that wind blowing down off the glacier is biting. And Fridheimar turned out to be the perfect place for both.
This magical (and enormous) greenhouse is set in the Icelandic countryside. It’s heated naturally by the waters from the underground geothermal springs and they grow four different varieties of tomatoes. It’s basically a massive tomato home – with tables set up in the warmth of the greenhouse where you can tuck into tasty tomato-based dishes.
On arrival we were greeted with tomato schnapps. Little tomatoes are hollowed out and filled with Icelandic Birch schnapps. What a wonderful idea, sip from your unusual receptacle and feel the warmth of the schnapps spread through your body. And when you’re finished (I had to go back for seconds the schnapps is so delicious), you have a juicy schnapps-flavoured tomato to enjoy. The best drink ever? Possibly.
The menu is kept really simple. First up home-made tomato soup which you help yourself to served with the freshest of fabulous bread which is sliced straight out of the oven. I loved the olive and cheese one. The soup is also served with sour cream, cucumber salsa (amazingly delicious) and there are pots of fresh basil on the table so you can add a few leaves for a herby boost.
Mains offer a choice of pasta or tortilla and there are 4 ‘Mary’ drinks – bloody, virgin, healthy and happy (two alcohol free), again all freshly made from the greenhouse tomatoes. Oh and even the jugs of water were served with cherry tomatoes added. Yummy.
Desserts included green tomato and apple pie, tomato ice cream and cheesecake with a jam of green tomatoes, cinnamon and lime. All beautifully served in little terracotta pots, they were certainly an unusual take on dessert, did love the tomato ice cream.
Fridheimar is open every day from noon to 16.00. As well as enjoying lunch among the tomato plants you can also shop for a range of tomato-based goodies. Find out more at www.fridheimar.is
Moving on from the lovely warmth of the tomato greenhouse we headed to Farm Efstidalur, a dairy farm in Laugardalur on the way to Gullfoss and Geyser (the waterfall and geyser you simply have to see).
Here you can watch the cows and calves through the window of the restaurant and feast on a range of dairy products. There’s plenty of ice cream on offer, I went for orange (first time I’ve sampled orange ice cream, so delicious, creamy and zesty. Plus their home-made cones are among the best I’ve had.
We also got to taste the local cheese and the beautifully tart Icelandic Skyr which is kind of like a cross between yogurt and cheese.
You can find out more at www.efstidalur.is
Just outside Reykjavik in the heart of the old Viking town of Hafnarfjordur is a family-owned business making artisan gourmet goods using Icelandic herbs – which pretty much grow wild everywhere.
Urta.Islandica offers an intriguing mix of salts, syrups, teas and jams and was founded by the charming artist Thora Thorisdottir in 2010. I came home with a mix of goodies to experiment with – they certainly help add another dimension to your cooking. My blueberry champagne cocktail using their blueberry syrup was loved all round (recipe coming soon). And look out for more recipes coming up using these unique (that word again!) ingredients.
You can find out more (and order online) at www.urtia.is
It’s so inspiring to travel around a country and experience the creative ways people have come up with for eating and cooking enjoyment. I loved tasting their wares and I’m certainly loving the bit of Iceland I now have in my kitchen.
While I was in Iceland I stayed at the fabulous Hotel Ranga. Find out more at www.hotelranga.is