Pictures JÓN ÁRNASON
It’s official. We Icelanders recently voted on our national dish, and Icelandic lamb won by a landslide. The flavorsome meat we like to call “the world’s best” has long been a prized dish on Icelandic tables. In times past the entire carcass was used from nose to tail, and today a number of lamb dishes honor that Icelandic ingenuity. Tougher bits end up in lamb soup. Some cuts are salted, smoked and hung to preserve them through long winters. Lamb heads are split, singed and boiled to make svið, with the eyes and tongue thought to be the choicest bites. Blood, suet and stomachs are used to make slátur, a kind of blood pudding. Ram’s testicles are pickled in whey and offal is made into pâté. When it’s time for a celebratory meal, we opt for succulent loin chops, a leg of lamb or a rib roast with crispy crackling.
Rúnar Marvinsson, a favorite culinary firecracker and country boy, has been cooking for over fifty years. His ingredient of choice is organic Icelandic lamb directly from the farm, and he prefers to roll up his sleeves and prepare the meat himself. Here he breaks down a lamb carcass from Brekkulækur farm to show the next generation of chefs, who watch Rúnar’s every move with reverence, how much a single carcass has to offer. The day ends, of course, with preparing a classic Icelandic banquet.