northern memories, figs and autumn leaves

My dear friends, I am finally back alright – with a bag full of pretty memories and chitchat, my favourite autumn fruit (and a bunch of recipes circling around it), as well as with ultimate advice for the icy land on the 64th parallel.

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I have come home from Iceland three weeks ago already and, honestly, I thought it would be easy to get home. But it wasn’t, really. Basically, my first few days felt like an enormous sensory overload – so many houses, people, and noises. And after two months of counting seeds, cutting soil samples and collecting caterpillars while listening to the whimbrel’s ringing sound I now got my nose deep into linguistic books (time to bring my studies to an end – or, rather, graduation) and drink chai-tea while the trams rattle by.

One of the amazing things about being back – apart from seeing all the lovely people again – is cooking. I literally did not cook anything useful in eight weeks (the credit goes to the canteen on site, which absolutely made me wanna bathe in the classic Icelandic rúgbraud) ! But I did get a lot of fun food inspiration over there, although not everything is worth copying, to be sincere. From dried fish, fermented shark, liquorice-chocolate, flatbread to lamb-paste I tried pretty much everything edible and icelandic there was to try. My personal favourites (also including the food-related ones) are listed in todays special section “massive DOs in Iceland”, right after todays culinary chitchat and recipes.

With that said, let’s turn to my food star guest today: figs.

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During my last two weeks in Iceland, autumn was totally taking over, sending me back home in perfect mood for pumpkins, chestnuts, colourful leaves, spices, and, of course, figs. Let me tell you one thing: never buy figs in the stores, never! They are over-priced and often spoiled. Go take the time, grab your favourite people and do a little trip to a fresh food market nearby. It’s social, it’s fun, and, eventually, it’s also tasty.

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Having done so myself, I came back with fresh spinach, a bunch of organic carrots, flowers, sweet potatoes and Italian figs. I absolutely love their tender sweetness and variety when it comes to using them for cooking. Want proof? I have brought you three different recipes of how to use figs in your own little kitchen – in an incredibly quick and easy, healthy, surprising and tempting way. Let’s go!

#1 Spinach-Salad with figs, roasted nuts, broccoli, avocado, grilled halloumi and orange-mustard-curry dressing

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put together:

  • 4 broccoli florets, blanched
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 4 figs, sliced
  • 100 g halloumi cheese, roasted and finely sliced
  • 2 handful of young spinach
  • 1 handful of roasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds

blend:

  • 1 dl olive oil
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • 0.5 dl vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt, pepper

#2 fig-carpaccio with caramelized walnuts, feta cheese, sesame oil and basil

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put together:

  • 6 figs, sliced
  • 1 feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • pepper
  • hashed basil

roast:

  • 1 handful crushed walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

#3 vegan fig-caramel with almonds and cinnamon

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simmer, then blend:

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 figs, sliced

You can have this nasty beauty on your toast, apple slices, as a cake topping, or just as it is – pure, sweet, perfection.

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But enough food-talk for today! As I did not really know where I would possibly start telling about my stay in Iceland I simply decided to go for a very straight forward version: The ultimate list of massive DOs in Iceland. And by “DO” I mean: really, really, really DO. I thought about including some DON’Ts, too. But then I figured that most of them are just things that you think you have to do when you are in Iceland for the first time, including me. So I guess you will do them anyways. As long as you make sure you have done the DOs, all is good:

The ultimate list of massive DOs in Iceland

#1: Go to Iceland in mid september, instead of June or July. I mean, it’s chilly there, anyways. So why not have included northern lights and amazing autumn landscapes (and a tiny, tiny, tiny little less tourists)? Especially nice in Skaftafell National Park, and around volcano Hekla (Do not go up there, though)!

#2: Buy wool and knit. It’s what me and my lovely companions did on rainy days: Sit in lovely cafés, chat, knit and feel very Icelandic (and have tourists take pictures of us).

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#3: get your holiday-reading right: pack Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir and, of course, Halldór Laxness.

#4: Go to Húsavík – it’s gorgeously cute. Actually, do go appreciate the whole north: Akureyri, Ásbergi, Myvatn. And pass the Westfjords on your way.

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#5: Participate in Réttir. It’s basically gathering all the sheep (they are everywhere!) and assigning them to their farmers. But it’s tough. Also, it is one of the most fun and Icelandic things I have done over there. Make sure you put on orange rain trousers and an Icelandic pullover. It’s THE dresscode.

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#6: Go collect wild thyme, crowberries and blueberries. At dawn.

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#7: Eat Lousiana Chicken Strips at Vegamót. Eat dessert at Grillmarkaðurinn.

#8: Check the aurora forecast. Rent a car. Drive some place where there are no artificial lights (not very hard to find in Iceland, really) and enjoy mother nature’s light show.

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#9: Buy: icelandic tomatoes, smoked haddock, blueberry skyr, flatbread with butter, rúgbraud.

#10: watch the sunset at the harbour of Stykkishólmur. On your way, stop for a hike at Eldborg, a volcanic caldera.

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#11: When in Snæfellsnes, look for Lýsuhóll hot spring and have a bath in hot fir green water. Or else consider these amazing suggestions (by one of my favourite icelandic bloggers): Drive it yourself for Snæfellsnes.

#12: Stay at least two weeks. At least. Believe me, you will need the time. You do not wanna be one of those people who try to drive around the whole island in one week.

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#13: Attend at least one concert. Even if it’s not your music style. I have randomly seen Páll Óskar and it was incredibly fun. Consider the event calendar and go to local events.

#14: Hike along Heimaey’s coastline up on Helgafell or Eldfell and enjoy the amazing view. Be prepared for wind. A hell lot of wind. And book your ferry ride there early!

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#15: Have a picnic in the warm black sand on one of the many amazing beaches of the south. But don’t try have a bath in the sea. It’s one of those things you only do once.

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#16: Make Icelandic friends. Let them show you the best places to eat out and drink. And go horse riding.

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#17: Stay flexible. Believe me, I am the very first to be stressed when I do not have things under control. So I had to learn to let all the amazing stuff I did not have in mind and did not expect happen.

With that incomplete list (I am open to any complements from your side) made of pure love for that quirky country, all that I have left to say for now is: enjoy your autumn, guys, stay curious and be open to all the amazing things life has to offer. I will do my best to be back soon, depending on how much my bachelor-exam readings are about to swallow and digest me.

Much love, Florence

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