A Typical Breakfast in Iceland: Hafragrautur and Lýsi

Our culinary ambassador initiative is on track again, and today Guðrún Ingimundardóttir checks in with an Icelandic breakfast staple. —The Mgmt.


Icelandic cuisine has never been known for being one of particularly lavish breakfasts, as dark, icy mornings call for something easy and piping hot to be scarfed down before braving whatever storm, volcanic eruption, earthquake, or avalanche that might be waiting on the doorstep.

Hafragrautur, or oatmeal, has been a staple in the diet of Icelandic families for decades, if not centuries. Oats and some water or milk were mixed in a pot and left to simmer while the parents made coffee so thick it would have to be stirred with a cement trowel. Hafragrautur would then be served with a sprinkle of brown sugar, or occasionally a handful of raisins or a pat of butter.

Meanwhile, the children would take a swig of lýsi (cod liver oil), a vital source of omega-3 acids and vitamin D, which in winter would be the only way to prevent deficiency of said vitamin due to extended periods of near total darkness. The brave ones in the family would drink lýsi straight from the bottle; the sensible ones would pour themselves a tablespoon of this liquid gold, thus preventing the unpleasant side effect of lýsi breath. Those who have had a small animal die in their mouth might be familiar with how disagreeable the taste is.


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Being and avid fan of oatmeal myself, I have tried my hand at mixing and matching oatmeal with various types of condiments, as well as experimenting with different textures and flavours. Through the years I have made oatmeal provençale (black olives, salt and pepper, oregano), oatmeal pancakes, oatmeal chocolate mousse, or have kept it traditional by mixing it with some skyr (Icelandic yogurt—like a type of fresh cheese).

An all-time go-to favourite for me is a thick oatmeal, with as little water as possible, so that it develops a thick crust when boiled in a non-stick pot, mixed with goji berries and sultanas. If you close your eyes (or if you're still half asleep) it is almost like eating Turkish delight!

For more info on Icelandic food, check out icecook.blogspot.com. Not my own website, but filled with useful information on icelandic cooking.

—Guðrún Ingimundardóttir

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