Friday, April 20, 2007


In writing the Brandade recipe yesterday it occurred to me that one of my favourite dishes growing up was what could be described as Icelandic Brandade, namely Plokkfiskur. The name literally means mashed fish and that not surprisingly is exactly what it is. Iceland when I was growing up was a place where fish was dirt cheep and, thus, the basic food and Plokkfiskur was the standard method of dealing with fish leftovers. These also meant that Plokkfiskur was made from any type of fish and believe me some are better than others. Catfish for example should not be made into Plokkfiskur under any circumstance and to be fair I don’t think I had it more than once.

Nowadays fish is no longer inexpensive so people do not typically have very many leftovers so fresh fish is bought for Plokkfiskur. Typically, you would use haddock in Iceland but I prefer cod. For some reason that I’ve never quite understood Icelanders historically do not eat much cod. We love haddock and eat it where other nations would use cod that they’ve usually bought from us.

I called Mum to get her recipe for Plokkfiskur and got a clear demonstration of from whom I inherited the inability to follow recipes. Her recipes are all about using a little bit that and if you like a little bit of this. It is a good thing she’s a naturally talented cook because otherwise we would have eaten some real rubbish when I was growing up. In any case this is Mum’s Plokkfiskur recipe (proportions are mine):


  1. 500 gr. cooked haddock or cod, (if using salted then soak the fish first) cleaned of bones and skin and flaked;
  2. 200 ml warm milk (it is not a bad idea to warm the milk with a bay leave in it);
  3. 30 gr. Butter;
  4. 1 onion, finely chopped;
  5. 30 gr. Flour;
  6. 500 gr. cooked cubed potatoes;
  7. Freshly ground white pepper;
  8. Salt (if using fresh fish);


  • Soften onion in butter over medium heat;
  • Work the flour into the butter and onion mix while stirring continuously until you have a roux or dough like mixture;
  • Slowly add the warm milk to the roux while stirring and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 min;
  • Add the fish and potatoes to the milk and mash them up with a wooden spoon or a potato masher. The idea is to get a very coarse paste like substance;
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon onto a plate and eat with buttered rye bread. If you are very skinny or 10 years old you can also add a knob of butter at this point! Mum always served this with tomato wedges and dressed with either chives or parsley.

This is Mum’s classic Plokkfiskur recipe but apparently what she now does, she may be 83 but that does not stop her from experimenting, is mix the fish, potatoes and onion with an egg and olive oil in a food processor. She then gratinates the whole thing in the oven under the grill, sometimes with a cheese topping, before serving as per above. Done that way it sounds an awful lot like Brandade.

I typed Plokkfiskur into google and found two excellent English language sites devoted to Icelandic food. The first one belongs to Jo who is apparently an English lit major who put up the website as a labour of love and the other belongs to Gestgjafinn an Icelandic gourmet magazine. They both have Plokkfiskur recipes that are substantially the same as Mum’s.

In Iceland you don't often see Plokkfiskur on the menu in restaurants but there is one restaurant that has made a speciality out of this unassuming dish. That place is called 3 Frakkar and I usually go to have their Plokkfiskur whenever I'm in Iceland.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this recipe! I'm in Iceland now with my husband, and we love plokkfiskur. I was thinking about it all day today while we drove around the Golden Circle, thinking about where to find a recipe online posted in english.
Thanks - we'll definitely try this when we get home.

David Dixon said...

A lovely recipe which we all enjoyed tonight. We read about it in April, tried it in Kopavogur in May, and recreated it deliciously from your recipe, here in Somerset.

David Dixon said...

And again today. Delicious! But this time I used reconstituted dried Vietnamese lizard fish. Bet no-one's ever done that before!