Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dandopeel tea & seabird eggs

 One sunny day last week I collected a whole bag of dandelions – stems, flowers and leaves – to make some dandelion tea. The dandelions here get really big and it’s a shame to waste such beauties. I dried them in the oven on low heat, then dried some orange peel and ginger in the dehydrator, which take out the bitterness of the dandelion. 

Although I made some dandelion tea last summer using fresh leaves (which was quite bitter and required some honey), this is my first attempt at a dried tea to last me over winter. I’m quite pleased with the results! The orange peel and ginger take out all bitterness and the tea is mild and tasty and doesn’t need anything added.

The other day I saw that the local fishmonger got in a fresh shipment of seabird eggs collected at the Látrabjarg bird cliff. The eggs are from the bird svartfugl, or guillemot. These cliff-dwelling birds are part of the auk family and, seeing that they live on cliffs, it’s quite difficult and dangerous to collect their eggs, which are considered a special treat. I have always wanted to try one since it’s something traditional from this part of Iceland. 

 Kári the fishmonger is always willing to share recipes and he told me how to prepare the perfect soft boiled guillemot egg. Bring a pan of water to a boil, put in the egg and simmer for 7 minutes. Lo and behold, the consistency was just perfect. The egg is quite large, the yolk is creamy and the white part doesn’t really get white, but remains transparent. The egg has a fishy taste, but it’s quite good. The next day I fried one (with lamb bacon) just for the experience of it, and it was equally good, but soft boiled remains my favorite. 

Being a rare and special treat (one egg costs about €4), not a lot of these are eaten, which is probably a good thing. The Icelandic news station RÚV warns that seabird eggs contain a high amount of toxic chemicals, such as PCBs.  These are known to cause cancer, and since they remain in the body for a long time, are especially dangerous for women of child-bearing age as they are passed on to the children. On the other hand, it is considered generally safe to eat once egg per year according to tradition. 

I will leave that choice up to you, dear reader. I’ve done it and I don’t regret the experience. It will probably be my first and last, but I certainly enjoyed it!