I have a wanderlust list as long as my arm but if I could just pack a case and go tomorrow I would head for Iceland. From a photographers point of view, the colours and textures of the country are just incredible. I first saw this book on Amazon when I'd had a few glasses of wine and was adding a load of pre orders to my account (only for them all to be removed when I was slightly more sober) and it instantly spoke to me. I can't say I'm too familiar with Icelandic cuisine, in fact I'm not sure I've ever had it. So when I was given some vouchers for Waterstones I spotted this book by accomplished Icelandish chef Gunner Karl Gislason and food writer Jody Eddy while browsing the cookery section. It's the photography by Evan Sung that immediately hit me - personal shots of the people behind the food for the recipes and gorgeous, rolling landscapes of Iceland.
Once home and with a cup of tea in hand, I settled to have a good gawp at it. The book is laid out in a such a clever way - it goes by food supplier, so for instance smoked recipes lie past an interview with the Arctic Char Smoker section or the mushroom recipes follow information about the birch and mushroom forager. All sections start with an interview or 'conversation' and a well shot portrait. Gunner opened his restaurant Dill in Reykjavik in 2009 and he takes Icelandic food traditions and makes them exciting again but he also takes a huge amount of care to get to know the suppliers he uses and to celebrate all aspects of the lifestyle that the food brings with it.
A lot of the ingredients will need sourcing, some are unfamiliar to me but Gunner does provide substitutes and I quote 'cook until it tastes good and use what you have'. The book instructs you to substitute based on your resources. I like this - it makes you think and challenge yourself and allows you to be a creator.
The recipes on first look seemed a bit daunting, and scrutinising them further they seemed even more accomplished. I'll definitely be reserving this book for one of those days I really want to get clever with cooking and produce something super fancy pants. Maybe for a business dinner or a date.
'Gunnar's cooking is about a sense of place' - for me, this book isn't just a recipe book - it's a beautiful insight to a passionate chefs creative process and the country in which he very clearly holds very dear. And while a lot of the recipes are rather complex, this book is a feast for the eyes and packed with beautiful writing and photography, so if the recipes were omitted from this book I would still be overjoyed for it to have joined my collection. But the recipes are there in all their grandeur and I can't wait to conquer some more of the dishes.
Wholeheartedly recommended for braver cooks, if you like your cooking simple consider this book only if you have an interest in photography and a celebration of Icelandic cuisine.
Formally Emma Gutteridge