The other Icelandic export

The spotlight this week has been firmly placed on Iceland. Iceland is of course, best known for giving the rest of the world two things: Volcanic ash & Björk. Its major import is money from investors across Europe, which it loses and doesn’t give back. With my psuedo-Viking heritage, it’s somewhere I have always wanted to visit. One day, I shall, and I will enjoy a meal or two of their other lesser known export: puffin.

Yes, these comical little seabirds are actually eaten over there. Living in South Africa, with its proud history of braai’ing anything and everything one can find, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about this.
And who can blame the locals for utilising anything as a food source when you look at the barren volcanic landscapes that surround them?
Needs must and all that.

Come now – it might look cute – OK, it does look cute – but it’s basically just a chicken with a funny beak. And you don’t have any issues with eating chicken, do you? So there’s no real difference between you visiting KFC or RFP (Reykjavik Fried Puffin), is there?

Of course, they don’t do anything quite so vulgar as rolling it in breadcrumbs and giving it to some gormless high school dropout to boil in dirty oil. No, there are traditional recipies that have been followed by the Icelandic people for many years:

4 puffins
50g smoked bacon
50g butter
300ml milk
300ml water
salt to taste

Puffins should be skinned or carefully plucked and singed. Remove the innards and discard. You can use the breasts alone, or cook the whole birds. Wash well in cold water and rub with salt, inside and out. If you are using whole birds, truss them. Draw strips of bacon through the breasts. Brown the birds on all sides, and stuff the birds tightly into a cooking pot. Heat the milk and water and pour over the puffins. Bring to the boil and cook on low for 1-2 hours (test the birds for softness). Turn the birds occasionally.

It sounds delicious – and it looks like this:

As flickr user wili_hybrid says:

We brought back ten smoked puffins from our trip to Iceland. My brother’s girlfriend Jenni combined some traditional puffin recipes and came up with a delicious variant where the puffins are boiled for hours in a mixture of milk, beer and bacon, and served with a variety of different jams and jellies. The meat was much more game-like than what I expected (the taste almost resembling that of a reindeer) as the puffins I’ve tried before have tasted rather fishy.

Sadly, there are no puffins in South Africa. However, they are fairly closely related to penguins and we have plenty of them – as my daughter happily points out.

I’m quite sure that I could slip one into a bag at Boulders and then into a pot at home…

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