Slippurinn: Resurrecting old Icelandic recipes using modern techniques

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Gísli Matt honors his grandmother and Icelandic food traditions with his recipe for halibut soup. Photo by Karl Petersson.

Born on Vestmannaeyjar, a group of islands on the south coast of Iceland, chef Gísli Matt returned home to open a restaurant with his parents and sister. Slippurinn is on the precipice of celebrating a decade of menus.

The restaurant is housed on the second floor of an old machine warehouse in the shipyard and is only open for five months out of the year. While the staff changes each year, Matt continues to pay homage to traditional Icelandic ingredients including cod, in which he uses the skin as a chicharron to eliminate food waste. 

Seabirds have been a staple in the diet of Iceland, where there’s a puffin hunting industry. Since the bird is endangered, he chooses not to serve the bird, instead using the eggs of guillemot, a small blackbird, in a new signature dish each season. This year, he scrambled the eggs with an XO sauce and spruce needles. His debut cookbook is “Slippurinn: Recipes and Stories from Iceland.”

Halibut Soup
Serves 4

Halibut soup is one of the few recipes that is only found in Iceland, yet it was very nearly forgotten. Only older Icelanders even remember it being served and most do not have very fond memories of it. Some of the flavours – dried bay leaves, vinegar and prunes – are not particularly Icelandic but were among the first products that were imported to Iceland. The most traditional way of preparing it is to boil the halibut head and bones with milk and other ingredients. To eat it, everyone would suck on the bones right out of the soup. The head of the table, the father, would get the head first, and then the mother and children would follow. I still use my grandmother’s recipe for halibut soup, though I’ve adapted it to the ingredients I have access to. I use fresh herbs that we forage on
Heimaey and also add fresh apples instead of dried apples, which she uses in her version. My grandmother used to put a splash of sherry in her broth, but I serve it on the side. It’s one of the only seafood soups in Iceland that doesn’t have a tomato base and added spices. It’s a rich fish broth that is unique in Iceland and has probably never appeared on a restaurant menu before. If we hadn’t started making it the recipe probably would have faded away over time. Everyone who tastes it at Slippurinn waxes nostalgic – they know they have tasted this odd combination of flavours before, but they can’t pin-point exactly where or when.


  • 20 fresh bay leaves
  • 10 g pink peppercorns
  • 10 g fennel seeds
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 12 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 300 ml Sour Whey Reduction (page 249) or white wine 30 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 3 litres Fish Stock (page 250)
  • 500 ml cream (36% butterfat)
  • 250 ml milk
  • 350 g butter
  • 8 g xanthan gum
  • lemon juice
  • 280 g halibut or other flatfish fillets
  • green apples (we often use blackened apples, see Blackening, page 249)
  • dried fruits, such as prunes
  • parsley oil (see Green Herb Oil, page 244)
  • sea salt


  1. In a mortar crush the bay leaves and grind the peppercorns and fennel seeds with a pestle.
  2. Heat a bit of oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and start to cook, then add the spices.
  3. After cooking for 10 minutes add the sour whey reduction or white wine and the vinegar.
  4. Cook until the whey is almost evaporated.
  5. Add the fish stock and reduce by half.
  6. Add the cream, milk and butter and blend with a stick (immersion) blender.
  7. While blending add the xanthan gum to thicken the soup a bit.
  8. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste.
  9. Right before serving, cut the fish in desired portions and add to the soup. The fish should cook in 2–3 minutes.
  10. While it’s cooking, peel and cut the green apple into about 4-mm (generous 1⁄8-inch) dice.
  11. To serve, put the apple, dried fruit, fish and a bit of parsley oil into shallow bowls, then pour over the soup.

Reprinted from Slippurinn: Recipes & Stories from Iceland by Gisli Matt. © 2021 Phaidon Press

Chef Gísli Matt returned to his hometown to open Slippurinn with his family. The restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer. Photo by ​​Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson.

Slippurinn is set on the second floor of an old machine workshop down in the shipyard of Heimaey. Photo by Karl Petersson.

After fishing, puffin hunting is the second largest industry in Iceland. Chef Gísli Matt refuses to serve the endangered bird on his menu. Photo by Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson.

Slippurinn is located on the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago of Iceland, approximately a two-hour car drive from Reykjavík, and a 40-minute ferry ride. Photo by Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson. 

“Slippurinn: Recipes and Stories from Iceland” preserves Icelandic food traditions and ingredients, while pushing the boundaries of contemporary cuisine. Photo courtesy of Phaidon.



Evan Kleiman