A simple stock made from lamb, root vegetables and cabbage makes a mildly flavored yet satisfying stew called Kjötsúpa.

A simple Icelandic stew with origins back to the Vikings, kjötsúpa (literally, “meat soup”) is a basic lamb stew with few seasonings beyond salt and black pepper. From a land bare of many resources, nothing but quality lamb on the bone and local root vegetables are enough to build the subtle flavors enjoyed for centuries.

Icelandic lamb is of a breed that is leaner than other species of sheep and may be difficult to source, but a local lamb shank or shoulder cut with bone should be sufficient. The bone is the essential part, as the meat on the bone is stewed to form a subtle lamb stock that is meatier than chicken stock but much lighter than stocks made from beef.

Potatoes and carrots are cold-weather staples, along with other root vegetables and hearty greens like cabbage. Garlic is not a usual ingredient in most Nordic recipes but it does lend enough of an aromatic note with the onion to keep the soup bright instead of heavy. Too many herbs or other strong spices are discouraged, as the natural flavors are left to the other traditional ingredients.

The one unusual or unfamiliar element here may be the rutabaga, or cabbage turnip (a cross-breed between the two). Also known as a “swede” or “neep,” the rutabaga has a yellow-orange flesh with a taste somewhere between a carrot and a potato. Less starchy then even a Yukon Gold, it is slightly sweet and has a soft, creamy texture when boiled. In centuries past, Europeans would carve them as jack o’lanterns for Halloween.

Brown rice is added here during the boil to add bulk and as a thickening agent, but it is not traditional nor required (more authentic recipes call for flaked oats). Also more traditional for Iceland is to remove the cooked lamb and potatoes and serve them plated separately along with the finished soup.

Serve with crusty bread for soaking up the broth. The soup should continue to improve even after a day or more properly stored in the refrigerator.


2-3 lb lamb (with bone)
1/3 c brown rice
1 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
4 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 carrots
1 rutabaga
¼ head of cabbage
½ t thyme
½ t oregano
olive oil
black pepper

1 Brown the lamb pieces in hot oil over medium heat. Mince the garlic and slice the onion, and add both to the lamb, briefly sautéing the aromatics.

2 Add the rice and 6 c water and bring to a boil (skim off the froth as it rises). Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for at least 40 min.

3 Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks, cut the carrots into coins, dice the rutabaga, and roughly chop the cabbage. Add the vegetables to the pot along with the seasonings and continue to simmer until tender, about another 20 min.

4 Remove the meat and bones. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat and return to the pot. Season to taste.


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