Monday, March 4, 2013

Medieval Cooking, pt. 1

The popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones returns for a third season later this month, and to celebrate, I'm trying to put together a themed dinner. This is something I've done before; when I was a meat eater I did a Skyrim-inspired stew to celebrate the game's release.

To do this month's themed meal, I have some help from an awesome cookbook my friend got me as a gift- A Feast of Ice and Fire, the official companion cookbook of the series, written by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, two women after my own heart.

I love this book, and if you're thinking about picking it up yourself, I will encourage you for several reasons:
1.) For a glossy, thick hardcover, it's very reasonably priced.

2.) The dishes are translated from authentic period recipes, from sources like the Forme of Cury (the writings of King Richard II's master cooks) but most of them also come with easy to follow modern updates, so you can choose between authenticity or availability of ingredients. Many of us don't have galangal and pigeon breast just lying around...

3.) Each dish is also accompanied by a quote from the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, great for fans of the story.

4.) The recipes are all beautifully photographed. I admit to having one of my first pangs of meat-eating envy at the sight of the rabbit stew in this book.

After a cheeky foreword by George R.R. Martin, the opening section gives instructions for stocking a medieval kitchen, and covers some of the basic components such as spice blends, preparing pastry dough, making a basic roux for sauces, etc. My first task was to mix the two most common period spices, Poudre Douce (sweet powder) and Poudre Forte (strong powder).

McCormick Gourmet Collection spice jars are relics of the past, right?

I made my own custom labels, and if you have some empty jars lying around and want to have the same ones, I made a free PDF you can download and use to print your own.

Also, there's a certain amount of flexibility with period recipes- because nothing was manufactured en masse back then, no two kitchens had the exact same spice blends. For Poudre Douce, think classic apple pie spices, and Poudre Forte is a similar blend sans sugar with a higher ratio of ginger and clove.

The next step will be trying out some of the recipes and creating a menu. I have a few ideas so far... also, **UPDATE: I just saw that the book's authors provide a convenient Game of Thrones party planning idea list on their blog, Inn at the Crossroads.

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