Dinner is Coming – A Song of Sugar and Spice

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Dinner is Coming – A Song of Sugar and Spice

If you’re anything like me, you took a little extra time while reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire to visualize the passages in which he describes the foods of his world. He pays special attention to describing the meals in loving detail, encouraging my inner fatty to fantasize about shoveling all of that food into my face while sitting next to some of my favorite characters from the books.

Apparently Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer felt the same way, as they set out to recreate the meals described by Martin throughout the novels. The resulting cookbook, A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook, is quite delightful.

These ladies really did their research, converting original medieval recipes to accommodate the modern kitchen. The cookbook itself is organized by the geographical regions in Martin’s world, from as far North as the Wall, South to Dorne, and even across the Narrow Sea to Meereen and Tyrosh.  Where possible, the authors include the original medieval recipe as well as suggested pairings with other recipes to create delicious, authentic meals. I also plan on actually eating all of them – even the Honey Spiced Locusts and Fiery Dornish Rattlesnake.

I will be quite honest and include both opinions of these dishes’ taste and those of whomever I can find to eat these dishes with me. Chelsea and Sariann also have their own blog where you can find some of the recipes they are working on. They also give commentary and pointers on their recipes. I would like to do something along those lines, but you will be receiving advice and commentary from a complete, self-confessed amateur.

Oftentimes when I read a recipe, I find myself wanting a slightly “simpler” explanation of what is going on – the chef who wrote the recipe obviously knows what they are doing, but I don’t always know what they mean! Hopefully knowing that someone out there is picking up this cookbook for the first time, and learning to cook these dishes for the first time will encourage you to buy the cookbook and try it out for yourself!

cookbookphoto

To get started, I made the two “staple” powders that are used throughout the entire cookbook to have on hand. I was able to find all of these ingredients at my local grocery store and they weren’t as expensive as I feared they would be.

The first is a Poudre Douce (“Sweet Powder,”) used in desserts as well as some savory dishes and beverages. For this powder you need:

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grains of paradise
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • a pinch of galangal
  • 1 cup of sugar

I didn’t recognize grains of paradise or galangal were, nor could I find them in my local grocery store, so I substituted a smaller measurement of black pepper for the grains of paradise, and added a little more nutmeg for the galangal, as the Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook suggests. For the pinch of nutmeg I used 1/8 of a teaspoon. You simply combine all of these into an airtight container and stash it away to use later.

Since I have a sugar problem and can never resist the temptation to eat some, I tried some of the powder by itself, and it is actually pretty delightful. It is very light and tastes like what you would want to find on the top of a homemade muffin.

The second powder is a Poudre Forte, which translates to “Strong Powder.” For this one you need:

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

If you wanted a bit more bite, you could add 1 teaspoon of long pepper or grains of paradise.

Again, just mix these into an airtight jar for later use. I was personally familiar with all of these spices except for the ground mace, so I decided to taste a bit of it by itself.

Don’t do that.

It tastes like a peppery, gingery carrot, which on it’s own was not a very pleasant thing. But combined, the finished product is much better. The pepper and ginger give it a strong bite, which the cinnamon and cloves help to soften. Still, I wouldn’t recommend sitting down with a spoon and this jar in your lap.

Spices

Poudre Douce & Poudre Forte

With the basics out of the way, I was excited to do some actual cooking!

One of the first things I was eager to try was the Mulled Wine mentioned repeatedly in the books. The recipe in the A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook and the recipe on the blog differ slightly (here is the recipe from the blog) Here is the recipe that I followed:

1 bottle inexpensive red wine, 1 1/2 tablespoons Poudre Douce, Handful  each of dried cranberries,  raisins, and almonds.

Mulled WIne Recipe

Mulled Wine Recipe

I used a Cabernet Sauvignon, and added 1/4 cup each of cranberries and raisins. Since almonds aren’t my favorite I only threw in a few to get an idea for the flavor. Bring the wine to a simmer, then add in the Poudre Douce, berries, and nuts. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The powder settled to the bottom, so when ladling out your servings be careful not to grab any. After a bit of reduction through simmering a single bottle yielded about four servings. If you are making this for a larger party, double the recipe as necessary.

The result was exactly as I hoped it would be. Sweet powder and the berries significantly heightened the wine’s flavor. A heavenly smell filled my kitchen during simmering, and I could barely tear myself away from the stove long enough to get anything else done. The flavor and warmth of the wine and spices played together in the most delicious way possible. If I could, I would carry around a travel mug full everywhere I went, but professors tend to frown on their students drinking wine during class.

Medieval Mulled Wine

Medieval Mulled Wine

Nicole Carter, Guest Writer