Saturday, April 05, 2014

A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassels and Sariann Lehrer

It seems as all the gods have been smiling in terms of the timing of my post about this book. I was a bit disappointed when I saw that someone else had requested it from the library so I couldn't renew it but, given that I have been reading A Feast for Crows, indulging in watching Season 3 of Game of Thrones this week and Season 4 starts on Monday, the timing really couldn't be better.

This book is actually by two bloggers who started blogging about the food from George R R Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series over at In at the Crossroads and ended up with a book deal. Not only did they get a book deal, it is the officially sanctioned companion cookbook for the series and as such it includes a foreword from George R R Martin, In it he confesses to not being able to cook much at all, which given how much food is mentioned in the books might be a little surprising.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a book for the fans of the series, whether it be the books or the TV series, there are definitely aspects of the book that might be of interest to other people who like to read about historical food.

Let's start with why fans of the series will like the book. The book is broken up into a series of chapters which relate to different lands in Westeros and reflect the individual character traits of that land. For example, the recipes for the section from The Wall are mostly warm and hearty, as you would need if you lived atop a frozen wall whereas the recipes from King's Landing reflect the more cosmopolitan nature of the population, not to mention the feasts in the royal household and Dorne there are lots of spices and fruits. Each of the recipes includes a quote where the particular recipe has been mentioned in the books and there are plenty of pictures so you know what the finished product should look like.

What about from a purely food perspective? Whilst it would have been easy to put in a pie and call it something to do with the books, this is so much more than that. Lots of fantasy has it's basis in medieval history and this is true of a lot of the food in the series. The first section of the book talks about stocking a medieval kitchen and then gives some basic recipes. For example, there are recipes for Elizabethan Butter Sauce which is recommending for serving with small poultry and Lemon Pastry Dough  which sounds like it would be an awesome base for a fruit tart.

In the main recipe section of the book the authors have gone back through history to find dishes and techniques that reflect the dishes mentioned and then provided a modern equivalent for the recipe where possible. Whilst a lot of them are medieval (like Pease Porridge which I thought was just a nursery rhyme thing), there are some that are Roman in origin (Peaches in Honey-Cumin Sauce) and others Elizabethan. There are some recipes where it has not been possible to find a historical recipe so they have made one up but these are clearly marked as such.

One thing I did like was that on each recipe there is a suggestion of other recipes in the book that would work well together, so if you so desired you could easily have a complete Game of Thrones themed menu for you and your friends.

Because you can't just pop down the shops to buy auroch for example, they generally have provided suggestions for substitute ingredients. There are some recipes though that still have some more obscure ingredients like pigeon, rattlesnake and locusts that may be a little difficult to source, let alone to contemplate eating but reading about those are part of the fun. And there are some that will be challenging but it could be fun to try like Cream Swans which are meringues that are shaped to look like swans - an elegant  addition to any dessert menu I am sure!

The big question for a book like this though is could you cook from it, and I think that the answer is most definitely a yes. There are a wide variety of recipes from breakfasts to soups, mains and sides as well as desserts, cakes and drinks. Yes, there are some recipes that you would be unlikely to make (Honey Spiced Locusts anyone?) but there are more than enough that sound delicious enough to try. My list would include:

Buns with Raisins, Pine nuts and Apple
Bean and Bacon soup
Traditional Style oatcakes
Blueberry tart
Poached Pears
Lemon cakes
Tyoshi Honeyfingers

A really good read for fans of the series and for people interesting in comparing historical dishes with modern equivalents.

Rating 4/5


Ever wonder what it’s like to attend a feast at Winterfell? Wish you could split a lemon cake with Sansa Stark, scarf down a pork pie with the Night’s Watch, or indulge in honeyfingers with Daenerys Targaryen? George R. R. Martin’s bestselling saga A Song of Ice and Fire and the runaway hit HBO series Game of Thrones are renowned for bringing Westeros’s sights and sounds to vivid life. But one important ingredient has always been missing: the mouthwatering dishes that form the backdrop of this extraordinary world. Now, fresh out of the series that redefined fantasy, comes the cookbook that may just redefine dinner . . . and lunch, and breakfast.

A passion project from superfans and amateur chefs Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer—and endorsed by George R. R. Martin himself—A Feast of Ice and Fire lovingly replicates a stunning range of cuisines from across the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. From the sumptuous delicacies enjoyed in the halls of power at King’s Landing, to the warm and smoky comfort foods of the frozen North, to the rich, exotic fare of the mysterious lands east of Westeros, there’s a flavor for every palate, and a treat for every chef.

These easy-to-follow recipes have been refined for modern cooking techniques, but adventurous eaters can also attempt the authentic medieval meals that inspired them. The authors have also suggested substitutions for some of the more fantastical ingredients, so you won’t have to stock your kitchen with camel, live doves, or dragon eggs to create meals fit for a king (or a khaleesi). In all, A Feast of Ice and Firecontains more than 100 recipes, divided by region:

The Wall: Rack of Lamb and Herbs; Pork Pie; Mutton in Onion-Ale Broth; Mulled Wine; Pease Porridge
The North: Beef and Bacon Pie; Honeyed Chicken; Aurochs with Roasted Leeks; Baked Apples
The South: Cream Swans; Trout Wrapped in Bacon; Stewed Rabbit; Sister’s Stew; Blueberry Tarts
King’s Landing: Lemon Cakes; Quails Drowned in Butter; Almond Crusted Trout; Bowls of Brown; Iced Milk with Honey
Dorne: Stuffed Grape Leaves; Duck with Lemons; Chickpea Paste
Across the Narrow Sea: Biscuits and Bacon; Tyroshi Honeyfingers; Wintercakes; Honey-Spiced Locusts

There’s even a guide to dining and entertaining in the style of the Seven Kingdoms. Exhaustively researched and reverently detailed, accompanied by passages from all five books in the series and full-color photographs guaranteed to whet your appetite, this is the companion to the blockbuster phenomenon that millions of stomachs have been growling for. And remember, winter is coming—so don’t be afraid to put on a few pounds.

Includes a Foreword by George R. R. Martin
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  1. What a great tie-in for this wildly popular series.

  2. I have yet to succumb to this series, either the books or the show, but I suspect it will happen (and I'll wonder why I waited so long). I love that the authors put so much history into this book. Pease Porridge, who knew?

    1. Exactly my reaction. I would never have even thought to try to make a modern version of Pease Pudding.

  3. This sounds lovely. I think living in the south would have been great. Cream swans, mmmm. :)

    1. Yes, I think my natural pallette is for Kings Landing or the South.

  4. I am so behind the times - haven't got into Game of Thrones at all yet! Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  5. This sounds like a very unique and interesting cookbook.

  6. Wow, wow, wow. I **must** own this book! I think I'd love it as fan of the books/show, as a cook, and for the historical feel to the recipes.

  7. Sounds like a perfect cookbook for fans of the series.

    1. For fans of the series and even for those who aren't!

  8. I used to follow this blog! I thought the whole basis of it was so fantastic. Glad they got the book deal :)

  9. This sounds like the perfect gift for a GoT fanatic - and I know a few of those. I too would stay away from locusts, but some of those recipes you picked out sound delicious!

  10. How intriguing. Definitely don't fancy the locusts!
    Lynn :D