I’ve come lately to be a fan of the Game of Thrones, having first read the historical novels by Maurice Druon upon which GOT author George R.R. Martin used as a basis for his Medieval fantasy novels which are now a long running TV series. The original books by Druon are based upon real life of the French monarchy in the 14th century. For those who think GOT is violent, yes, it is. But the actual history of The Accursed Kings series with their titles like The Strangled Queen (yes she was strangled because her royal husband wanted a new wife) and She-Devil, written between 1955 to 1977, are just as bloody only it really happened.
In between all the intrigues and the battles, it’s fascinating to read descriptions of the foods they ate both in series. But two GOT fans, Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, have taken it so much further. Diving deep into Medieval culinary history and recipes they have written A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook (Bantam $35) which has more than 100 recipes, divided by the kingdoms and regions found in the book. These include The South where Cream Swans (yes, they ate swans back then), Trout Wrapped in Bacon, Stewed Rabbit and Blueberry Tarts were on the menu. In King’s Landing characters dined on Quails Drowned in Butter and in Dorne dinner offerings included Duck with Lemons. The authors also detail from which book each of the recipes is taken—such as the shrimp and persimmon soups and peaches in honey featured in A Clash of Kings. If you go to their Website, innatthecrossroads.com, they also divide them by categories (breakfast, pies and savory tarts, etc.). There’s a recipe for Blandissory served in A Storm of Swords described by the authors as “a great example of how sweet and savory elements are often combined in a medieval dish. The chicken and broth, and to some extent even the wine are more commonly served as savory dishes, while cinnamon, ginger, and honey are more often associated with sweet dishes, like cookies and desserts.”
They then go on to add that “this dish is quirky, and while not especially appealing in appearance, it is actually quite tasty. The almond and rice flours thicken the broth to a consistency just shy of a medium gravy. The chicken is wonderfully soft and flavorful, a great textural counterpoint to the occasional crunch of the almonds.”
I got the chance to talk to Monroe-Cassel, who lives near Windsor, Vermont and is just finishing up The World of Warcraft Cookbook, based on the popular game and soon to be released movie.
“It was a whirlwind of a year,” she says, adding that they did extensive research into historic recipes and ingredients. “But one of the things that makes Martin’s books so compelling is that they’re based on actual events and are so detailed.”
Monroe-Cassel says that writing the cookbook was the closest she’s come to using her degree in the classics but it also meant overcoming such issues as the difference between the way recipes were written back then and now.
“I laugh because we found one recipe for goat which basically said take a goat, split it in half and roast it until it’s done,” she says.
Asked what are some of her favorite recipes from the book, Monroe-Cassel says she really likes the Custard Sauce in the Castle Black section which she describes as a pourable custard.
“The soups are pretty easy and Sister Stew is very popular,” she says. “But the ultimate favorite is the Honeyed Chicken.”
For those who don’t keep a pantry filled with ingredients common 800 or so years ago, there’s also a section called “Stocking Your Medieval Kitchen” which tells how to properly prepare your kitchen for recreating the recipes. Many of the ingredients and recipes are neither too difficult or expensive and the authors, who go into amazing detail, give modern substitutes for Medieval ingredients. Take aurochs for example. Use beef or bison instead as aurochs are an extinct type of cattle.
Two spices Monroe-Cassel says they really came to appreciate are long pepper which are about an inch long and have a much sharper taste than the black pepper most of us use with a faster taste giving it more of a kick. Another is grains of paradise, a type of pepper that Monroe-Cassel says at one time was worth its weight in gold.
“It’s smaller than a peppercorn and is spicier with a fruitier undertone,” she says noting that many of these old spices are gaining in popularity because artisan brewers are using them.
Where appropriate many of the recipes are two-fold write the authors–a modern recipe and a traditional recipe more in keeping with the quasi-medieval setting of the series.
Recipe for 17th C. Pumpkin Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie
The original recipe: Tourte of pumpkin – Boile it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin. Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it. After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve. -Le Vrai Cuisinier Francois, 1653.
The authors’ modern version.
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1 stick butter
ice cold water, just enough
1 cup warm milk
2-3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup turbinado sugar, plus extra for sprinkling over the top
2 cups pumpkin (1 pound)
2 tablespoons ground almonds
Prep the crust by rubbing the butter into the flour. Add the salt, egg yolk, and just enough water to bring the dough together. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Line a pie pan with it, and crimp the edges into a decorative design.
Combine the warm milk and melted butter. Pour over the sugar and stir until there are no grains of sugar remaining. Stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing the filling thoroughly. Pour this into the prepared (but not prebaked) pie shell.
Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes, or until the filling seems set. Allow to cool before slicing.
Based on Apicius’ Ancient Roman recipe
1 whole chicken for roasting
1 tablespoon olive oil/butter
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup honey
Dash of mint, dried or fresh (abt. 1 tsp.)
Small handful of raisins
1 tablespoons butter
Rub the chicken down with olive oil/butter and salt. This makes the skin crispy and delicious. Cook in an oven at 450 degrees F for approximately an hour, or until the juices run clear, and the thick meat of the breast is no longer pink.
While your chicken is roasting away in the oven, combine all ingredients in saucepan and allow to simmer until the raisins plump and the sauce reduces slightly. Remove from heat, and when the chicken is done, spread the sauce and raisins over the bird.
Root Soup Recipe
Sprig of thyme
1 chopped burdock root (about 2 cups)
1 cup chopped celeriac root
1 inch diced horseradish root
2 cloves garlic
1/4 pound salt pork, cut into small flakes
1/2 cup grains, such as barley or bulgur
1 bottle beer
Combine all ingredients in a pot. Simmer for 3 hours.
Leave chunky or blend. I left half chunky and blended the other half to make it creamy.
Consider serving with a bit of bread and cheese.