Lemon Cakes

Today I made Sansa’s favored dessert, Lemon Cakes.

My neighbor dropped off some fresh lemons from her tree and the first thing I thought about was Sansa and her love for lemon cakes. So I went and had a look at the book and found the recipe and luckily I had everything on hand to make them, well the recipe is really easy so that was no big hurdle.

The Elisabethan recipe asked for two cups of sugar, but I only put one cup to suit my own taste, I do not like it too sweet and it was perfect for me. I also swapped the milk in the icing for some of that delicious lemon juice instead to make the cakes/cookies even more lemony. Both tweaks worked out very well and I already munched on some of them to test of course, hahaha.

The lemons smelled so good and while I was zesting them the aroma came out even more so, even my little cat came to investigate in the kitchen… Verily the end result was very nice and I can see why the ladies in King’s Landing are so fond of them. They remind me of tea shops in London and biscuits with my grandma in the garden, they do have an air of times gone past.

I did share some with my neighbor to thank her for the basket of lemons in the first place. I baked about half the cookies and the rest are in the freezer to be baked per order whenever I have a hankering for lemon cakes like Sansa.

Medieval Applecakes

Today I made these delicious Applecakes, since I have a full basket of apples in the kitchen.

The recipe actually came from a German version and I enjoyed reading the original old German excerpt that Chelsea and Sariann added to the page. The Krapfen, as it is called, is something I am very familiar with and I remember the bakeries back home always making special ones for different seasonal holidays.

Faschingkrapfen (big soft doughnuts with jam in the middle) for carnival and Mohnkrapfen (poppyseed filling in a krispy pastry) for Easter, even Kastanienkrapfen (chestnut filling in crispy pastry) in the fall for the close of the harvest season. They still make them in my hometown today. So this really brought me home and I felt like I was baking with my grams again, I’m sure she was looking over my shoulder…

The only change I made was using Oatmilk instead of real milk, since I had that in the house and I fried them in coconut oil, which made them really light and crispy, but soft in the middle. I got a lot more than 24 out of the batch and spread the goodness with my neighbors. I still have some of the filling too, I guess my apples where more large than medium. I’ll use it for something else, yummilischious.

I am so not surprised Jon and Sam stuffed themselves with these, I tried one just after they cooled down enough to eat and had two more while taking these pictures and preparing the ones I gave away. They are so light and tasty, they go down real easy and since they are small there is always space for one more.

The pastry turned out nice and fluffy and it puffed right up in the oil, I am rather proud how they turned out. Not to sweet, but just right, I love it when recipes don’t overdo it with the sugar, it makes the difference and you can enjoy them so much more.

Buttered Beets

I love beets, hot or cold, by themselves or in a stew or salad, I just love them.

My grandmother used to make beet salad a lot, it was kind of a staple in my house. I guess I have an emotional attachment to beets from my childhood because of that. But it does not take away the goodness of this vegetable root or its healthy composition of minerals and vitamins.

So obviously when I saw this recipe in the book I had to try it, and it did not disappoint, indeed how can you go wrong with beets and butter, really… I love that they kept this recipe so basic and with minimal spices, because it is perfect for people who do not know beets as much as those like me who can’t get enough of them.

This last year when we moved into the garden of California, where they grow every vegetable known to mankind, I found my favored farm to buy from and they have beets almost all year round. I also discovered beet greens, which I never had before, mostly you get beets just by themselves in the supermarkets and even when they have the leaves, they are mostly rotten and unusable. I really never knew they where so delicious in salads or as greens with olive oil and Parmesan. So I discovered new ways to enjoy them, thanks to this book really.

I even tried to grow them myself, but unfortunately I was no good at that. My pots, I do not have a plot of land to plant them, which is really what they need. So I had a lot of beet greens, which I used in my salads, but the roots never really grew any bigger than a walnut…oh well, I still ate them though.

Beets, like turnips and potatoes, are great for long storage and keep fresh if you live in the North, so it makes sense that they would be featured so prominently in George RR Martin’s books. I bet Aria was like me and loved eating beets, I can just see her sticking out a bright red tongue at her sister at the table.

Modern Turnips in Butter

Last winter I discovered my new favored vegetables, turnips, with this recipe and ever since then I can not get enough of their sweet taste.

I was looking for a recipe for a nice dinner with friends and I always wondered about turnips, as they feature so prominently in a lot of books where the story is situated in a medieval setting as is the Ice and Fire series. They always sounded so yummy and when my local farm had them for sale before Thanksgiving I took the chance and bought a lot to try some of the recipes featured in this book.

I had already decided on making the buttered beets, but wanted to add something else to the table, so I decided on the more modern approach for the turnips, just to mix things up a bit. We where also in process of changing our diet over to a more plant base and cutting out meat and other animal products or at least reducing the latter to a bare minimum. I will not compromise a recipe with substitutions however, so I still followed the instructions with the butter and milk. I believe in keeping the integrity of a recipe, unless I know it well and decide to experiment, but such a path would be counterproductive when trying a new recipe as it makes the exercise of judging its taste impossible.

I was very glad for it as it turned out to be a very good recipe and I have been using turnips in stews and best of all in my curries. The sweetness of the turnip complements the spiciness of the curry and cayenne and makes it a perfect candidate for them.

But back to this recipe, It was very tasty and a nice change from a regular mashed potato type dish. I would have loved to have my friends taste it, but due to the pandemic getting its second wind at the beginning of the winter months, they had to decline the invitation on short notice the day before the dinner. Not to worry, the mashed turnips where enjoyed by us for a few extra days and quite happily I might add…

I can well imagine that turnips where grown and used in the North, at Winterfell as well as the Wall and every farm and castle in the land. It grows quite well in the cooler climates and keeps for a long time in a good cellar, making it a good staple for the area. Root and leaves are delicious and full of goodness where nutrition is concerned. A winner if I may say so all round.

Medieval Pie Crust Base

Every pie starts with a base crust recipe and a filling, pretty simple and so versatile.

In “A Feast of Ice and Fire” there also is a pie crust dough recipe that can be used for various recipes. So its important to get the basics mastered right away and everything else will just go so much easier. This base recipe is just as simple and easy to follow and the possibilities are endless. Once you have your pie crust you can stuff it with any combination of meat, veggies and fruit you can come up with and make a special dish for any occasion.

You can leave it as an open pie or with a cover and use some of the dough to decorate and make shapes and forms to symbolize the seasons or holidays or any special occasion you desire. In the middle ages they even used to bake empty pie shells to fill with living doves or other birds and animals to break out of the pie as a showpiece at kings tables to WOW their guests… There is no denying the versatility of this simple pie crust and it can be just a plain paupers supper or a nobleman’s piece de resistance.

The trick is in getting the pie crust recipe down to a tee and balancing the ingredients so that once baked it will be soft enough to eat but with enough crunch to have some bite. The inside layer can be sweet or savory, or both and make the pie a main or dessert. It is an easy preparation and good ingredients are always key. Fresh butter and eggs, good flour and maybe salt or a herb or spice. Keep it simple and let the filling be the main flavor and your pies will always be a success.

Pies are great for dinner parties, but they also keep really well and can be reheated and used for snacks. You can bake a large pie to cut in sections at a table or bake small hand pies to give each person their own little pie. Those go really well for lunch boxes and travel as the small size and enclosed pie is easy to transport or eat on the go. In England and Australia they are a favored at many street vendors and bakeries for people to grab and still as popular today as they where in the past.

I can just imagine when any of the Rangers have to go beyond the Wall or on trips to Kings Landing they stock up on a bunch of those pies for the road…

Iced Blueberries in Créme Bastarde

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Even at the Wall they have a delicious dessert, frozen berries and cream are a treat no matter what the temperature outside says.

And what a treat it is, it reminds me of when I was a child and my parents would take me on hikes up the mountains and then we would find a nice spot in the woods and collect fresh berries all summer. Naturally I ate more that I collected, my mother knew full well, but those bushes full of juicy goodness where better than any nanny, while she was always within eyesight and did the real work… As I grew older I started being part of the gatherers more and more and now I wish I could go to forage in those woods again, but alas I am so very far away.

However thank goodness for farmers markets and other places where these woodland treasures are available year round and give us a chance to recreate any dish like magic. The créme was interesting as it is made with cream and egg-white to froth it up. As you pour it over the frozen berries it freezes while unfreezing the berries to soften them just enough to make every bite absolutely heavenly. Genius really, those black brothers might not be great chefs from KingsLanding, but they still could whip up something mouthwatering to spread some happiness along the Wall.

It is quite remarkable how simple dishes can have such an incredible impact on us. Again this recipe was super easy to make and such a little show stopper. I will definitely use this for a friends dinner as soon as this whole Covid19 drama is over and we can have out wonderful gatherings once more. I miss sharing food and wine with my friends and it is not half as much fun to cook just for us two. But at least there is two of us and all I have to do is just adjust the recipes to a smaller amount where possible.

I still have some of that Medieval Pork Pie in the freezer waiting to be devoured…some recipes can’t be made smaller. The upside of that is that they last longer and you can whip up a great dinner in just a few minutes. Even at the Wall they knew how to utilize that formidable structure to serve as such a mundane feature as refrigerator to preserve food. Ice is what they had in spades and it did come in handy in a number of ways.

Medieval Pease Porridge

How about a nice pease porridge to go with the pork pie to give you a real taste of medieval cooking and imagine yourself at the table at Castle Black?

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Winter Solstice, then with some old fashion dishes to put you in the mood and remind us how far we have come. I am always very grateful to have a choice to go back in time for fun and not for real, as much as it would be quite the adventure, I think that we would not be cut out to deal with most of the living conditions back then, no matter how easy going we might be. It was a different world and even though we romanticize about castles and knights and long flowing dresses, reality would be very different from our imagination I should think.

Life at the Wall was not like Jon had imagined it either and he most definitely had a heroic and valiant picture in his head when he signed up for the NightsWatch. Unfortunately for him it did not turn out to be the fairy tale he had hoped and he had to learn the hard way how life at the end of the known world really was. Cold, very cold and drab, beggars and thieves and worse, not heroes and knights. The Watch was run down, a shadow of its former self, Castle Black no more than a fixed up ruin and the Wildlings where not the real enemy, but something much darker and menacing and much, much older was reawakening in the great expanse of the North beyond the Wall. Something no one believed in…

But what about the food, well this too was not all feasts and banquets, but pease porridge and mutton and stale bread. This dish was probably one of my least favored so far. A bit blah and I guess I am not a great fan of peas I suppose. The Poudre Douce was a nice touch as was the saffron, but all the flavor in the world couldn’t save the peas from their boring selves, maybe fresh peas would make the difference, I don’t know. Lucky there was lots of mulled wine to wash them down.

We are so lucky today to have the possibilities to play with the epochs this world has gone through and only pick the best of those times to live our fantasies and fairy tales. So it is with the food we eat and we have a myriad of choices and do not have to relay on pease porridge for sustenance!

But one bad egg will not stop me from my culinary journey and we shall soldier on to better and brighter things.

Medieval Pork Pie

This last Winter Solstice celebration I decided to make this lovely old fashioned pork pie.

The recipe was surprising with the dates, currants and honey, definitely a sweet meat pie, but interestingly it actually works really well with the pork. I decided that I would use the fresh vine dried raisins instead of the currants for the simple reason that I already had those and they where so much better that the currants would have been and also more healthy since they where naturally dried on the vine, not with a forced process. As usual the recipe was easy to do, even with the preparation of the medieval pastry dough.

For the crust decorations I used my cookie cutters and themed it with the five pointed star, a bell and a pine tree as to represent yule and winter as a spiritual feast. We started it off with a mug of piping hot mulled wine and then a great beet green salad and then the pork pie with pease porridge. For dessert we had a plate full of special Christmas cookies, traditional recipes from my grand mother that I brought to the States with me over 20 years ago, very typical for my hometown area. You only get these at Christmas time and I have always stuck to that rule, so they will continue to be special every year.

But back to the pork pie, since there is only two of us we had a generous slice each and the rest I pre-cut and froze for future delight. This way we won’t over eat and enjoy the pie another day again. Unfortunately this last year with Covid19 I was not able to invite my friends to celebrate the festivities and share the meal as we used to do. So we save the remnants for another time and wait for the moment that we can all feast together again.

On this note I wish all of you a very Happy New Year and lots of health and a wish for all to reunite with their family and friends as soon as maybe, for there are some great recipes to continue on our journey through Westeros and traveling is so much more fun in good company, as is eating and drinking…

Southron Mulled Wine

What is Yule or Christmas without some great hot mulled wine?

This recipe was exactly what I needed to start the Yule and Christmas cheer at Winter Solstice night. A couple of glasses later we where all happy and toasty warm…

The one thing I would note is the accumulation of the sediment of pulp and spices at the bottom of the mug is quite significant, but easily resolved with a quick pass through the sieve. I was so lucky to find some blood oranges for the juice and I can recommend the added flavor of the orange zest from the skin of the orange. I poured in some nice cognac for the extra kick portion and it paired perfectly with the rest. I used a Merlot this time as we drank the Cabernet the night before by mistake and it turned out to be a great combination. This mix has a good balance of sweet and savory to complement the wine without making it sickly sweet as many bought store versions tend to be and as added bonus this also makes the mulled wine a lot stronger than they usually are when you buy them, so win win here. I will most definitely keep this recipe at hand for cold winter nights, especially as I could not travel home to attend the Christmas markets, where walking with a hot steaming mug of mulled wine is just what you do. No markets this year, but at least they had some snow that transformed the town into a winter wonderland, just looking at the pictures from my friends and family on FB made me homesick. Snow is usually all around but not necessarily in town, so this was a special treat for them.

Can’t wait to try the other version of the mulled wine as well to see which I prefer. I bet they are both delicious so I will just keep making them both.

Poudre Forte & Poudre Douce

To cook recipes going back to medieval times you come across a few things that we no longer use in our modern kitchen.

Poudre Forte and Poudre Douce are two common spice mixes that permeate throughout the Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook and you have to have them if you want the real experience of those flavors. So I went and had a look at the spices needed to make these two mixes and I found these amazing websites to order from.

Mountain Rose Herbs, https://mountainroseherbs.com/ and The Spice House, https://www.thespicehouse.com/. Between these two I found everything I needed and then some to stock my medieval kitchen and kitchen witchery cabinets. It was so interesting doing the research on the spices and rediscover some history of cooking. We take the spice shelf we know today for granted and are used to certain things we can easily buy at the supermarket, but then there is all this other world out there that is waiting for us to taste. I am so glad I am on this journey.

So the recipes in the book make a batch of each, poudre douce and forte, you can see from the picture that the batches yield quite different amounts. This was interesting because you would not suspect that from just reading the recipe. Lucky for me I tend to keep lots of glass containers and old spice containers just for such use. I love to repurpose things and I would really love to have the space for an old apothecary shelf or cabinet to display all my jars full of spices and herbs. It would look so amazing and mysterious.

Now I am finally ready to tackle some of those recipes with the spice mixes in them and I can’t wait.