Recreated from 'Kings of the Wyld' by Nicholas Eames
Poor Gabe looked as though he’d been stabbed. Clay half-expected that disbelief to boil over into anger, but Gabriel just shook his head and returned his attention to the untouched plate before him. Kallorek called for a servant to take Valery to her room. The three of them ate dessert (a chocolate pie topped with chopped almonds and whipped cream) and sipped sweet red beer in mildly uncomfortable silence.
For a moment, let’s pretend I have an enchanted hat that will give me food on demand (a delightful fantasy). As appealing as the many dishes of Nicholas Eames’ ‘Kings of the Wyld’ sound – rabbit and mushroom stew, breakfast banquets at the table of a king, thick slabs of salted pork belly, crispy-skinned chicken, a staggering variety of jams – this chocolate pie would have to be my first choice out of the hat, even accompanied by the most uncomfortable of silences. I put a strawberry ‘Rose’ at the centre of mine just to make sure I didn’t lose sight of what’s important beyond my favourite brother-in-arms, chocolate.
Ingredients (serves 5 very hungry bandmates or 8 regular people)
For the pastry:
For the chocolate filling:
If having to chew your chocolate just seems like too much effort, try my chocolatl from Philip Pullman's 'The Book of Dust'.
Recreated from The Wolf of Oren-yaro by K.S. Villoso
He returned with two steaming bowls. They were filled to the brim with white rice, topped with scrambled eggs and thick, yellow curry sauce. It was sprinkled with chopped green onions. My first real meal in two days was heavenly. I couldn’t even tell if Khine was a decent cook or not—I was just that hungry. It was a good thing he had included the chopsticks when he gave me my bowl, or I would’ve just dug in with my fingers and made a fool out of myself. I found myself asking for seconds, which Khine readily obliged. I washed it all down with the promised milk tea, which had since grown cold. It tasted faintly of jasmine and toasted rice.
I like to think of rice in K.S. Villoso’s The Wolf of Oren-yaro as a character in its own right; it has quite a story to tell. Affected by seasonal storms, it becomes a subject of debate for ambitious warlords and a thorn in Bitch Queen Talyien’s backside. It has regional characteristics with something to say about diversity in Talyien’s world (‘Oren-yaro rice is grainier than the sought-after fragrant variety grown in the Sougen region’). Served well, it shows how very magnanimous Talyien can be (“If you continue to serve these rice balls for breakfast, you may keep [your head].”) And for a bonus, it comes in several intriguing guises – rice balls, steamed rice buns, rice coffee, herbed rice porridge and as a purple rice cake. Rather graciously, it also lays itself down as a bed on which other food can shine, variously appearing in cahoots with barbecued eels and pickles, soured white fish with leeks and pig’s-ear mushrooms, a hot and sour soup made of beef leg bones, and fish in a black bean sauce. Yum! My favourite, though, is the meal quoted above because it brings uncomplicated delight in the plot and in real life – like Talyien, we all went back for seconds too (and I got to keep my head).
For the curry sauce (serves 3-4):
For the rice (per person):
For the scrambled egg (per person):
To serve (per person):
For the curry sauce:
For the rice:
For the scrambled egg:
Note: My hob has heat settings from 1-6, I cook scrambled eggs on 4.
Recreated from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The third day was much the same. We passed the time pleasantly, not in long conversation, but more often watching the scenery, saying whatever happened to come to our minds. That night we stopped at a wayside inn where Reta bought fodder for the horses and a few other supplies.
Reta retired early with her husband, telling each of us that she'd arranged for our dinners and beds with the innkeeper. The former was quite good, bacon and potato soup with fresh bread and butter. The latter was in the stables, but it was still a long sight better than what I was used to ...
I share Kvothe’s fondness for taverns (‘a safe place, a refuge of sorts’), especially at this moment in time with a bellyful of slow-roasted pork and crackling from our local inn. The inn food served up in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind seems a bit hit-or-miss though, ranging from the ‘quite good’ to the unequivocally ‘lovely’. Here’s what some of the Chronicle's establishments are serving:
At a ‘little dockside inn’
Eggs with sausages and fried potatoes
At a ‘slightly grubby in Waterside’
A ‘real breakfast’ of eggs, ham, bread, honey, butter and milk.
From the Laughing Man Inn
‘A whole flask of spiced wine and a loaf of fresh bread nestled next to a turkey breast bigger than both my balled fists.’
At the Horse and Four
A ‘lovely dinner of venison steak with a leaf salad and a bowl of delicately spiced tomato soup. There were fresh peaches and plums and white bread with sweet cream butter’, served with ‘an excellent dark Vintish wine’.
At a ‘wayside inn’
Horse fodder. Also some ‘quite good’ bacon and potato soup with fresh bread and butter.
At the Waystone Inn
Naturally, with such high praise, I felt compelled to make the bacon and potato soup. My father-in-law was the one to introduce me to the idea of lightly mashing the potatoes and, had the wayside inn known his trick, Kvothe’s verdict may have been elevated to a ‘lovely’ there too.
Ingredients (serves 4)
Serve with fresh bread and butter.
Recreated from The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
'We'd buy bread, if you have some,' he said simply. 'Milk, if you have that. Or just water.'
'Sweet water or salt?' she said in response, and laughed a harsh laugh. 'You're in luck, for I have milk, and bread, and curd cakes hot from the oven. If you've money for it.'
Food in Anna Smith Spark’s The Court of Broken Knives is an emblem of the book’s wider preoccupations; where there’s food, there’s death, disgust, desire, decadence and a modest dose of pleasure.
If that's not an invitation to eat cake, I don't know what is.
If I can be loose with sugar varieties, all the ingredients can be found in the book itself.
Ingredients (makes 6 tartlets but can be scaled easily to multiples of 3)
For the cakes:
Serve with natural yoghurt to heighten the sourness; serve with vanilla ice cream to heighten the sweetness.
Recreated from Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell
Not knowing what else to do, I picked up one of the butter biscuits. I was going to put it in his paw, but he'd already stuck it back under the water, and instead opened up his fuzzy little mouth. I deposited the biscuit there and was soon treated to the sound of a squirrel cat nibbling on a butter biscuit while moaning rapturously. 'Oh yeah,' he mumbled, the words sounding garbled on account of all the chewing noises. 'This is how I want to spend my life from now on.'
Confession: this is shortbread. I can only hope said squirrel cat would eat them anyway (they are very buttery), and not my eyeballs in retribution. Unlike my butter biscuits inspired by Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch, these will withstand a thoroughly good dunking. I'd suggest tea, not bathwater.
These taste significantly better (more buttery) after an evening's rest, so make a day ahead. They'll last for up to a month in an airtight container.
Ingredients (makes 12)
Equipment: mixing bowl, wooden spoon for beating, rolling pin, biscuit cutter (appr. 6cm diameter), baking tray, fork
Recreated from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Dinner in the Mess was brown bread with butter, stew, and beans. Manet was there, his wild hair making him look like a great white wolf. Simmon and Sovoy groused idly about the food, making grim speculations as to what manner of meat was in the stew. To me, less that a span away from the streets of Tarbean, it was a marvellous meal indeed.
Stew is a Fantasy staple; you don't have to look far to find a pot of it simmering away on the pages somewhere. It's cheap, uncomplicated and evocative (think warm food on cold nights for peasants, soldiers and e'lir alike) which may account for its ubiquity. It's also absolutely delicious when cooked 'low and slow' – easily my favourite winter meal. So, Simmon and Sovoy, I don't care who your dads are; don't go grousing about my stew however lowly the manner of the meat!
Beef stew (serves 6-8)
**This makes a thick stew – some of the liquid evaporates with cooking and what remains is thickened by the flour and fat. If you want a thinner but more abundant gravy, add more stock than I've recommended at Step 6.
Dumplings (optional, makes 12-16)
Equipment: frying pan, tongs for turning the beef, casserole dish, wooden spoon, large mixing bowl for the dumplings
NB: This makes a thick stew – some of the liquid evaporates with cooking and what remains is thickened by the flour and the fat. If you want a thinner but more abundant gravy, add more stock than I've recommend at Step 6.
If you like all your food hearty, you might enjoy these puddings recreated from Philip Pullman's 'La Belle Sauvage'.
Recreated from A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
Riv sat in her barrack's feast-hall, picking at a plate of boar ribs and sweet parsnips. Jost and Vald were with her, sitting beside each other. At any other time the sight of them would have made her chuckle
'Don't want that? I'll finish it for you,' Vald said, eyeing up her plate
'Have it,' Riv said, pushing her unfinished food towards Vald.
'I'd have had that!' Jost exclaimed, eyes bulging in his gaunt face. He ate almost as much as Vald, not that you'd know it to look at him, the two of them often arguing over food.
'Too slow.' Vald winked at Jost.
John Gwynne's feast-halls play host to some hearty fantasy staples. 'A Time of Dread' features steaming tea, warming porridge, tender meats, melting onions, sweet vegetables and thick gravies. There's even a dog's dinner – a well-earned restorative for the brave hound – that sounds fit for the table of any fantasy food fan. You'll find it listed here along with the rest of the book's victuals.
Of the various meats mentioned, I've gone for the ribs (pork, from the butcher's rather than from a wild boar I've speared myself) and slathered them in a honey glaze. Honey is one of the book's recurring ingredients, eaten for medicinal purposes as well as pleasure. In light of that, let's raise a horn of mead to this healthy meal and argue over who gets to pick the bones clean for some extra goodness.
This is a dish best cooked 'low and slow' so leave time for up to four hours in the oven.
Ingredients (serves 2)
The ribs themselves:
Six ribs, appr. 700g
Salt and pepper to season
For the glaze:
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar*
1 tsp paprika
*any vinegar will do as an alternative
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
For the ribs:
To serve: I served with carrots roasted in the same way and at the same time as the parsnips, as well as some steamed Swiss chard. The best addition, however, was some blue cheese – perfect for breaking up the sweetness of the honey and parsnips.
Inspired by C. Robert Cargill's Sea of Rust
My name is Brittle. Factory designation HS8795-73. A Simulacrum Model Caregiver. But I like Brittle.
Robots don’t eat, but Sea of Rust is still peppered with the figurative food of everyday speech and memories of food from former times. It’s not a world where what we humans eat is significant, but there are still food-inspired verbs like ‘sandwiched’ and ‘pancaked’; there are food-based endearments like ‘honey’ and ‘peach’; you can still ‘have beef’ or ‘go nuts’; heavy things drop ‘like a sack of potatoes’ and sharp knives still cut like ‘a knife through warm butter’.
While none of these a meal make, our robot protagonist with the cracking name gave me a way in. My imitation cover art is peanut brittle with extra nuts, strawberry (jam) and peach – all flavours you’ll find mentioned in the book.
Once recreated, smash it up and devour the parts like your life depends on it.
Special equipment: foil-lined baking parchment for the mould, a book, a jam thermometer (optional), a wooden spoon for stirring, a pastry brush for decorating
If you enjoy working with sugar at speed, try my honeycomb inspired by John Gwynne's Malice.
If you want peanuts in a savoury dish, try the Kung Pao chicken recreated from Sylvain Neuvel's Sleeping Giants.
Recreated from Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett tried to ignore it as she inched closer. Next to the clothes, on top of a gilded table covered in moon dials, a curvy vase of red roses sat next to a tray laden with fig bread, cinnamon tea, and a note.
Cross-sensory trickery in Stephanie Garber’s Caraval includes smelling colours, feeling flavours and hearing food. This is a realm of unexpected metaphors, where food serves as a medium between unusual experiences and our protagonist’s perception of them: the colour plum triggers olfactory associations of brutality for her; discomfort is experienced as the prickling of smoky-ginger; and in one rather seductive scene, violin music plays, richer than the darkest chocolate.
Despite this narrative sweetshop of nearly-edible experiences, relatively little food is actually consumed in the story (I’ve marked each instance in the Caraval food list with an asterisk). Here, I’ve opted for one of the few instances food is literally present – Legend's 'welcome' to Scarlett. I think it sets the tone for all the deliciousness that follows.
Fig bread (appr. 12 slices)
Look no further than this BBC Good Food recipe. Apart from some extra salt, I have nothing to add.
Cinnamon tea (2 cups)
Recreated from La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
When my parents visit, I always offer to cook something special for them – “anything you can imagine!” – but from now on, there’s no need for me to ask. Instead I’ll just be referring to Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, where their favourites form the culinary backdrop to Malcolm Polstead’s life.
Malcolm is surrounded by an abundance of stewed apples, baked apples, apple crumbles and apple pies, plum pies, rhubarb pies, shepherd’s pies and steak and kidney pies, sausage rolls and jam rolls, Yorkshire puddings and rice pudding and other hearty staples. This is the food that imprinted itself onto post-war English national consciousness via the bellies of hungry 1950s schoolchildren to become the epitome of home-cooking for following generations.
Its appeal is easy to understand (being fatty, filling and unfussy in a way that would satisfy any little Malcolm) and evidently enduring – Philip Pullman is still writing about it over sixty years later and my parents are ever happy to revisit any school pudding with custard on top.
Here are three options for you to try out that all have merits beyond fond memories. Each one can be taken from page to plate in 30 minutes or less, leaving plenty of time to read on.
For even more reading time, skip cooking altogether and go to The Tome and Tankard Inn for a Stewed Apples and Custard cocktail.
The hall was where the dinner ladies set out the tables for school dinner, whose aroma hung around it all afternoon. That day boiled swede had featured prominently on the menu, and not even the jam roll which had come after it did anything to dispel the heavy atmosphere.
*Jam and coconut sponge was my favourite school cake so I've taken the liberty of incorporating desiccated coconut. You could leave it out or add your own favourites. I'm rather tempted by the idea of whipped cream.
Special equipment: Baking tray appr. 42cm x 27 cm x 2.5 cm H, foil lined baking parchment, damp tea towel
Baked Apple and Custard
'Would you like your pudding now, gentleman?'
'What is it?'
'Baked apples and custard. Apples from the priory orchard.'
'Well, we can't pass up a chance to try those,' said the scholarly man.
Ingredients (serves 4)
Special equipment: apple corer
She mixed the cocoa powder with a little sugar and poured on the hot milk, making some for herself as well. The boy knew so much already that she had to trust him. There was little choice.
Barely more complicated but far more luxurious, here's a recipe for the chocolatl of Lyra's Oxford as I dream of it.