Recreated from The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The banquet tables, fifty feet from end to end, (or perhaps these were merely the appetiser tables; the light afternoon refreshments at a feast like this could rival the main courses from any lesser occasion) were laid with silver-trimmed linen cloths. Guild chefs, the Masters of the Eight Beautiful Arts ... stood at attention in their cream-yellow ceremonial robes and black scholars' caps with hanging gold cords behind their ears. Each chef, male or female, had intricate black tattoos on each of the four fingers of each hand, every design representing mastery of one of the Eight Gourmet Forms.
At one end of the banquet table were desserts (the Fifth Beautiful Art) – cherry cream cakes encased in shells of gold leaf that were intended to be eaten; cinnamon tarts painstakingly assembled with honey paste glue into the shape of sailing vessels, a whole fleet of little ships with white marzipan sails and raisins for crewmen ...
There's enough tempting food in The Gentleman Bastard Sequence to fill an entire cookery book, so this will no doubt be the first of several Scott Lynch entries.
For now, I've turned to some treats on one of his dessert tables. I can vouch for their deliciousness despite not being qualified for a single finger tattoo yet. I ate as many as the fingers on one hand though.
Guinness doesn't sound like a particularly delicious way to start cakes but rather than being there for flavour, it gives them, in Nigella Lawson's words, a "dark majesty"; they do look especially striking against the white and red of the cream and cherries. This colour combination is a very popular choice in Fantasy cover art so I'll claim a connection there too.
For the cake (makes 8 muffin-sized cakes)
For the filling
Based on Nigella Lawson's recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake.
Recreated from Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
[Jason to Burrich] 'So you got his little bastid, at least until Chivalry gets back and does otherwise with him.' Jason offered me the slab of dripping meat. I looked from the bread to the cheese I gripped, loth to surrender either, but longing for the hot meat, too. He shrugged at seeing my dilemma, and with a fighting man's practicality, flipped the meat casually onto the table beside my hip. I stuffed as much bread into my mouth as I could, and shifted to where I could watch the meat.
Jason shrugged, busy with getting himself bread and meat and cheese of his own. 'So said the old ploughman what left him here.'
Finishing Robin Hobb's Assassin's Fate earlier this year felt momentous. With a newborn to nurse, I couldn't make it when she visited Oxford to promote it though. I did manage to get a book signed which went some way to consoling me, particularly the inscription – 'Here Fitz's journey begins ...' – which sounds about as unassuming as a cheese sandwich considering the scope of this magnificent epic series. With hopes that The Speculative Kitchen might have similar endurance, I'll embrace a humble beginning.
Fitz's first meal in the Realm of the Elderlings – and my first in this blog series – is a simple combination of bread, meat and cheese. Each part can be easily bought if you want a quick dish to assemble, otherwise I've included recipes for baking your own bread and cooking a joint of meat. It's easily bulked up to a full 'ploughman's lunch' if you're after a well-established English twist on Fitz's culinary introduction to Buckkeep.
Soda bread (serves four)
This isn't intended to be a fancy meal so I opted for a simple soda bread -- no yeast, kneading, proving or loaf tin required.
Based on recipes from the BBC's Good Food and Felicity Cloake's How to cook the perfect ...
Ham (serves four, with leftovers likely)
Serve with your choice of cheese and beer. Plates optional.
Ploughman's lunch (serves four, with leftovers likely)