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The desolation of Smaug is indeed cause for celebration as the old worm lies dead amid the smoldering ruins of Esgaroth.  The burglar Bilbo Baggins proved his quality to the once doubting company of Dwarves by outwitting the Dragon and discovering his weakness — an unprotected patch under his left breast.   Fatally pierced by the Bowman’s arrow, the treasure of Erebor was restored to its rightful owners.   The Dwarves had their revenge at last!

seed cakes for gimli

While news  of the dragon’s demise spread, it was fitting for the thirteen dwarves and their burglar to celebrate.  With the city in ruins, the celebration would be sparse.  But our dear Hobbit is nothing if not resourceful, and also very fond of parties.   He rallied the younger Dwarves Kili and Fili and off they went on another mission — this time to look for provisions for the party amid the ruins of the town.   Kili and Fili wished there might be more than roasted coneys on the menu — they talked of the sweet seedcakes that were part of every Dwarf family celebration.  Because of his heroism, the townsfolk took pity upon Bilbo and offered him what little they could find left of their provisions.  He inquired whether there might be any ingredients to bake a tasety treat, as they had been on their journey for a very long time and he was yearning for some of the comforts of his home back in the Shire.    One of the dear old women of the city brought him to the rubble that had been her home and offered whatever he might find there.  As luck would have it, Bilbo managed to scrounge up a bit of this and a dab of that and unearthed a few pots while he was at it.  Kili and Fili came running — Kili was carrying a goat and Fili had a chicken in one hand and two eggs in the other!    It seemed like their wish would be granted as they watched Bilbo work his magic,  though there would not be enough to share with all the rest. After baking it on the open fire Bilbo cut it into four sections — not three.  Kili and Fili protested that if he cut the cake into three pieces they would each have more.  But Bilbo had another plan.  Taking his slice and the fourth with it, he led the young Dwarves back to the camp with Kili and Fili protesting the whole distance.  But once they arrived, they witnessed the legendary Hobbit hospitality as Bilbo offered the fourth piece to Thorin, their leader.   If anyone else should enjoy this sweet revenge, it was he.

“Seedcake for Gimli”  The recipe is a bit like a scone in a pan.  In my version I substituted Chia seeds.  I’d been wondering what to do with them and I don’t care for caraway which is in the original! I also added a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to the wet ingredients before adding the dry.   I baked mine in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.   I cannot vouch for the recipe’s 45 minute cooking time because my oven is not heating properly, but at 350 degrees in my oven I only needed 20 minutes but that could be due to the cast iron.  Definitely use the middle rack as suggested so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.   I am not sure if the recipe is meant to be slightly thinner than a biscuit dough, then it would have taken longer.  The only other thing I did differently is not sift the flour.  Give it a try!  I’m going to have it for breakfast with a bit of yogurt!

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Back in the finer days, before orcs and cave trolls ravaged the great city of Dwarrowdelf, Balin’s kin would gather for his legendary feasts, which always included his famous Spiced Beef.  Now the dwarven people, as we well know, are a rather proud folk; prone to boasting and very fond of contests to demonstrate their prowess.  Games of one-ups-man-ship between best mates were a daily occurrence.

And so, on the mornings before Balin’s gatherings, it was customary for the elder dwarf to summon a few of the younger dwarves and challenge them with the question, “which of you lads has the sharpest axe, the best aim, and the strongest arm?”

As each one roared, “I DO!,” they snapped to attention, fixing their eyes on Balin’s eyes, planting feet firmly in the soil and crossing their arms over puffed-out chests.  “Well, then,” Balin continued, “it seems as though we have a stalemate – each of you believes he is the best, but only one can be the champion.  We will have a contest.  I plan a feast for tomorrow, and we are short on game.   Go out to the hunt, and bring us back a prize.  The first one to return before nightfall with the largest kill shall be the champion.”

As the young dwarves ran to gather their weapons, Balin would turn to his best huntsmen and, with a wink and a nod from him, the men set about the task of butchering the game they had caught before that morning’s sunrise.  Even if the lads managed to bring back a fox or a few rabbits, let alone a buck, it wouldn’t be enough to fill this hearty and hungry lot.  And it would take hours for the meat to slowly roast until it fell cleanly off the bone.  They would have the day to get at least the first course ready to eat.

The young champion had the honor of being seated next to Balin at the feast, his contribution to the meal now roasted to perfection.  The first bite was Balin’s, who would proclaim that it was the most delicious of all the choices laid out before them.  The cousins and brothers, mothers and sisters, grandmothers and other elders of the company would then cheer the young hunter and dig into the feast.  Strong drink flowed and merry songs of conquests were sung with great gusto. 

Torches were lit from the fire and families slowly went off to sleep, filled not just with food, but the hospitality of their friend and elder, Balin, who was greatly esteemed by all who knew him.

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This is a very delicious recipe that works well in a crock pot but for authenticity why not try a cast iron dutch oven if you can find one.  Add vegetables to make it a stew if you like, and soak up the juices with a crusty garlic bread!  We also suggest shredding the cooked beef for sandwiches to stave off your hunger while you watch the Oscars to see how The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey was honored.


3 News NZ online has a link to The Middle-earth Foodie in a story dated December 16, 2012,  about a new book being written on food inspired by Tolkien’s works.


The women of Lake-town who survived the wrath of the dragon Smaug and saw his defeat at the hand of Bard the Bowman, set about making their new city a place to rival any other settlement of men in Middle-earth.  While the men were focused on construction, the women made sure they were well-fed.  Re-building an entire town would not be easy nor swift, but the NEW Lake-town, or Esgaroth, as it would be named, would be far less flamable!  This feature was perhaps a bit late in coming, since there was no more threat of immolation from gold-hoarding dragons.

Nonetheless, the residents wanted to attract new businesses, and, of course, tourism was bound to pick up once the bones of Smaug were recovered from the bottom of the lake and re-assembled for viewing.  A museum celebrating the heroism of Bard the Bowman would be built and the dragon’s bones placed on exhibit.   One could envision future festivals celebrating the great victory over Smaug with dragon kite flying contests, dragon boat rides, and flaming sword-swallowers on parade down the main street.  Perhaps the wizard Mithrandir would join them and offer up some of his famous fireworks!

Once the city was in good enough shape to promote itself as a destination — “Visit Esgaroth!  We’re no longer flammable!” — would be the focus for the marketing campaign — a farmers’ and artists’ market was established on the lake shore.   Many vendors offered dragon-themed wares, such as replicas of the arrow that slew Smaug, wall hangings featuring the dragon breathing fire over the city, and deep-fried “dragon on a stick.”

These novelties were a necessary part of the tourism industry, but they were not the reason for the market’s eventual fame.   The Esgaroth Public Market became known throughout the realms of Middle-earth for its regional cuisine!  The women had preserved some of the former town’s heritage by serving traditional foods that were handed down to them over generations of mothers of Lake-town.   Many recipes included varieties of fresh fish from the lake.  And in summer, the bounty of the gardens came to the Market in dishes featuring fresh tomatoes, peppers, spinach, onions, carrots, spices and herbs.

While recipes of this era have not survived, one can imagine such a dish as we will call Lake-town Market Salad.   Since it would have been poor stewardship to waste any of the harvest, one way to use up the odds and ends was to combine them with grains or noodles to create a one-dish meal.  Lake-town Market Salad was not as famous as other, more sophisticated, dishes, but it has a regional flare that reminds one of the rustic way of life back in the third age of men.

Lake-town Market Salad

2 cups cooked risotto
1 each small Yellow, Orange and Red Bell Peppers
2 Green Tomatoes
2 Ripe Tomatoes
1 small Shallot or Onion
Black olives (or green if you prefer)
1 can of black beans (or other variety or combination of beans)
Fresh basil, oregano, and parsley to taste
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbl Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper to taste
Cook risotto according to package directions, drain, and set aside to cool.
Dice the vegetables and add to the risotto with the herbs and spices.
Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Stir.  Place in refrigerator to cool one hour before serving.
A dollop of sour cream or ricotta cheese on top is a nice addition, or add cubed ham and shredded cheese for a anti-pasto.
 
This “salad” is also good served hot – after mixing (omit the olive oil and vinegar), heat it on the stove top or put it into the oven.  Grate cheese over it to get nice and melty.  You could also put this mixture into a nice broth — either chicken or beef — and make a soup or stew!  Add tobasco or red pepper flakes for those who like it with some kick!
 
*Disclaimer — this recipe is not on the Middle-earth Recipes site.  It is my own creation, in honor of Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo’s birthdays today, September 22, 2012.
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