In spring of 2013, my fellow travelers/sufferers (just kidding on that last point, sort of) on the classics Foreign Study Program to Greece repeatedly said stuff along the lines of, “You’re really into cooking!” I was surprised, because I’d never thought of myself that way before. I’d barely cooked at all during my first two years of college, and for my only year living off-campus, I generally ate lunch at a dining hall and made a simple stir-fry or roasted squash for dinner. For a while in middle school and early high school, food was an enemy. I would have been ashamed if anyone commented on me liking food. (I really don’t want to get into body dysmorphia or disordered eating right now, but like many girls becoming women, I had and have some issues.) Apart from the initial surprise, I found I didn’t mind being labeled a “cooking person.”
So how did I get “really into cooking?” First of all, my parents instilled in my brothers and me an appreciation for fine food (one of my brothers actually asked for a nice bottle of balsamic vinegar for Christmas one year), and they made a point of having everyone sit down to a home-cooked meal every night. They insist on fresh ingredients, increasingly from my Dad’s garden, and experimenting with different recipes and world cuisines.
My parents planted the seed, but what really made it grow was the gift of the awesome, official Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire cookbook, A Feast of Ice and Fire, from my friend and teammate Elise as a birthday/”I’m not going to see you much for the next year” present. I had been talking her ear off about the books all summer term, so despite my relative lack of interest in matters culinary, she thought I would appreciate it.
I tried one of the recipes in the book, iced milk with honey (sipped by Ned Stark and Grand Maester Pycelle in King’s Landing) and immediately a) loved it and b) stuck in a post-it note modification to the recipe. The modern grilled peaches recipe was a hit at home. Early in the fall, Elise came to Hanover for a couple of days (the last time I would see her in person for nearly a year), and we made ourselves a medieval feast of honeyed chicken and buttered carrots. The next day I had a horrible cold/flu that ruined our plans for a weekend of hiking, but she made chicken soup from the remains of our dinner. It was just about the best thing I’d ever tasted, not least because of the thought behind it. I continued making recipes from A Feast of Ice and Fire all through the fall, culminating in Thanksgiving dinner in Boston with some high school friends, and I told Elise whenever I made one of the recipes. Cooking was a way to be close to people, even when they weren’t around.
Of course, since I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy, my baking instincts have been disrupted, so I’ve had the additional motivation of figuring out how to approximate my old favorites. I’ve also found a lot of wonderful food blogs, the first of which was the amazing internet counterpart to A Feast of Ice and Fire, Inn at the Crossroads. I hope to try many more of their recipes over the next few months, and you should too!
I made only two modifications to their recipe for Honeycakes with Blackberries (from A Storm of Swords): I replaced the all-purpose flour with white spelt flour and the cornmeal with buckwheat, since I only had very coarsely-ground cornmeal available and I wanted to do something a little more interesting than just substituting back in some flour.
With only 1/4 cup each of butter and sweetener (honey), these are probably the healthiest muffins I have ever heard of. (Note that the lack of internal grease means that you should be careful about making them in paper muffin cups, as they might stick. I made mine in a greased muffin tin + two small ramekins with no problem.)
The addition of 1 Tbsp of baking powder for leavening makes these rise like crazy. No complaints on that score, though; I like most of my cake-type things nice and light.
If When I make these again, I think I’ll try to acquire some normal cornmeal and not do the buckwheat substitution. With only 1/4 cup of honey, the buckwheat overwhelmed the honey flavor. Since I love honey (as the 6+ jars of it I accumulated during the Greece trip can attest), this is not good. I suspect that the lighter and sweeter flavor of corn in the original recipe would complement the honey instead of swamping it out. These were still very good, to be clear. They just didn’t taste much like honey.
The best solution I could think of to the honey problem is to drizzle more on. Since they’re barely sweet, these can be enjoyed by the haters of sweet things (like my dad) and sugar addicts (my brothers) alike with honey applied to taste.
Creme fraiche (which tastes like the bastard child of sour cream and heavy cream) is an excellent addition to both baked goods and berries and is a delicious way to complete these as a dessert.
I think I’d increase the amount of walnuts from 1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped, since I didn’t run into too many walnut pieces in mine. I’d also try making them with raspberries, which I think would mix a little better into the batter. In short: awesome recipe from an awesome website. Go check them out!