Written for the Mulled Wine Challenges at Tolkien Weekly.
Placing the curled bark into the mortar, ready to grind it into a powder, the young elf remembered how thrilled his teacher had been to find this spice so readily available here.
As he added the cinnamon to the other ingredients, already in the earthenware bowl, he could hear the well loved voice as if the owner stood beside him.
“Form it into a roll and leave it somewhere cool to firm up. Then cut into slices, letting them drop into the sugar.”
As the biscuits baked the warm aroma filled the kitchen, and once again he was an elfling...
Recipe for Cinnamon biscuits
(I think Tolkien characters speak English as a default, rather than American – but for Americans, these are cinnamon cookies, not the things you call biscuits – and I would call a plain scone! But I have added cup measures.)
2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 oz (1/2 cup) sugar
6 oz (3/4 cup) butter
8 oz (2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
Cream butter and sugar, add flour and cinnamon. Form the dough into a 'sausage' and chill it in the fridge for at least an hour.
Pour extra sugar onto a piece of paper, and cut the sausage into slices (about 0.75cm thick) so that each slice falls into the sugar. Place on a baking tray, sugar side up, bake at 200C (400F) for about 10 minutes.
(You can use granulated, caster or golden granulated sugar, or even demerara for the topping.)
It was said that an aroma could transport you instantly, unbidden, to the past. For him, a warm kitchen always brought back loved voices and faces, but individual spices might take him to any number of scenes.
Cutting the creamy root to fit into the stoneware jar, before preparing the syrup, he was conveyed not to a memory of any sweet delicacy but, rather, he thought of a dinner table, serving bowls piled high, and the first time he tasted his teacher’s favourite chicken dish.
It was not the sting of the raw ginger that brought tears to his eyes.
Recipe for Chicken with Preserved Ginger
Courtesy of Delia Smith… Although I don’t think my elf would have added the yoghurt.
4 chicken breasts
4 pieces of preserved stem ginger, finely chopped
4 dessertspoons preserved stem ginger syrup (from the jar)
2 teaspoons grated fresh root ginger
1 large onion, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, crushed
a knob of butter
4 fl oz (120 ml) dry cider (This is English cider – so alcoholic, not just apple juice)
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
4 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C).
Start off by heating the oil in a medium saucepan and soften the onion and garlic in it for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the chicken breasts in a medium roasting tin. Then pierce the chicken with a skewer or small sharp knife in several places, this is to allow the ginger to seep down inside.
Now spoon the ginger syrup over the chicken, rubbing it in with your hands.
Next, sprinkle the grated root ginger over and rub that in as well. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then pour the onion, garlic and oil from the saucepan over, and place a small knob of butter on top of each one.
Bake the chicken in the oven for about 25 minutes, basting it with the juices about halfway through. When it’s cooked, remove the chicken to a warmed serving plate, then place the tin over direct medium heat. Add the cider and chopped stem ginger, stir and let it bubble down to a syrupy sauce.
Then, off the heat, stir in the yoghurt. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the spring onions.
Strawberries. His friends said strawberries made them think of kisses for, in their woodland, the strawberry dell was a favourite place for kissing.
This dish he thought, adding wine, would surely work just as well.
And then he picked up the mace and his thoughts went elsewhere.
The first time he met mace in the kitchen he had questioned the name, for his tutor had told him a mace was a dishonourable weapon used by the enemy.
His teacher had said he knew nothing of that sort of thing. But the look in his eyes had told a different story.
Spiced Strawberry Compôte
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods, cracked
2 blades mace
750ml/1u31; pint red wine
1 vanilla pod, split
1 dried chilli
200g/7oz caster sugar
1 fresh bay leaf
1 orange, zest and juice
500g/1lb 2oz strawberries, hulled
1.Tie the cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, mace and dried chilli up in a small piece of muslin.
2.Bring all of the ingredients except the strawberries (including those in the muslin), to the boil in a saucepan. Boil for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool for 30 minutes.
3.Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, add the strawberries and simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the strawberries are soft. Carefully strain the liquid back into the, cleaned, first saucepan and set the strawberries aside.
4.Continue to boil the liquid until the volume has reduced by two-thirds. Pour the liquid onto the reserved strawberries, cover and set aside to cool. Chill in the fridge overnight.
5.To serve, spoon the compôte into glasses or bowls and serve with shortbread biscuits, and cream to taste...
“Why is it called pepper cake when there is no pepper?” he asked, when they first made it.
“Ah, well, a long time ago they thought of any hot spice as pepper,” his teacher explained. “And you could likely use pepper – but I was taught ginger and cloves; that’s how we do it in my family. Then eat it with cheese to celebrate every birth.”
He paused. “We used to make it often. But no call now. So we’ll do it for your begetting day instead.”
Which was why he made one today – it would have been his teacher’s birthday.
Old Yorkshire recipe for Pepper Cake
12 oz plain flour
4 oz brown sugar
1 teaspoonful baking powder
1 oz spice*
12 oz treacle
4 oz butter
3 beaten eggs.
*Spices traditionally used were one or more of the following; ginger, powdered cloves, all spice, caraway or coriander.
Sift the flour, baking powder and spice into a bowl. Warm the treacle, butter and sugar together and add it to the dry ingredients. Add eggs, bake for 2 hours at 325F. (Traditionally it was baked as a ‘thick round cake’)
The Right Tool
The little grater was really too small for his hands. There were larger ones, more suited to an elf, for sale in the market; but this one had been made for his teacher by Gimli and so it had a symbolism of its own.
As he grated the nutmeg into the mixture he found himself singing the same, unelflike, song his teacher sang whenever he made this cake.
“I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear,
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear…”
He smiled as, across the kitchen, the old dwarf tapped his foot in time.
Pear Upside Down Cake
• 4 Over Ripe Pears
• 4 oz Butter
1lb Self Raising Flour
10 oz Light Soft Brown Sugar
1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1.Melt 4 oz of the sugar and 2 oz of the butter in a pan and pour into a 20cm (8inch) square cake tin (I put a circle of baking parchment into the tin to make it easier to turn out).
2.Peel and core the pears removing any bruised bits and place on top of the butter and sugar mixture.
3.Preheat the oven to gas 4 (180C, 165C fan-oven or 350F). In a bowl sift the flour, nutmeg and cinnamon.
4.In a separate bowl mix the eggs with the remaining sugar. Melt the remaining butter and mix this into the egg and sugar mixture along with the milk. Pour this mix into the flour and mix well. Pour or spoon the batter over the fruit and pop into the oven for between 40-50 mins.
5.Once cooked turn out onto a large serving plate to allow the syrup to drip over the sides of the cake.
6.Serve warm with cream or custard or eat cold the next day with a cup of tea.
He nipped enough sugar from the loaf, and began pounding it to make it fine enough. Then he separated the eggs before whisking the whites. He grinned and, as taught, inverted the bowl over his head – what a mess the first time he did that…
“Hours in a barely warm oven to dry out, then time to cool. Whip the cream… too much time for naught but a bite of air, I reckon, but some folk like them.” his teacher had said.
“He’s an elf!” Adar replied. “He isn’t short of time.”
But, oh, their time together had been fleeting.
For the meringue
8 free-range eggs, whites only
200g/7oz white caster sugar
For the filling
400ml/14fl oz double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
1.For the meringue, preheat the oven to 100C/200F/Gas ¾. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. You may want to draw circles on the paper to help keep your meringues the same size.
2.Place the egg whites into a clean glass or metal bowl and whisk until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.
3.Gradually add the sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. (You might want to test by inverting the bowl over your head… but there again you might not!)
4.Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large plain or star nozzle.
5.Pipe into 16 small rounds onto the prepared baking tray.
6.Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
7.Turn the oven off but leave the meringues in the oven for at least another two hours.
8.When crisp, remove from the oven
9.For the filling, whisk the cream and icing sugar together until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Use to sandwich the meringues together in pairs.
He was very young when he sailed from Ennor. Parentless; Valinor his best hope of surviving. Here he was nurtured and loved by Lord Elrond’s household; especially by Frodo, for hobbits, too, needed family.
Only when his teacher arrived, for those last few years, did he understand the need to remember every lesson in the kitchen.
“As long as you think of me and Mr. Frodo when you cook,” he said, “that’s our immortality.”
The wine was ready. He poured out three glasses, passed one to Gimli, one to Legolas.
“A toast,” he said. “To Adar Frodo, and Uncle Sam!”
1 or 2 cinnamon stick
1 (1 in) piece of ginger, peeled and sliced in two
small handful of whole cloves
2 bottles red wine
In a large pan, boil the 500ml water and dissolve the sugar in it. Add the wine then the zest of the two clementines. Slice one and add it to the pot. Stick about 15 cloves into the other and put it in. Zest the lemon into the pot, slice the body in two and add. Now add your stick(s) of cinnamon and ginger.
Keep on a very low heat. Do not boil it, just heat it gently. To serve, either ladle straight into glasses – or sieve if you don’t want any bits in it!
Chapter End Notes:
TSome of you might recognise 'The Winter Elfling'. He arrived in Valinor just after Bilbo died, when Frodo was lonely, and still in mourning. Although Tharhîwon was cared for by all the elves, he became Frodo's adopted son in much the same way as Frodo was Bilbo's; hence 'Adar Frodo'. His 'tutor' would be an elf, but his 'teacher', here, is Sam.
I think, though, that he would have been taught the cinnamon biscuits by Frodo -- they are something to make with small children!