An Unexpected Party: the Feast

Just before tea-time there came a tremendous ring on the front-door bell, and then Bilbo remembered! He rushed and put on the kettle, and put out another cup and saucer, and an extra cake or two, and ran to the door.

“I am so sorry to keep you waiting!” he was going to say, when he saw that it was not Gandalf at all. It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under his dark green hood.

Hobbits love food and we at Castles and Cooks are huge fans of both food and the Hobbit, so we’re pouncing on this opportunity to make some recipes that Bilbo Baggin’s would approve of. When the dwarves overtook Bag End that day, Bilbo did all he could to continue their never ending feast.

In the span of a chapter, Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves devoured all they could including eggs, scones, mincepies, roasted chicken, pickles, sausages, cheese, bread, tea, ale, beer, porter, coffee, red wine and more! Many of those are simple enough to make or buy (scones were one of our first recipes). But three of them felt worthy of their own new recipes.

If you’re looking for a complete Hobbit feast, you’ll have to wait until after the movie where we will dissect the whole scene, but until Friday: eat, drink and be merry.

“A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,” said Balin with the white beard. “But I don’t mind some cake – seed-cake, if you have any.”

“Lots!” Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.

Being a group of Americans, we don’t have much experience with English foods found in the Hobbit texts (we had a similar issue with Harry Potter). So when I began researching seed-cakes, I was left very confused thanks to Wikipedia informing me that seedcakes were a bread made by Australian Aborigines. Evidently hyphens really do matter.

But an English seed-cake isn’t nearly as foreign as I expected. A simple cake flavored with caraway, seed-cakes remind me of lemon poppy bread with a different taste. Caraway isn’t the most common spice in American cuisine, but it is readily available. The taste evokes a mild black licorice to me, so this recipe might be more preferably as a lemon poppy bread.

Caraway Seed-Cake

Makes one 8-inch cake

1/2 cup of butter, softened
3/4 cup of sugar
1/8 cup of caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 medium egg
1/2 cup of milk

Note: if you want to make lemon poppy bread make the following substitutions: replace the caraway with poppy seeds, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and replace the milk with buttermilk. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, then mix in the caraway seeds followed by the egg. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and alternate mixing them into the batter with the milk.

Fill a round, greased baking pan with the batter and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm.

“A little red wine, I think for me,” said Gandalf.

“And for me,” said Thorin.

“And raspberry jam and apple-tart,” said Bifur.

Tarts are a classic dessert or breakfast food now. Little more than a fruit filling over a pastry crust, tarts are distinguished by being open. This apple and raspberry jam tart is relatively easy to make with a shortbread crust.

Raspberry Jam & Apple-Tart

At the request of Bifur the Dwarf
Makes 1 medium tart that serves 4

For the shortbread crust…
1 cup of flour, all-purpose
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
6 tablespoons of butter, cold
1/4-1/3 cup of ice water

1 apple (Cortland or another baking apple are ideal)
1/2 a lemon (1 tablespoon of lemon juice)
1/4 cup of raspberry jam
2 tablespoons of sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For the crust, sift together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and crumble with either a pastry blender or a food processor. Once the texture is uniformly coarse, begin adding water a teaspoon at a time until the dough barely holds together.

On a floured surface, roll the dough until it is a uniform thickness, between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch and set on a greased baking pan – preferably one with edges.

Decore the apple and slice it thin either by hand or with a mandoline. Toss the apple slices with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Heat the raspberry jam so it is easier to spread.

Cover the pastry with a later of apple slices that are overlapping like scale mail. Once the first layer is complete, roll up the edges of the dough. Brush the apples with the jam and repeat layering the apples with jam until finished. Top the tart with the sugar evenly and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the dough has cook.

“And pork-pie and salad,” said Bombur.

I had no idea what a pork pie was until I did some research on this classically English dish. A pork pie is just that – a pie made of pork! Traditionally made of cheap cuts of meat and ample additional fat, the end result is a cold pie filled with meat. So I put a slight twist on this classic dish to make something more akin to a chicken pot pie, but made with pork!

Pork Pie

Makes 4 individual pies (which is just enough for one Bombur)

For the crust…
1/2 cup of flour
3 tablespoons of butter, cold
1 tablespoon of shortening, cold
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of milk
Pinch of salt

For the filling…
1 pound of ground pork (ideally around 20% fat)
1/2 an onion, finely diced
1 potato, finely diced
1/4 cup of diced celery
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of garlic
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Saute the pork with spices in a large fry pan until it is almost fully cooked. Remove the meat, but leave the rendered fat in the pan. Then saute the onions, potatoes and celery in the fan until tender. You may want to add a splash of water to cook everything faster. Once the vegetables are soft, combine with the pork, remove from heat and set aside.

To make the dough, combine the dry ingredients together then add the butter and shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture is evenly coarse. Mix with the milk until the dough holds together. Line a greased custard cup or ramekin with the dough and leave the top open.

Fill each dish with the meat and vegetable mixture and top with the last of the dough to seal it. Then bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops of the pies are golden brown. You can serve them warm or cold.