Here’s a look at how we made yesterdays The Courtesy of the Golden Hall.
- Rye porridge
- Braised beef
- Roasted vegetables
- Saffron and cream pancake
- Apple compote
There are several references to meal, in the sense of coarsely ground flour. Éomer mocks Wormtongue by questioning whether anyone would trust him with a sack of meal (3.6) and Théoden warns the herald of Minas Tirith to have supplies ready for the Rohirrim when they ride to Gondor’s aid, for to travel light and fast they can carry only meal and water enough to last until they reach the battlefield. (5.3) Coarse flour makes poor bread and, significantly, bread is never mentioned in Rohan. Every other people in Middle Earth, from Hobbits to Orcs, has some kind of bread, but not the Rohirrim, which suggests they are making something else with their grain: porridge. Porridge is a staple of many northern European cultures like those that inspired the Rohirrim. The deep, earthy flavors of rye make for a very satisfying porridge to start our dinner.
The herds of Rohan are prominently mentioned, although what exactly they are herds of is never specified. (2.9, 3.2) Since cattle were highly prized across ancient northern Europe, beef seems like the right meat to serve at the royal table. Braising is an excellent way to cook large joints of meat and could be done in a cauldron over a low fire in a mead hall. Root vegetables are also a staple of northern European cuisines and make an good accompaniment to braised beef.
The saffron and cream pancake recipe comes from a Viking source and shows the extent of the trading networks the Vikings were engaged in, connecting them with the distant shores of the Mediterranean where saffron was harvested. It seems an appropriate way to honor the friendship between Rohan and Gondor to suggest that the Rohirrim had access to a few southern luxuries as well. The apple compote we serve with it is based on Anglo-Saxon recipes.
This is a Finnish rye porridge recipe which is traditionally served with butter, but a little milk on top is also good. Try it for breakfast in place of oatmeal or with fresh berries and cream for dessert.
- 3 cups / 7 dl water
- 1 cup / 2 dl rye flour
- Pinch of salt
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add the rye flour and salt and whisk until smooth.
- Reduce the heat to as low as possible and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, until thick (1-2 hours).
Long, slow cooking with liquid softens up even tough cuts and fills them with flavor. This recipe adapts well to a crockpot if you use one.
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 medium onion
- Large beef roast (3-5 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup dark beer
- Peel the carrot and chop into large chunks. Chop the onion into large chunks. Set aside.
- Set a large baking dish on the stovetop and melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the beef roast and brown on all sides.
- Take the dish off the heat and add the vegetables. Lay the roast on top of them and add the stock and beer. The liquid should come about half an inch up the side of the meat.
- Cover and roast in the oven at 250 F / 120 C for four hours or until the meat breaks up easily at gentle pressure from a fork.
Roasted root vegetables
This recipe takes substitutions well if you have a different mix of root vegetables available to you or if you prefer a little potato or less carrot. Beets make a flavorful addition, but will color all the other vegetables.
- 3 carrots
- 1 parsnip
- 1 turnip
- 1 onion
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- Peel and roughly chop the vegetables.
- Melt the butter. Add the melted butter, honey, vegetables, and spices to a broad, shallow pan and toss to coat.
- Roast at 350 F / 175 C for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Saffron and cream pancake
This pancake, made with lots of cream and eggs, honey and a pinch of saffron, is soft, delicate, a little bit sweet, and very rich. This type of pancake is baked in a shallow pan.
- 3 eggs
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1-1/2 cups / 3 dl heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Butter a 9-inch / 22 cm round cake pan.
- Separate the eggs. Combine the yolks, saffron, honey, and flour in a bowl.
- In a second bowl, whip the cream until it forms peaks. In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites until fluffy.
- Gently fold the cream and egg whites into the yolk mixture. Pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake on the bottom oven rack until risen and light brown, about 40 minutes. Check occasionally while cooking and pop any bubbles that have formed with the point of a sharp knife.
This simple apple compote makes a good topping for the pancake above or for other baked desserts.
- 2 apples
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Peel, core, and finely chop the apples.
- Put all the ingredients in a pot and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the apple is soft.
We hear that when Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli rode through Edoras they saw examples not only of woodwork but also stonework: “[b]eside the way in a stone channel a stream of water flowed” and on top of the hill there was “a bright spring [that] gushed from a stone carved in the likeness of a horse’s head.”
The Rohirrim must have skilled metalworkers, too, for the guards at the approach to Meduseld had their “golden hair […] braided on their shoulders; the sun was blazoned on their shields, their long corslets were burnished bright” and “[g]reen gems flashed in the sunlight” on the hilts of their swords.
Inside Théoden’s hall, the floor was “paved with stones of many hues” with “branching runes and strange devices.” The richly carved pillars were “gleaming dully with gold and half-seen colours.” Also, “[m]any woven cloths were hung upon the walls, and over their wide spaces marched figures of ancient legend”—i.e., the wall hangings had imagery either woven or embroidered on them. Eorl the Young’s depiction specifically mentions yellow, white, red, and green. Théoden’s chair was large and gilded, and he wore a thin golden circlet with a single white diamond. Lastly, when taking their leave, Aragorn and Legolas were given shields whose “bosses were overlaid with gold and set with gems, green and red and white;” Gimli’s shield bore the emblem of the House of Eorl, a running horse that was “white upon green.” (3.6)
The main terms / concepts besides the horse imagery that jump at you are green,white, and gold. In addition, it’s clear that the Rohirrim have quite an advanced and varied pool of artisans despite not quite matching the talent of Gondor. Unfortunately, Tolkien tells us nothing pragmatic about Rohan meals.
At one point, Wormtongue says to Théoden: “Your meat is about to be set on the board.” Board as it’s used here might suggest narrow wooden trestle tables like the ones Gondorian rangers in Ithilien had. I chose therefore to use a wooden coffee table and shot our photos in the same location as our Rangers’ Rations dinner.
Considering we’re attempting a royal meal, I felt no qualms about including a completely unattested brass candlestick for a bit of gleam.
I also wanted to have something in the background to suggest ornate wall hangings. We don’t own anything of the sort, so instead I chose a piece of cloth with a woven leaf pattern in shades of brown with a lot of metallic thread. Then I hung coordinating ribbons—including one in gold—at its edge for additional shimmer.
Since the leaf fabric wasn’t very large, I added another piece next to it. I would’ve preferred deep green velvet, but lacking that I hung up a terry towel instead. Shh, don’t tell anyone. 🙂 Fortunately it doesn’t look too terrible, and depending on the lighting it even has little bit of a velvety sheen to it.
The table setting itself is built with multiple layers and colors for opulence. I wanted to include both pure white textiles and bright colors because, historically, they were difficult or costly to produce. Green was a given, and dashes of yellow, brown, and blue refer to Rohan’s landscapes.
Aside from a linen table runner with ornate, woven white-on-white patterns, I used a round reed placemat as a nod to the expansive grasslands of Rohan. On top of the round placemat there is a second one. It’s made of yellow felt in the shape of a sunflower, which unexpectedly turned out to be an asset. The tips of the petals just barely peek out from underneath the larger plates when shot directly from above, which reminds me of the sun motif on the Meduseld guards’ shields.
The dishware gets showier as the meal progresses. The porridge is served in a plain white bowl with a decorated, gold-edged drip dish underneath. The main course sits on a plate with brown and green glazing. The dessert pancake comes with a silver spoon and not one but two plates: a white charger with a gold rim and a smaller one made of pale teal handblown glass; a green cloth is folded in-between the plates as a buffer. Additional compote is served from a white ceramic bowl placed inside a small carved wood bowl.
The drinking vessel was a problem for me. Tolkien tells us that as the Rohan troops were leaving Edoras, Éowyn brought to the men a cup with wine as part of a leave-taking ritual. It’s only ever described as “the cup,” however.
Since we had already decided to go with beer instead of wine, I cheated and merely selected a tall glass that wasn’t hopelessly modern. This one is pale green like a lot of early glass and has shallow knobs on the surface, faintly reminiscent of roundels or blobs (also known as prunts or Nuppen) used to decorate glass vessels in late Roman or early German glassworks.
If I were to do this dinner setup again, I’d set it on a larger table for one thing. For another, I’d make sure the candle sits straight in every photo. (D’oh—the headaches I had in editing!) I’d also try to get a more wall-hanging-like background, with “figures of ancient legend” or the like if possible.
Check out the introduction for more!
Images by Eppu and Erik Jensen
Geeks eat, too! Second Breakfast is an occasional feature in which we talk about food with geeky connections and maybe make some of our own. Yum!