Winter is coming. No, really… it’ll be here in a couple of short months. Avid Game of Thrones fans have been inundated with the foreboding of oncoming winter, and October’s arrival reminds us that snow and bitter cold will be following shortly. Fortunately, there are some delicious ways to brighten up grey days, such as these fabulous vegetarian recipes inspired by George R.R. Martin’s works. Warming soup, succulent roasted vegetables, and tantalizing desserts are waiting for you right after the jump!
Whether you’re reading the Song of Ice and Fire series or watching HBO’s Game of Thrones show that’s based upon them, you’ve probably noticed that food receives a lot of attention, and with good cause: The cuisine of a particular region speaks volumes about the lives of the people who reside there, and making it a focal point adds another layer of wonder to the story. Those in the north keep their strength up with humble-yet-hearty fare that warms folks right to the marrow, while people further south can nibble on fruits and greens well into the colder months. These recipes are delicious little respites from winter’s bleakness, and can all be adjusted to suit varying dietary needs or palate preferences.
Dinner at The Wall: Warming Barley and Mushroom Soup
Those poor crows up at The Wall. They do such a splendid duty, standing guard on that massive, frozen barrier that holds the white walkers at bay, but it has to be rather trying to be cold. All. The. Time. A hearty soup like this would warm the boys in black right to the core, especially if they get to eat it while curled up by the fire.
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegan margarine, like Earth Balance
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 1/2 cups sliced (assorted) fresh mushrooms. I like to use a combination of button, portobello, and oyster
- 1/4 cup dried mushrooms, such as morels, chanterelles, shiitake, and/or porcini
- 1 celery rib, diced finely
- 1 medium carrot, diced finely
- 6 cups stock or broth (vegetable, onion, or mushroom work best)
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup white wine, sherry, cognac, or hot water
- 1 cup quick-cooking barley, or if you’d prefer to make the soup/stew gluten-free, swap out the barley for an equivalent amount of Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place your dried mushrooms in a bowl, and add your wine, sherry, cognac, or hot water to rehydrate them. Let those sit for about an hour.
In a large stock pot, melt the butter or margarine on medium-high heat. Add the dried thyme, onion, carrot, and celery, turn the heat down to medium, and cook (stirring occasionally) until the onion starts to go translucent. Toss in the fresh, sliced mushrooms and dried thyme, and toss around until the mushrooms shrink a bit and get lovely and fragrant.
Add the broth and water to your cooking pot, and stir well. Drain the now-rehydrated mushrooms and toss those in too. Bring to a boil and allow it all to bubble merrily for about 15 minutes.
Add the barley, stir well, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let this roil gently for 12 to 15 minutes until the barley is tender. Remove from heat.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and ladle into heavy wooden bowls. Garnish with the fresh parsley (and some fried mushroom slices, if you had any left over and are eager to use them up), and serve piping hot. This is well accompanied with warm bread, mulled wine or cider, and tales about the creepy things that lurk in the woods.
*Note: You can make this into a thicker stew by adding some diced root vegetables like turnips and rutabagas when you sautee the carrots and celery.
Roasted Squash from King’s Landing
As a main trading port, King’s Landing has gorgeous produce shipped in from all the Seven Kingdoms. This squash recipe is both delicate and warming, with beautifully contrasting textures, and would be a welcome addition to any banquet feast.
- 1 kabocha or large acorn squash, partially peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/3 cup ground nuts (I like almonds or hazelnuts), or panko breadcrumbs
- 1 garlic clove, minced finely
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- Olive oil
Preheat your oven to 375F, and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Mix the ground nuts, sea salt, sugar, spices, and herbs in a small bowl. Arrange the squash slices on the baking sheet, brush them with olive oil, and then sprinkle the dry mixture over them, patting it down lightly with the palms of your hands.
Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the squash is fork-tender (i.e. it gives easily when pierced).
These slices are lovely served alongside the main dish of your choice, or they can be chopped up and tossed with chopped apples and walnuts for a warm winter salad. If you have leftovers, chop them finely and fry them up with some onions and sweet potatoes as a breakfast hash, served with a fried egg on top.
A Salad from Highgarden
Elegant and refined, this salad blends the best and prettiest of autumn’s harvest into a gorgeous side salad. One can just imagine the genteel Tyrells nibbling this as a light, late autumn or early winter lunch.
- 4 medium-sized beets: 2 red, 2 golden, if possible, scrubbed well
- 2 medium-sized bosc pears, sliced thinly
- 1/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces, or slivered almonds
- 4 generous cups of mixed greens (baby spinach, mesclun mix, shredded fennel, frisee, arugula, shredded romaine)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons for roasting the beets)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- *Optional: edible late-season flowers such as borage blossoms or calendula petals
Preheat your oven to 400F. Place each beet in the centre of its own square of aluminum foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the foil around them firmly, place them on a baking sheet, and roast until tender; approximately 1 hour.
While the beets are roasting merrily, toast the nuts in a small, dry pan on medium heat, stirring often, until they’re golden brown. Pour into a small bowl and allow to cool.
Mix your vinaigrette dressing by combining the olive oil, vinegar, honey, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk together until well-blended, then season with a bit of salt to taste.
When the beets are ready, remove them from the oven, pull their peels off, and let them cool until they can be handled. Then peel them, slice them into 1/4 inch-thick rounds, and then either cut them in halves again so they look like little half-moons, or into tiny 1/4 inch cubes. Drizzle them with a spoonful of dressing and toss well.
Toss the salad greens with the rest of the dressing, and then arrange them on individual plates. Adorn with the glazed beets and sliced pears, and sprinkle toasted nuts over them. If you have some of the late-season flowers mentioned above, feel free to add a few petals to the salads for colour and whimsy. You can even add some chive blossoms for a bit of spicy “bite”, if desired. You can also substitute orange slices instead of pears, or toasted seeds instead of nuts, and add crumbled goat cheese/cashew cheese or poached quail eggs, if it suits your whim. Adjust this to your heart’s content, and then sigh sweetly while eating it.
Dornish Stuffed Baked Onions
Dornish folks have some truly spectacular ingredients to work with, including some of the best wines and olives in all of Westeros. This savory dish combines them in an unusual way, but the end result would charm the snarkiest sand snake.
- 6 medium-sized yellow onions (approximately 2 pounds in total), peeled
- 1 medium cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
- 1/2 cup pitted, sliced olives (kalamata, black, green…your choice)
- 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers in brine
- 1/2 cup vegetable or onion broth, with a splash of white wine added to it
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs, or crumbled stale bread
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Garlic powder
- *Goat cheese or vegan cheese alternative, optional
Preheat your oven to 400F, and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment.
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and garlic powder, then sprinkle with a few pinches of sea salt and crack some pepper over it. Transfer this to your baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting, bring water to boil in a large pot. Once it has achieved a rolling boil, pop in the onions and let them cook for about 5 minutes so they soften a little. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside until they’ve cooled enough to handle.
Slice 1/4 inch off the top of each onion, and remove most of the inside layers, leaving a 1/2-inch shell. On the bottom of the onions, slice off a very thin piece so they can sit on a flat surface without rolling away.
Remove roasted cauliflower mixture from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375F. Transfer the florets into a large bowl, and use a potato masher or strong forks to break them down a little bit. Add in your breadcrumbs, olives, and capers, and if desired, some of the onion you removed from the shells (just chop them up a little bit first). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon this mixture into the onion shells, and placed them in an un-greased baking dish. Pour the vegetable or onion broth around them, and bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the onions are soft and golden, and the stuffing has browned beautifully.
If you’re a cheese fan, crumble some goat cheese or vegan cheese alternative (like almond feta or cashew chèvre) on top of these before serving.
Winterfell Fruit Cake with Evergreen Tea
Although not quite as cold and bleak as up at The Wall, Winterfell gets its fair share of bleak, chilly weather. Although fresh fruit might be baked into tarts and such during the summer months, it’s dried fruit and spices that add flavour to this rich, filling cake. Pair it with a lighter evergreen tea rich in vitamins to help fend off the cold weather blahs. This combination makes a gorgeous mid-afternoon snack on a blustery day, when the wind (or your dire wolf) is howling outside your castle.
- 3/4 cup dried mixed fruit, chopped (dried cranberries, cherries, etc.)
- 1/4 cup dried currants or sultana raisins
- 2 heaping teaspoons of marmalade (your choice what kind)
- 1/3 cup rum or brandy, or hot tea
- 1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (you can substitute whole wheat or gluten-free flour, but if you use the latter, add a scant 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum to help it bind)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk (dairy or non-dairy)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Icing sugar (optional)
Soak the dried fruit and currants (or raisins) in rum overnight, then preheat your oven to 325F and grease a standard-sized loaf pan. Line it with parchment paper too. After the fruit has plumped up nicely, drain it well and set it aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together until well combined, then add the egg. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones 1/4 at a time, adding bits of milk in between. Once mixed together well, add the soaked fruit, and stir to combine. Use a spatula to transfer this into your pan.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until it’s a lovely brownish gold hue and a toothpick inserted into it comes out fairly clean. Let this cool in the pan for 15 minutes or so, then lift it out by the parchment and set it on a cutting board.
Use a sieve to sprinkle icing sugar over the top, if desired, and cut into slices. Serve with hot spruce tea (recipe below), mulled wine, or hot cider.
- 1/2 cup spruce tips, chopped coarsely, or 1/4 cup mature spruce needles, chopped
- 2 cups hot water (freshly boiled)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- Honey, agave syrup, or maple syrup (optional)
Place the chopped spruce tips in a teapot and pour the 2 cups of freshly-boiled water over them. Let this steep for 10 minutes, add the lemon juice, and then strain the tea into cups. Add honey, agave syrup, or maple syrup to taste, if desired.
Meereenese Dessert of Honeyed Pastry and Spiced Pear Nectar
With easy access to all manner of exotic spices, nuts, and fruits, the ruling class of Meereen can indulge in decadent desserts and aperitifs like those below.
- 15 sheets of phyllo pastry dough, cut in half
- 1 pound of your favourite nuts, chopped finely (walnuts, pistachios, and almonds work best)
- 1 cup butter or vegan margarine, melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup honey or agave syrup
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Cinnamon sugar
Move a rack to a position just below the middle of your oven, and then preheat to 350F.
Blend the chopped nuts with the spices in a large bowl, and set aside. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, and place 4 sheets of phyllo pastry on top one by one, brushing each one with melted butter/margarine before laying down the next one. Spread 1/4 of the spiced nut mixture over this, and then lay another 4 layers of phyllo pastry on top, brushing each with butter/margarine the same way you did earlier. Repeat this process, alternating nuts and pastry, until you’ve used up all the remaining nuts.
Layer the 4 remaining sheets on top, and brush the top-most layer with the rest of your butter mixture. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the layered pastry lengthwise into 4 long strips, and then cut diagonally to make approximately 36 diamond shapes. Bake this for 45 minutes to an hour, until golden.
While the pastry is baking, make your syrup. In a small saucepan, bring the honey (or agave), sugar, and water to a boil over medium heat, and let that simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, stirring gently to combine.
Remove the pastry from the oven and pour the syrup over it immediately, ensuring even coverage. Let this soak for 6 to 12 hours, uncovered, and then garnish with chopped nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar before serving alongside figs, dates, grapes, and spiced nectar.
Spiced Pear Nectar:
- 1 oz pear nectar
- 1 oz brandy
- 1 oz spiced rum
- Cinnamon sugar left over from the pastry
Combine the nectar, brandy, and rum, and shake with a vigour worthy of your Khaleesi. Rim a goblet with the cinnamon sugar left over from your pastry, strain the spiced nectar into it, and serve alongside the flaky dessert.
Just as a final note, these recipes are not part of the approved Song of Ice and Fire canon, but are rather inspired by what we thought the characters in the book/TV series might enjoy. If you’d like to delve into more recipes inspired by the series, check out the official cookbook, or the Inn at the Crossroads recipe site.
Images via Shutterstock