The Great Redwall Feast
(early march. number 15.)
"The famous kitchens of Redwall Abbey were abustle with activity that night. Friar Alder, the thin, lanky mouse in charge of it all, added wild plumjuice to an enormous hazlenut crumble he had just pulled from the oven..."
I am a preschool teacher, and in late January our librarian brought one of the classrooms a Redwall picture book called 'A Redwall Winter's Tale,' written by Brian Jacques and illustrated by Christopher Denise. It was written and released long after I "grew out" of reading this series popularized by nerdy 5th grade boys, so I'd never seen it. Neither had a coworker who was also excited by the books' appearance at school. This led me to discover the other two books made with the same illustrator– 'The Great Redwall Feast' and 'The Redwall Cookbook.'
I remember always being particularly enchanted by the descriptions of food in the books; flowery cordials and creamy cheeses and savory pies. I even made a Redwall cookbook around age 11, poorly laid out (though surely showing promise of my future interest in typography) and haphazardly printed on my family's ink jet color printer in 1997. I'm not sure if I ever tried to make anything out of it. I probably just shoved it under my mother's nose and hoped for the best.
A few days after the wintry picture book had appeared, my coworker shared the news he'd learned of Jacques passing, from a heart attack at the age of 71, a few days earlier. I immediately became determined to pull off a Redwall themed Secret Restaurant, as an homage to Jacques and a celebration of the end of winter.
We looked through numerous adorable, sweet, very dorky Redwall fansites and the official cookbook for names of dishes and inspiration, but part of the fun was to create our own recipes from these cues.
And yes, that first image is of a mouse hand sculpted out of marzipan by my roommate Kellen.
Beverage to start
Mulled wine, made with a few California Cabernets, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, and a lot of star anise.
Stones Ina Swamp
Large lima and white beans in swampy base of many veggies- leeks, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, carrots, kale, etc. A late winter stew.
Spiced Gatehouse Tea Bread
A whole wheat Irish soda bread made with flowery and spicy tea, topped with oats.
Abbot Mortimer's Special Reserve
A flight of cheeses. A deep orange smoked sheep's milk cheese from France, a caramelized onion hard white cheese from England, and two extra-aged cheddars: one from Neil's Yard in England the other from Cabot in Vermont.
Shots of a dandelion and burdock root cordial, made by Aria with dandelion root wildcrafted in our crazy overgrown side yard.
Blanched parsnips, jerusalem artichoke, rutabega, turnips, and carrots– taken out before getting soft, cut while still hot, and then tossed with a cayenne-pepepr tinged dressing.
A fluffy, eggy, cheesy, and herby popover. The favorite item of our 5 year old guest, Elias– perhaps not unsurprisingly.
Small trout fillets, buttered and close-foil baked, with lemon thyme and lemon and sage.
On the plate:
A baby-sized fresh radish, picked up at the first day (and weeks before Portland's would open again) of the Eugene Farmer's Market.
Beverage Interlude: Strawberry Fizz
A drink made by turning fresh strawberries (super early, or just California?) to a syrup, dolloping strawberry ice cream, and topping with sparkling water.
Springtide Stuffed 'Shrooms
Portabello mushroom pieces, stuffed with garlic/breadcrumbs (made from croutons Andrew made out of Fressen rye baguette, thyme, and olive oil)/sesame seeds.
Petunia's Poached Pears
Firm but ripe D'Anjou pears poached in mulled wine.
Gourmet Garrison Grilled Leeks
Little stump shaped servings of leeks, lightly boiled then broiled with a mustard sauce.
Moledeep's Mile-Deep Deeper'n'Ever Turnip'n'Tater'n'beetroot Pie
A savory pie, stack-assembled with yukon gold potato, red potato, turnip, rutabaga, shallot, and golden beet filling baked and then grilled up with tarragon. Topped with cast-iron grilled marinated brussels sprouts and leek tops.
Great Hall Cake
A dense cake made with arrow root powder, bee pollen, pistachios, rosehip syrup, candied rose petals, hazelnuts, dried fruits, and topped with marzipan candies shaped into leaves. Casey deserves even more of a round of applause than usual for this one. Kellen made a marzipan version of Friar Hugo, the primary cook in the Redwall Cookbook, for décor. Served with strawberry ice cream and more candied rose petals.