Tater Ham Chowder
You can use any kind of potatoes you like here. Another nice variation is to use sweet potatoes, or a combination of white and sweet. This is definitely a hobbity soup, so I used the Middle-earth word for potato (see Westron, or the Common Speech…).
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces cooked ham, diced
2 cups carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cups celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups red onion, coarsely chopped
1½ pounds potatoes, cut into ½ʺ cubes (peeled or not; it depends on the variety of potato you use)
3 cups cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1¼ teaspoons salt
1¼ teaspoons marjoram (2-3 tablespoons fresh, minced)
1 teaspoon black pepper
Minced fresh chives
Cooked and crumbled bacon
Sour cream or crème fraîche
Coat a 4-quart saucepan with cooking spray. Melt the butter and olive oil over rather high heat. Add the ham, carrot, celery, and onion and sauté 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook on low heat 20-25 minutes, covered, until vegetables are tender. Stir a couple times. Puree 3 cups of the soup, then add it back to the pot. Season, if desired. Garnish, as desired. Cover and chill leftovers; don’t freeze. Serves 4-6.
Vegetarian Options—Change the broth to vegetable and substitute about a quarter-pound of diced turnip, rutabaga, or parsnip (all should be peeled) for the ham. Or you could simply increase each of the already-required vegetables.
Spicy Options—Green Chile? Of course (I live in New Mexico!). I’d recommend about 4 ounces. Your favorite variety of salsa would also be delicious.
A Bite of… Astrid Tuttle Winegar
1. What gave you the original idea for a book of recipes based on a fantasy world?
My first cookbook, Cooking for Halflings & Monsters: 111 Comfy, Cozy recipes for Fantasy-Loving Souls, grew out of an undergraduate course on Tolkien. I’ve always been cooking and baking, so using Middle-earth as an inspiration was a no-brainer. But other worlds, such as Narnia, Westeros, and the Final Frontier often inspire me as well.
2. What were the hardest bit and the best bit of collecting this second volume of recipes?
The hardest bit of recipe development happens when I get an idea to pursue that doesn’t pan out. Sometimes it’s hard to abandon something that should have worked. But once abandoned, I resign myself to the loss and move on. The best bit? We eat LOTS of delicious food around my house!
3. If you could host a dinner party with any three people, real or fictional, who would you invite, which of the recipes in this book would you serve them and why those ones?
Well, if I hosted a dinner party with real/fictional people, I would invite J. R. R. Tolkien for learned conversation and anecdotes. I would also invite Brian May, the guitarist from Queen, because I’ve had a crush on him since my teenage years. Since he is Dr. May now, he and J. R. R. would get along well, though Tolkien’s astronomical references might need some tweaking. Finally, I would invite Lisbeth Salander, the heroine of the Millennium series, to make everyone just a bit uncomfortable.
From my latest cookbook, A Year of Comfy, Cozy Soups, Stews, and Chilis: Cooking for Halflings & Monsters, Volume 2, I would cook up this comforting hobbity soup recipe, bake a gorgeous loaf of bread from the aforementioned cookbook, and have some beer, whisky, and water available. Everyone would get along great and my husband would go to bed early. All good!
Astrid Tuttle Winegar is the author of Cooking for Halflings & Monsters: 111 Comfy, Cozy Recipes for Fantasy-Loving Souls, which was a finalist in the 2018 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. Astrid has been cooking, baking, and reading fantasy (and plenty of other literature!) for over 40 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Latin and a master’s degree in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of New Mexico. She has loved C. S. Lewis since childhood and J. R. R. Tolkien since middle and high school. She also loves all Star things, both Trek and Wars, all things Whedon, and many other things besides… She lives in the enchanted city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband; she is also a mother and a grandmother. For more information, go to astridwinegar.com. You can follow her on, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.