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rottendeadite:

sunderlorn:

        Food of Morrowind

“Morrowind is vast, strange, diverse: a land riven by cultural groups, religious differences and variations; an inland sea and rivers of water and of dust. Its ingredients and those who tackle them are the same — indeed, they must be so. It is only with the dawn of the 4th Era, and the exodus from Vvardenfell that such a thing as a unified, homogeneous Dunmeri cuisine has even begun to exist…born of nostalgia and retrospection: things that once were. But even now, no two Dunmer will agree on what their half-lost homeland’s food means to them. The recipes I have collected here are by no means exhaustive. To think they can even pretend to be so would be a grand disservice. It would be dishonest in the extreme, for I am sure much has been missed out. But hopefully, at least a little has been included also.”

            — Tertius Epicurus

Tertius said it. Morrowind’s food is weird and varied. And we’ve missed a lot out. But with any luck we’ve also captured some of the stuff you might not expect. We decided, for example, to avoid attempting to make scuttle, or scrib jelly — the former would be too hard (we don’t know shit about making cheese that’s also a kind of meat), the latter too easy and underwhelming.

What we make is also subject to what we can actually get hold of, and what we happen to have that needs using up. It adds an element of surprise to our adventures — an element any good adventure would be pretty damn sad without. So that’s something to bear in mind. Another limiting factor is also what we can cook and eat in one day: one meal.

In any case, we’ve tried to assemble a menu that harnessed our Morrowind nostalgia into something usable and useful. And the result is truly a medley. As Tertius suggested, the various cultural groups in Morrowind each have their own cuisine, determined by local ingredients, attitudes, that sort of thing. What we’re interpreting here is the cuisine of displaced 4th Era Dunmer, and that of those re-settling Morrowind after the Red Year. We created a feast of disparate dishes, each representing a region or a group, or a memory, and then put them all together to create our idea of new Dunmeri cuisine: pride in diversity, unified by pride in resilience, fortitude.

    ‘Saltrice flour yellow-spice flatbreads.’

“There are two sorts of Dunmer: those who grind their bread-flour from saltrice, and those who use wickwheat. The saltrice varieties are flat, fluffy textured, and often spiced for the sake of flavour. I knew a cornerclub-keeper in Raven Rock who would bake his flatbreads with little pockets in their centers, filled with mashed ashyam — but I digress…These flatbreads are simpler: their dough is folded with fried onions and red-yellow spices, then rolled out and fried in a little oil to make a light absorbent repasse. The latter characteristic is particularly important. It is the characteristic that places them first in my ordering of dishes. In Dunmeri cuisine, as it currently stands, the great diversity of dishes are united on platters of just such bread as this. various portions are distributed across the flatbread and eaten off it, after which the juice-soaked bread is eaten also.”

This recipe is actually based on a Sri Lankan one: dry-roasted rice flour dough with fried onions, chillies, spices. The idea of using them as bread, however, is similar to Ethiopian injera. This culture clash adds the kind of strangeness we wanted for Dunmeri cuisine…not to mention the fact that spoonbread and platebread are some of my favourite concepts when it comes to food! It worked a charm here.

    ‘Urshilaku ash yam and spice-cured nix jerky stew.’

“Among the Ashlanders it has always been customary to avoid waste. This dish exemplifies that doctrine. Nix-hound jerky — or cured meat from some other herd or pack beast — is dried together with spices so that neither can go rancid, and then revivified through frying in oil that quickly becomes fragrant and rich with the combination of the two. Most commonly, some liquid — often tea, or a Dunmeri liquor — then ash yams are added and cooked over an open fire, or the hot hearth-ashes one might leave behind. Further spices are then added for celebrations more notable than simply eating well in the first place.”

This was damn good. I’ll go into details, but first, a quick note. We used actual yams. Sweet potatoes would have been different. Nicer perhaps, in their own way, but the African white yams we ended up using out of curiosity just kinda blew us away. They were like nothing we’d ever really tasted before: creamy, starchy, like waxy potatoes and mash all at once; but with a fibre and bite to them almost like meat, and a texture that made them take on the characteristics of whatever they were cooked with wonderfully.

But yes. Sweet potatoes would have worked too.

The rest of the flavour came from what Ashland cuisine has come to mean for us. We use a mixture of Indian curry spices like turmeric, chai tea (which gives a kind of dark rich fruitiness), Ethiopian berbere spice mix, chipotle chilli (because what’s more Vvardenfell than smoky-spicy heat?), and plenty of liquid smoke, along with a couple tomatoes for balance and sweetness.

As for the meat, we used beef and chorizo.

The result is a definite hnnghh.

    ‘Saltrice pilaf.’

“There are as many ways of cooking saltrice as there are Dunmer who grow it. At least, this is what I’m told. In truth, I see little evidence of more than a handful. However, this method has been my favourite so far. A pot of the salty black rice is covered and sealed with a lid of leftover dough from the day’s bread, and then brought to a simmer. The liquid puffs the rice, leaving it perfectly cooked in the trapped steam. Saltrice is most satisfying when cooked not to Oblivion, but in such a way as this, so that some bite still remains in each grain.”

I can’t quite admit to myself that saltrice might just look ordinary. We had to go one step further. So we used Italian Black Venus rice, which results from generations of crossbreeding with chinese ‘forbidden rice’: the result is a shade of red so dark as to seem black, and striking, gorgeously al dente rice, cooked in a pilaf style, with a dough lid, though actually remaining almost more like a loose rich risotto. We used smoked salt to season it.

    ‘Telvanni mushroom medley with frost salts and Grazeland wickwheat.’

“Among the Telvanni, meals do more than keep hunger at bay. They keep the body in peak condition, and do all the more for the mind, and the magicka. This warm salad of mushrooms and wickwheat, taken from the nearby Grazelands, seasoned with mouth-numbing magicka-bolstering frost salts, is as demonstrative an example as you’d hope to find: each ingredient is paired with another so as to bring out its alchemical potential, all for the better.”

Stir-fried oyster, shiitake, and brown cup mushrooms, mixed up and cooked with buckwheat, garlic lemon zest, and Sichuan Pepper for the zesty numbing cold-heat I associate with frost salts in TES cuisine. Served with sliced pan-fried portabella mushrooms and fresh chives.

    ‘Dres slavers’ Blackmarsh trail-mix.’

“Strange that the House once so deeply associated with enslaving the beast races should now have come to adopt so many affectations and culinary airs from the nearby province of Blackmarsh, whose people it once oppressed. This dish, I am told, was once designed to feed both slavers and slaves on the long journey from Blackmarsh to Tear, using ingredients found along the way: a strange plant that grows along the border, chopped up fine and fried while stirring with hot peppers, spice seeds, sap, and Dunmeri liquor.”

Finely chopped broccoli flash-fried (so it keeps its bite) in walnut oil, with chilli infused rice wine vinegar, long red chillies, tamarind, cumin seeds and asafoetida for a half-acrid creaminess. This was actually moreish as hell for something born from a simple fact: we had broccoli that needed using up.

    ‘Kwama egg omelette.’

“The humble kwama egg. Though scarce for a time, Morrowind’s recent resettlement has unearthed and reopened the mines. Eggs flow from them once more, and have once again become a staple of the populace. Such omelettes as these are thick, filling, almost cakelike, if not for their savoury salt-and-smoke tang. They are cooked in flat pans, then sliced and served in strips in medleys such as this.”

We found two large goose eggs at market and used both, mixed with Thai fish sauce, cayenne pepper, smoked soy sauce, to make two fluffy rich omelettes.

    ‘Spiced roobrush and stoneflower tea.’

Actually a Samovar blend with cloves, cinnamon, orange zest, cardamom, black tea and dark chocolate.

    ‘Sujamma.’

“Next to greef and shein, sujamma is palatable: speaking of class and higher times gone by. Unlike the dark comberry brews, it is also milky white in colour with a fairly subtle taste of half-bitter anise. It does, however, share their potent alcoholic kick.”

We used pastise: a french liquor, similar to absinthe, in that it is distilled from herbs and spices. What attracted us was the hard liquorice flavour and the fact that its colour changes from greenish to milk white when mixed. We couldn’t make up our minds as to whether sujamma should be pitch black or whitely opaque: we plumped for the latter in favour of this flavour.

    ‘Pomegranates.’

“For what would a Dunmeri banquet be without a quiet nod to this other banquet of legend?”

    Influences.

Too many to count, though I’ll try anyway. Ethiopian cuisine with its centrally assembled medleys, served on injera. Sichuan, Mongolian, Pakistani, Persian, Sri Lankan, Japanese. I would’ve liked to make more of them more apparent, however. I would also have liked to include more dishes.

I’m not sure I’m quite happy with the result, though I’m very satisfied having eaten them. If there’s any Tamrielic cuisine I’ll return to, it’s this — rest assured there, for the perfectionist in me will not…rest, that is.

Well done.  But I can’t help but notice the conspicuous lack of bugs.

I know, right? It’s one of my bigger regrets too. And I feel like it’s one worth addressing. As I said, I would’ve loved to sink my teeth into some scuttle, a bit of scrib jerky (despite the fact that it’s pretty much stated, in-game, to be a fair stone’s throw from palatable), jelly, etc.

However, in the interests of time constraints, and playing it safe while still working in a decidedly experimental mode — and not wasting ingredients, for the sake of price — we decided against, at least for now.

I did do some pondering about how to simulate the ‘greasy, salty, peppery’ taste of scuttle: various kinds of refried cream or curd cheese, or perhaps crumbled spiced loose-pressed tofu? But none seemed quite right.

We tried to avoid this by imagining that populations of the more formerly widespread edible bugs might be a bit more scarce post-Red-Year, and in need of some protection. But honestly, we would’ve liked to try. Perhaps, however, it’s a project for another time.

As is, if I come up with an interesting and moreish and lore-friendly simulacrum-recipe for, I dunno, scuttle or scrib jelly, then you — oh, internets — will be the first to know!

Hope you enjoy what we’re currently able to offer, meanwhile.

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