Lamb stew with dried plums, district breads and goat cheese everything.
It wasn't just the drama of the arena that riveted fans of Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games." From the simplicity of a District 12 repast to the lavish Capitol feasts, the culinary descriptions were fabulous as well.
Two months ago, as anticipation for the March 23 release of the movie began to build, we asked readers to deconstruct the signature dishes of the "Hunger Games" and give us recipes for those distinctive breads, Greasy Sae stews and other exemplars of Panem cuisine. But we had no idea just how remarkably creative you would be, nor how delicious the results.
Submissions came from "Hunger Games" fans from across the United States and the United Kingdom, accompanied by notes that made us grin, sigh happily or laugh out loud. One suggested we combine wild dog with pond water. Another took the idea of the arena's sugar berries to lofty lavender heights, while others tinted bread dough green and infused it with seaweed and salt in homage to District 4. Not surprisingly, dozens of recipes paid homage to Prim's goat, Lady.
We posted the recipes online and invited you to vote for your favorites and determine our finalists. Our judging panel then prepared and tasted those dishes — because, as Katniss Everdeen will be the first to tell you, it takes more than a pretty picture to win the "Hunger Games" — and chose the five most delicious dishes as the winners. Our decisions weren't even difficult. Those five dishes were swooningly wonderful.
Katniss would have been utterly impressed by Lorin Cook's "Going Into Battle Lamb Stew With Plums & Cranberries." Many people submitted lamb stew recipes, but this one, which also snagged an overwhelming number of votes, completely captured the flavors and textures of a dish that manages to be Capitol-caliber luxurious and comfortingly hearty at the same time.
Cook and her 9-year-old daughter, who hail from Alpine, N.J., are "huge Hunger Games fans," and it's clear, Cook says, "why this (stew) was Katniss' favorite part of the Capitol. You can win any battle with this hearty stew, served on a bed of wild rice."
The breads that Katniss and Peeta enjoy at the Capitol's training center represent the different districts, and fans took great pains to re-create those distinctive rolls. Julia Christy and Cristian Martinez made small nori-infused, fish-shaped rolls for District 4, while Fletch Hopper, a San Jose, Calif., 10-year-old, took a larger-scale approach with an elaborately woven Salty Seaweed Panem that lets the seaweed peek through the tender, pale green dough.
And Antioch, Calif., English teacher Sherri Livingston and her Deer Valley High School English class collaborated on a "Hunger Games" bread that was inspired by Prim's goat cheese and the agricultural bounty of District 11. The result is a slightly sweet, oversized, crescent-shaped roll — stuffed with savory goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, pesto, nuts and seeds — that delighted our tasting panel, too.
GREASY SAE'S CREATIONS
We approached the Greasy Sae-inspired Hob recipes with some trepidation, but Carolyn Moore's Catching Fire Chili With Wild Boar and Venison captured District 12's wild frontier — and tasted amazing.
"I imagined Greasy Sae combining meats straight from Katniss' latest catch with special spices to spark the passion for our beloved heroine," says Moore, of Los Gatos, Calif., "and to ignite the taste buds as folks feast and watch the televised games."
If you're not planning to shoot your own game with a bow and arrow, Moore suggests looking for the necessary venison and wild boar bacon at a specialty butcher.
WILD CARD TREATS
The wild card category brought a broad array of Katniss-inspired dishes, including a spinach-watercress broth that tastes like the springtime the books promise; delicious goat cheese and apple tarts from Crystal Watanabe from the clever blog Fictional Food; and an appetizer that captured the very first meal in the book, a simple picnic of goat cheese, bread, basil and blackberries.
"I took the liberty of turning a simple snack into a fairly fussy appetizer," says Oakland, Calif., resident Hester Van Der Vinne. "The scallions stand in for the wild onions we know grow in District 12. Hazelnuts are not mentioned in the book, but a quick Google search revealed that they grow in Appalachia; therefore, they must grow in District 12 as well."
It's the perfect start to a "Hunger Games" feast.
'HUNGER GAMES' FEAST
This lavish menu was inspired by "The Hunger Games":
Bread With Goat Cheese, Basil and Blackberries
Green Broth That Tastes Like Springtime
Going Into Battle Lamb Stew With Plums & Cranberries
Catching Fire Chili With Fresh-Caught Wild Boar and Venison
Prim's Goat Cheese and Herb Bread
District 4's Salty Seaweed Panem
Goat Cheese and Apple Tarts
Sugar Berry Cake
GOING INTO BATTLE LAMB STEW WITH PLUMS & CRANBERRIES
Serves: 6 (or 2 starving "Hunger Games" tributes)
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
6 slices bacon, diced
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cut in quarters
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup cabernet sauvignon wine (or substitute 1/2 cup grape juice and 1/2 cup broth)
8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons horseradish mustard
6 small red potatoes, peeled
3 small carrots, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried plums
1. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat, then cook the diced bacon until almost crisp. Remove to plate, leaving the bacon fat in the pot.
2. Combine seasoned salt, pepper and flour in a large bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat.
3. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil, if needed, to the bacon fat, and brown the lamb on all sides. Add onion, mushrooms, garlic and wine (or grape juice broth mixture).
4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the tomato sauce, brown sugar, oregano and mustard; stir well. Pour over stew. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
5. Add the cooked bacon, potatoes, carrots, cranberries and plums to the pot. Cover and simmer for 2-3 more hours, or until tender. Served on a bed of wild rice, you can win any battle with this hearty stew.
—Lorin Cook, winner, Capitol Fare division
CATCHING FIRE CHILI WITH FRESH-CAUGHT WILD BOAR AND VENISON
Note: Wild boar bacon and venison can be found specialty butchers.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup red, orange and yellow heirloom cherry tomatoes, chopped
14-ounce can sliced stewed tomatoes
6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup red, orange and yellow mini peppers, chopped
1/2 cup beer, such as Kona Brew's Fire Rock (or substitute beef, chicken or mushroom broth or stock)
1/3 cup steak sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce (the hotter the better)
6 slices wild boar bacon
1/3 pound venison, cubed
1 pound ground beef
1.25-ounce packet hot chili mix
1 teaspoon ground cumin
15-ounce can kidney beans
15-ounce can jalapeno black beans
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Handful of parsley, chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
Sour cream, cheddar cheese to garnish
1. In a large pot over medium heat, use the olive oil to saute the garlic, onion, celery and carrots.
2. Add the fresh and canned tomatoes and tomato paste, pepper flakes, peppers, beer (or broth or stock), steak sauce and hot sauce, and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook the bacon. Remove bacon to paper towels. Cook the venison in the bacon drippings, stirring constantly as the venison cooks quickly. Remove venison, again leaving juices in the pan, and cook the ground beef in remaining juice. Add chili packet and cumin.
4. Chop the bacon and add it, along with the venison and cooked beef, to the simmering vegetables. Simmer another 20 minutes.
5. Stir in the beans, cilantro and parsley. Heat through and serve with a dollop of sour cream and grated cheddar cheese.
—Carolyn Moore, winner, Greasy Sae's Creations
PRIM'S GOAT CHEESE AND HERB BREAD
Makes: 4 small loaves
1 cup milk
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 packages active dry yeast
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3 large egg yolks (Optional: Save an egg white for bread wash)
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup pesto, divided
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup finely chopped combination of fresh herbs, such as basil, rosemary, thyme, chives and parsley
4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped combination of nuts and seeds, such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, toasted almonds and pine nuts
1 egg white, optional
Sesame seeds, garnish
1. Scald the milk and let cool to lukewarm. Then pour milk into a small bowl, stir in 2 teaspoons sugar, sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until foamy, 5-10 minutes.
2. In a food processor, add flour, ¼ cup sugar, salt and chilled butter and pulse until combined. Add egg yolks and yeast mixture and process until thoroughly mixed, 20-30 seconds.
3. Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
4. For the filling, mix the goat cheese with ¼ cup pesto. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll each round into a thin, irregular circle. Spread 1 tablespoon of the softened butter on each circle. Drizzle each with the remaining pesto. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and nuts. Dot with the goat cheese mixture. Fold the dough in half, roll up the edges, and crimp to seal.
5. Place the loaves on 2 large, greased baking sheets, cover with a clean cloth and let rise until not quite doubled, about 45-50 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bread with a beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
—Sherri Livingston's Deer Valley High English class, winner, Breads of Panem division
BREAD WITH GOAT CHEESE, BASIL AND BLACKBERRIES
1 cup blackberries
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
¼ cup sugar or more to taste
Goat cheese spread:
1/2 cup shelled hazelnuts
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil, or more
2 cloves roasted garlic
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 baguette, in 1/2-inch slices
1. Heat the blackberry preserve ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Increase heat to medium, break up the blackberries a bit and keep stirring until preferred jam-like consistency is reached. Taste for sweetness, and add more sugar if desired. Pour into a bowl and cool. This will keep for about 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Be careful, because nuts burn easily. Rub off any brown skins by rubbing them with a kitchen towel. Chop the nuts.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, mash the goat cheese with a fork. Add olive oil to loosen it up. Add more if you need it. Mash in the garlic, stirring well to distribute thoroughly. Add nuts, scallions and basil, and stir well to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spread goat cheese mixture on baguette slices and top with a dollop of blackberry preserves.
—Hester van der Vinne, winner, Wild Card division
DISTRICT 4's SALTY SEAWEED PANEM
Makes: 2 loaves
Note: Find nori at specialty markets and in the Asian foods aisle at Whole Foods.
2 packages dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 cup margarine or butter, melted in the warm milk
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
4 1/2 cups flour
Green food coloring, optional
Sheets of nori, optional
Egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons milk)
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Combine dissolved yeast and remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Dough will be soft. Cover with a damp cloth. Place in refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Roll half the dough into a 16-by-8-inch rectangle. Put a layer of seaweed (the nori, crumbled) down the center third of the rectangle. Cut slits in dough along each side of filling; fold strips at an angle across the filling, alternating sides. Fold the wide end over one layer to form the tail. Repeat with remaining dough.
3. Place the loaves on a greased cookie sheet, cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush top lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with delicious, sweet shellfish.
—Fletch Hoppe, winner, Breads of Panem division
DISTRICT 4 BREAD
Note: Find nori at specialty stores and in the Asian foods aisle at Whole Foods.
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 packet yeast
4 drops of green food coloring
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3-4 tablespoons nori seaweed, blended to a powder
2 1/3 cups flour (half whole wheat and half white flour)
Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Sea salt for sprinkling
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, yeast, food coloring and warm water. Add the oil, egg, salt, nori and 1 cup flour. Continue stirring, adding flour as you go, until you form a soft dough. Put the dough onto a floured surface and knead it, adding flour as you go, until the dough is soft and pliable. Place the dough into a greased bowl and let it rise to double the size, about 40 minutes.
2. Punch the dough down and form into fish shapes. Use kitchen shears to cut definition into fish fins, gills and scales. Brush beaten egg over the tops of the fish to add extra shine. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Let them rise for another 25 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls for 10-12 minutes, or until the bread is a lovely golden brown — or greenish, golden brown.
—Julia Christy and Cristian Martinez, runners-up, Hunger Games recipe contest
GREEN BROTH THAT TASTES LIKE SPRINGTIME
2 stalks celery
2 green onions
1 large clove garlic
3 large handfuls of spinach
1 large handful of watercress
1 large handful of parsley
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
2 cups vegetable stock
Salt to taste
1. Chop celery, green onion and garlic into small dice. Roughly chop spinach, watercress and parsley.
2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Then add the chopped celery and green onion. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the celery is softened. Add the garlic, and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
3. Add the spinach, watercress and parsley to the pan in batches, stirring until it all wilts. Continue to stir and cook for several more minutes.
4. Add the vegetable stock to the pan, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring up to a simmer. Then puree the soup until smooth using a blender, food processor or immersion blender. Add salt to taste. Serve as is, or strain it for a smoother, thinner consistency. Garnish with chopped parsley
—Jillian Wood, runner-up, Hunger Games recipe contest
GOAT CHEESE AND APPLE TARTS
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
5 tablespoons water, divided
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
? teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1 pinch nutmeg
1 1/3 cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups diced apples
Goat cheese filling:
5 ounces goat cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon heavy cream
1. For the tart crust, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening in until the mixture is nice and crumbly. Whisk the beaten egg, vinegar and 4 tablespoons water in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture. Mix with a fork, adding the last tablespoon water. Do not knead. Form the dough into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator.
2. For the apple filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Place the water in a pot and add the dry ingredients, breaking up the cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and apples, bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Mixture will thicken. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes. If it's too thick, add more water.
3. For the goat cheese filling, whisk the goat cheese, sour cream, sugar and honey until smooth. Add the egg and stir until the filling is smooth, creamy and golden yellow.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate your dough into 10 equal sized balls. On a floured surface, roll out the dough, cut into circles and line 10 tartlet pans or a muffin pan. Beat the egg wash ingredients together, then lightly brush onto the crusts, taking care not to leave any excess on the bottom.
5. Fill each tart a third to half full with the goat cheese mixture. Bake 15 minutes.
6. Top the tarts with the apple filling, leaving some of the goat cheese visible on the sides. It should be firm enough to support the filling. Bake for 20 minutes. Slide the tarts gently from the pan and let them cool a little. Best served warm.
— Crystal Watanabe, runner-up, Hunger Games recipe contest
SUGAR BERRY CAKE
3.1 ounce milk chocolate mousse dessert mix
1 cup Prim's goat's milk or soy milk
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup cold mashed Katniss tubers or potato (without added milk and butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Prim's goat's milk or soy milk
Purple or blue and red food coloring
Filling and topping:
6 ounces seedless sugar berry or red raspberry jam
2 cups whipped topping
Purple or blue and red food coloring
Berries to garnish
1. Prepare the chocolate mousse according to package directions, but substitute goat's milk. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add potatoes and vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well. Add food coloring until batter is a deep purple.
3. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch round pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool.
4. Remove one cake layer from pan and lay flat-side up on a serving platter. Stir jam until smooth; spread half over the cake. Top with second layer of cake, flat-side up. Repeat with remaining jam, spreading it all the way to the edges.
5. Add food coloring to the whipped topping to tint it purple; frost the sides of the cake so it touches the jam edge. Use a piping bag to adorn the top of the cake with swirls of chocolate mousse, leaving a 1-inch border to expose the jam. Garnish with berries.
—Angela Olesen, runner-up, Hunger Games recipe contest