The Culinary Travels of Alora Gaidin – Chapter 2: Tear

Culinary Travels Alora Tear

 

The next morning Lok and I set off east along the sun drenched road that ran between Illian and Tear.  Lok, being more worldly than the average Illianer with regards to traveling the countries formed after the reign of Artur Hawkwing, as opposed to only traveling the open seas, did not have as much distaste as he might normally have for visiting his rival country Tear.  But he would not be living up to the oaths of the Aes Sedai which he took upon being raised if he said he was looking forward to being among the Tairen people in their own land.  Still, it was a stop on our trip and an opportunity for me to explore the food and culture of this place so different from my own country of Arafel that he was gentlemen enough to acquiesce to my desires and declined to comment negatively as I described with enthusiasm the things I’d only read about the City of Tear. 
 
The weather held, warm and sunny with the cool ocean breeze caressing us as we rode during the day and stayed in various small inns at night.  Once we entered the country of Tear, however, inns were scarce due to the custom of Tairen lords discouraging the growth of outlying cities.  This did not put us off and was indeed a welcome adventure after years of staying within the walls of Tar Valon.  Finally the light woodlands gave way to the rolling, low lying hills, and then the shining walls of the City of Tear came into view.
 
As we rode along the increasingly muddy streets, nobles and commonfolk alike eyed us newcomers with a mix of curiosity and suspicion. This quickly gave way to disdain, as the nobles took in our obviously inferior horse breeds (Tairen horses are known for being among the finest horseflesh in the Westlands), Lok’s obviously Illianer raiment, and all classes of Tairen looked askance at Lok’s Great Serpent Ring and Red fringed capelet.  Being Illianer and Aes Sedai was not going to bar him from the city, but it would not win him any friends, and channeling was, by custom and law, prohibited.  We had long decided we would stay in less fancy inns to avoid Daes’Daemer as much as we could, and so we made our way to the White Crescent, which had decent reviews.
 
We had no issues, surprisingly, getting settled in, and after taking the time to relax after our journey, we got ready to enjoy the inn’s well crafted dinner.  Tear had a similar climate to Illian, and though they rivaled each other in seafood and olives, they differed in other ways.  Tear had more of a focus on fine wines and other fruit brandies, the pastures were dedicated to their horses instead of cattle, and goat cheese and grains were common and indeed were big exports.  Rice flourished in the muddy floodlands of the River Erinin, and grains such as wheat and rye and barley grew upon the rolling plains.  Instead of mostly ocean fish in Illianer cuisine, Tairen recipes feature both ocean, and freshwater fish such as catfish; a dark, spiky, and whiskered monstrosity the likes of which I’d never seen.  Despite its looks, the flavor was delicious in the simple way it was served with mixed rices, olive oil, wine, and fresh herbs from the forested areas of the country.  This was accompanied by a savoury fish stew with a lovely spice, served with a crusty brown bread fresh from the oven, and a rich salted butter made from goats’ milk.  White wine was served with both courses, and for dessert a simple but sweet and tart pomegranate brandy served to carry us through an uneventful evening of relaxation.

 

Tairen Catfish and Rice
  • 2 catfish fillets
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter or ghee
  • a splash of white wine
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • basmati, brown, and wild rice
Use a large cast iron pan, and add enough olive oil to coat the pan, heating it on medium.  Add the butter, wine, and seasonings, rolling the pan from side to side to gently mix them before adding the fish fillets.  Cook on both sides, squeezing a lemon onto the second side while cooking. After cooking for about two to three minutes on each side, serve on a plate with a generous helping of herbed mixed rice, and garnish with lemon slices and fresh parsley.

 

Stone of Tear Seafood Stew
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic bulb, minced
  • 2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium sized tomato, chopped
  • 8 oz of clam juice
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 pound sea bass fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Pinch of dry oregano
  • Pinch of dry thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon Japanese 7 spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
Saute the shallots in the olive oil until caramelized in the bottom of a stew pot over medium heat, then add the garlic, parsley, and tomato paste, giving each a minute to cook before adding the next.  Let these cook for about 10 minutes on low before adding the clam juice, white wine, and fish.  Simmer until fish flakes apart, then add seasonings, mix and serve with crusty brown bread, butter, and a white wine.

 

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The Culinary Travels of Alora Gaidin – Chapter One: Illian

Having received leave from the Amrylin Seat, and both my bonded Sedai as well as my Company Commander, I had traveled with my husband Lok to his home country of Illian. He had recently been raised to Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah at long last, and so we had decided to travel to celebrate in the seaside country of his origin for the first time in many years.

For a returning Son of the Sea, there was much in the way of feasting. The cuisine was certainly different in some ways than what I was used to in my own youth, Arafel was land locked and so the many dishes of fish were quite exotic. I had been here many years ago, when I was a Hunter for the Horn, and that was when I met Lok. He was an olive grower and merchant, and dabbled in some cooking as a hobby, which was when I first had the dish that we were now enjoying tonight. It was a lightly spiced fish in a refreshingly tart sauce, the delightful flavors always took me back to that first meal we shared together many years ago.

The sun drenched fields overlooking the ocean were perfect for olive groves, the Sionn family owned one such grove for generations. Some of the finest pressed olive oil came from these groves so they say, as long as you didn’t talk to a Tairen of course. I remember walking through these fields on a late summer evening, the salt air mingling with the scent of warm, rich soil and olive wood. One of the neighboring farms had beef and dairy cattle, so one could hear the soft moos in the distance. Fine steak and cheeses came from that farm, Lok’s family and their neighbors often bartered between them for the finest of each other’s wares.

Besides olives, beef, and cheese, Illian was famous for their seafood. A favorite was an orange striped fish that was abundant in the ocean and waters of the river. Grains weren’t terribly common, but the meals were so flavorful and filling, they weren’t really missed. Finished up with a nice cheese platter of different types of hard and soft cheeses, and a refreshing local rosé or sweet white wine, and I barely had room for the dessert!

After some lively conversation about trade, stories about sailing, and lots of laughter though, maybe I’ll have a slice or two!


 

 

 

Illianer Surf n Turf for Two
With cherry tomatoes, olives and sauteed spinach in an olive oil white wine sauce

  • 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
  • 12oz cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 10 large oil-cured black olives, pitted
  • A few handfuls spinach
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • two (4- to 6-ounce) fillets fresh salmon
  • one lemon, sliced into disks
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • (2) 4-6 oz beef tenderloin

You will be using 2 pans, one for each protein. Put each burner on medium heat and add enough olive oil to each to coat the pan. Add the basil, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon and 2tsp salt to one pan and some lemon juice to the other pan and mix lightly before setting the salmon in, make sure both sides of salmon are coated in the spiced olive oil before allowing it to cook on skin side down. Top with lemon slices.
In the first pan, add both vinegars, orange juice, salt and pepper, mix and coat both sides of the steak, make sure to flip the steak halfway through. Add chopped olives and spinach.
To the salmon, add chopped tomatoes and spinach. Cook both until desired rarity and serve with wine.

  • Nine Bees Cheese plate

Nine cheeses with pesto, olive oil, and rosemary pita chips/bread

  • Rosemary pita chips and/or bread
  • 9 Assorted cheeses, cut into slices and arranged neatly on a tray
  • side of olive oil with salt and pepper to taste
  • side of pesto sauce for dipping

Arrange the cheeses and dips in the middle of the platter, if you are feeling creative you can make it have the appearance of the flag of Illian! Dip the pita chips in the olive oil or the pesto, or top it with cheese and pesto, the combinations are yours to explore.

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