As a fantasy author, I pay a lot of attention to world building and spend extensive time drawing maps, defining languages, deities, clothing, and occasionally exotic curse words. But even more importantly, when I create a new world I always think of food. No world building would ever be complete without it.
In Russia, where I grew up, native food tends to be bland and not very varied. I do have my favorites, but I tend to think of them in terms of comfort rather than taste. When I moved to the US and was introduced to the wonderful concept of different cuisines, I just could not get enough of them. Not that I eat a lot, but I am fascinated by new tastes, and playing with the ideas of different dishes in my fantasy worlds became one of my favorite topics of research.
My “Majat Code” trilogy, concluded with the just-released “Assassin Queen”, is an adventure fantasy with a lot of fancy swordplay and some elements of romance, set in a multicultural medieval land. I put years into building the world for the series, and I paid lots of attention to food. Down to the recipe cards I give out at conventions and author events, each listing one of my favorite recipes from a country or province of the “Majat Code” world. Today I want to share one of these recipes, stuffed flatbread from Bengaw–home to the superb blades crafted from their famous Algarian steel.
•Flatbread: Mix 3 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Knead until the dough is pliable and does not stick to the hands. Use a wooden roller to flatten pieces of dough into approximately palm-sized squares on a flour-dusted board to prevent sticking. Place each piece on a skillet pre-greased with olive oil and fry for 1-2 min on each side. Set aside for serving.
(Note: in the mountain regions, the hot flatbread pieces right after cooking are sprinkled with a pinch of finely grated cheese, which melts into the bread prior to adding the filling).
•Filling: Pre-heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Stir-fry finely chopped meat, red beans, and potatoes, spiced with powdered red pepper, salt, and garlic, for 1-2 min. Add a handful of chopped dill and turn off the heat. Place into a pre-heated clay bowl, close the lid, and set aside for serving.
(Note: in the lower flatlands, meat in the filling is sometimes replaced with bean curd, poultry, or egg–or even omitted if desired).
•At the table, spoon the filling onto the flatbread and wrap up to eat.