Shakespeare Feast: Cymbeline

The chef looks a little strung out…

I hear a picture is worth a thousand words, and by now I’m sure you all know that I am quite long winded.  So without further ado (about anything, or nothing), here’s today’s feast in its entirety…

Why yes, I believe there *was* enough food in the end.  In fact, I didn’t overcater all that much.  At the end of the day, we had about five biscuits left, a bit of each of the dips, some vine leaves, some chickpeas, and a few celery sticks.

Reading Shakespeare builds quite an appetite…

Good bread is vital – thanks G!

Crudités have to be beautiful. Note the authentically Roman purple carrots!

Now for some things to go with them…

Olive and celery pâté

Herb and pine nut dip with un-Roman tofu

Goat’s milk dip





And some more savouries…

Leek and potato pie – thanks J!

Lovely golden saffron chickpeas

Mustard turnip pickle. I can’t say I recommend this one, either!

Vine leaves stuffed with mackerel and feta. Other people liked this one, but sadly, they still reminded me of catfood. (Good catfood, though.)

Incidentally, all these pictures were taken by my lovely minion M (who also arrived early and turned those perfect peeled baby carrots).  Without her, this would be a much shorter post.  And now I have to mention my absolute favourite savoury food of the day, which was the chickpeas cooked with saffron, because it’s the easiest recipe in the world, and practically a perfect one – soak chickpeas overnight in water, then drain and simmer gently with water, a pinch or two of saffron and a pinch of salt for an hour or so until they are tender (simmer with the lid on). The chickpeas go a beautiful gold colour, and taste fresh and buttery and gorgeous. I’ll be making that again, even if Andrew doesn’t understand my enthusiasm for it!

The roast garlic, herb and feta dip also didn’t get a solo photo, but here is the savoury centre of the table for your delight and delectation!

Leek tart (centre), and clockwise from foreground: fig cake, marinated feta, turnip pickle, olive and celery dip, roast garlic and herb dip with feta, herb dip with tofu, more pickle, alas, goat’s milk dip

Of course, you will all have realised by now that sweets are my favourite part of any meal, and this one was no exception.

Sesame wafers and poppy seed & nut pastries

Cheese and honey biscuits above, fried honey and pepper biscuits below

Pears, dates, peaches and raisins

Fig cake. Take some dried figs, pulverise like mad, press together and dust with flour and coriander seed. Yum!

The biscuits, which were quite dry, had two dipping sauces – a pear purée (made by cooking pears in sweet wine until they are very soft, then blending them until smooth), and a honey and rosewater syrup. The honey was from a friend of mine who keeps bees – it’s quite herbal and astringent and almost bitter, and married beautifully with the sweetness of the rosewater.

Wait – they had chocolate in ancient Rome?

Oh yes, and I just couldn’t resist making my chocolate, raspberry and coconut cupcakes again.  Not very Roman, but I had no complaints…

As for the play itself – well, I can see why Cymbeline is a problem play.  It’s very strange – part history, part comedy, and allegedly also a tragedy, and it feels like Shakespeare was playing a game called ‘how many tropes can I use in one play?’.  It has a girl dressing as a boy.  It has heirs to the throne in disguise and secret siblings.  It has the potion that makes everyone think the drinker is dead.  It has mistaken identity.  It has the Iago-like character tempting the hero to unreasoning jealousy.  It has the wicked and conniving stepmother.   It has beautiful poetry alternating with utterly irrational behaviour from the alleged heroes.  Look at that fabulous table full of food!It even has rhyming ghosts and a deus ex machina!  For rather silly Shakespeareans like us, it’s just about the perfect play, even if it is dreadfully reminiscent of that part in the ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare – Abridged’ show where they blend all the comedies into one.

As excuses to feed people go, it’s pretty fabulous – and better still, I have the most fabulous leftovers.  Tonight’s dinner included those chickpeas and a variant on broccoli mornay that used the garlic and cheese dip for a sauce; tomorrow’s lunch will be pasta with olive and celery dip, raw fennel, capsicums, and cherry tomatoes.

And it will be delicious…

(even if neither of us want to eat the leftover fishy vine leaves…)

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10 comments for “Shakespeare Feast: Cymbeline

  1. Danika
    May 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    That looks pretty fabulous. I wish we could have filched some of these images for the Roman cookery part of the history book I was working on a few months back!

    • May 30, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Maybe for the next edition? Incidentally, most of the food was vegetarian, and well over half of it was vegan (more again if you are a honey eater)… perhaps we need to write a Roman Vegan Cookbook?

    • May 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      They are heaps of fun! Particularly, of course, as my group is full of excellent readers with quite filthy minds (essential if one wants to really appreciate Shakespeare!).

  2. Rose MIA Thorn
    May 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Oh You do know how to do a Feast dear. Heston has nothing on you.

  3. May 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    What a lovely feast to accompany the great words of Shakespeare! And hehe yes sweets are very important-I like your range of sweets!

    • May 30, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      Thank you! Yes, I am rather biased in favour of sweet things…

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