Monday, 14 January 2013

Cook the Books: Persimmon toast for The Hunger Games


I was really surprised by Heather's selection for the latest Cook the Books Club. I'd seen the movie The Hunger Games but not read the book, and frankly I had been pretty disappointed by the movie. I found Katniss unsympathetic and the only character I really liked was Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, and that was mostly because he is very attractive. Aside from one of the characters being a baker, there wasn't really anything in the movie that indicated that the book would have any foody interest at all.

How wrong I was. The book is much, much better than the movie and packed full of foody interest (in between children murdering each other in a televised spectacle). I think part of the problem with the film is that the book is written in the first person and a lot of it is stuff that is happening in Katniss's head. So a great long passage of her thinking about why she needs to control her emotions and what she needs to do to survive in the Hunger Games is translated on screen as a flat affect. I think it probably needed some narration or something to convey more of Katniss's rich internal process and much more likeable character.

The food in The Hunger Games is really interesting. Along with the descriptions of the clothes, the contrast in food types and availability are the clearest indications of the chasm between District 12 and The Capitol. In the Capitol there is abundance and variety, in District 12 starvation is never far away for most people. The difference between the tributes from the wealthy Districts and the poorer ones is also highlighted in terms of their nutrition - in The Hunger Games, to be well-fed is to have the strength to survive.

While I was very interested in the lamb stew that Katniss considers the best thing about the Capitol, I decided that I really wanted to do something with stale bread, inspired by Peeta. Katniss thinks that Peeta, being a baker, has had a much easier life than her, but she gradually discovers that his family mostly lives on stale bread and the squirrels she sells them. So, stale bread (in its most perfect form, toast) it had to be.

In order to have stale bread, I started with fresh bread. A lot of mass-produced bread goes mouldy before it goes stale, because of the additives in it, so I made a variation on Dan Lepard's milk bread, which I have made before. This time, I added a small proportion of rye flour, and some powdered buttermilk, and used skim milk as the liquid. This was an absolutely gorgeous loaf of bread. Ever so slightly sweet, ever so slightly tangy, soft and with a gentle nuttyness from the rye. Eaten fresh it was delicious, but it really came into its own a couple of days later when thickly sliced and toasted.
Persimmon - looking slightly battered and bruised but sweetly jellied inside.

Toast on its own isn't very interesting, so I had to decide what to put on it. That question was answered by a previous Cook the Books selection, Untangling My Chopsticks. In it, Victoria Abbott Riccardi talks about smearing persimmon flesh on her toast as a sort of instant jam. I thought that sounded exotic enough to be a treat from The Capitol, but I wanted to also make it something that Katniss would find familiar and comforting, so I spread my toast with soft goats cheese before scooping the flesh from a ripe persimmon and spreading it on.

I know goats cheese is a controversial ingredient. I know a lot of people don't like it. But for me, the combination of warm, crunchy toast, cool, salty, creamy cheese and sweet, fragrant persimmon was absolutely delicious. I ended up eating the rest of the loaf this way (spread over several days).

20 comments:

The Cat's Mother said...

great loaf of bread and I love the goat cheese & persimmon topping.

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

I thought most people like goat cheese! I'm keen on the idea of persimmon on toast, too.

Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez said...

I LOVE goat cheese...and I can only imagine how perfectly the sweetness of the persimmon contrasts with it. Yum! Weren't the food descriptions in the book delicious? Love your inspiration :D

Camilla Mann said...

That looks delicious. I love persimmons and can only imagine how that pairs with the crisped bread. Nice job.

Annes S said...

I tried a persimmon for the first time last month - and it was love at first bite! So far only eaten them as they are but quite like the sound of smearing it on toast!

tasteofbeirut said...

It looks so delicious/sorry if that sounds cliché, but i love the idea of spreading the fruit onto the goat cheese. YUM.

Joanne said...

I'm trying to decide whether to read the book before the movie or vice versa...but now I'm thinking I should just not watch the movie at all and just read the book! Mmm love persimmons. This toast is such a fun way to eat them!

Gemma said...

The book is much better than the film but isn't that so often the way! I really like the sound of this dish - I quite often have toast with goats cheese and honey but have never tried persimmon, I might have to give it a go.

Foodycat said...

Mother - yes, this loaf was lovely.

Leafy - the people who don't like it REALLY don't and can spot it a mile away.

Heather - it was a great choice of book! Thanks!

Camilla - thanks!

Anne - I hadn't had one since I was a child, and I don't think I liked them then. It was time to have another go.

Joumana - it's a delicious combination.

Joanne - book first!

Gemma - goats cheese and honey is so good.

Simona said...

I think that pairing goat cheese and persimmon is a great idea, especially on that lovely bread. Well done!

Angie's Recipes said...

I love goat cheese! Need to find some ripe persimmons to try the toast. Looks irresistible!

Claudia said...

I wouldn't have thought to put fruit on toast (unless in the form of preserves), so a great idea, and especially with the soft cheese.

Pierce said...

Goat cheese is awesome, I can't get enough of it. And I buy it too much cause I hear, "Aw, seriously, more goat cheese?"

I have never tried persimmon but need to rectify that, especially after viewing your post. Lovely, all of it.

Foodycat said...

Simona - it worked even better than I hoped it would.

Angie - I think persimmons are in season now, so you should be lucky.

Claudia - the only other fruit I have put on toast is banana!

Pierce - I love goats cheese too!

Debra Eliotseats said...

I have no idea how you were able to save this bread a few days to make toast! It sounds and looks so delicious I would have gobbled it up immediately. I love goat cheese and think it was a great companion for you persimmons. Reply inspired post.

Rachel said...

An appropriate and thoroughly delicious-looking post for our featured book!

Danielle D'Ambrosio said...

Great looking toast! I love goat cheese and persimmons...what a great combination of two great ingredients.

AM Nichols said...

Goat cheese and persimmons sound like an amazing combination. I love that tart and sweet combo, too.

Foodycat said...

Debra - well, it was a very big loaf of bread!

Rachel - thank you!

Danielle - I was delighted by how well they combined.

AM - it was SO delicious!

Deb in Hawaii said...

I can't believe I am just getting around to all the entries a month late. ;-( Bad co-host! I love the pairing of the persimmon and the goat cheese--when persimmon season hits again I am definitely trying this.

I think because I was so familiar with the books, I liked the movie but the book was better. ;-)

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