Cinnamon and Gunpowder with African Yam

Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown, was a jolly good read for sure, and our Cook the Books Club selection for October/ November.  I am hosting this event, which is coming to a close on the 30th of November. What we do in this online group is read the current book selection, and then cook something inspired by our reading, post about it, then send your link to the host, or add in the comment line at the Cook the Books site.

I thoroughly enjoyed this very unique story, perhaps some might say an implausible one. But keep in mind the time, people and politics of the day, the places involved. There were pirates then. Life was very difficult for the poor, especially for women on their own. And, we do know from historical records that there were women pirates. Overall, what an amazing adventure!

From the Publishers:
"A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship

The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.
To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—"

There was plenty of food inspiration here.  Everything from potato flour crusted cod on a bed of saffron rice, walnut crisp cakes with figs and shrimp in a dark, fragrant red wine reduction, to a Spanish bean stew.  At one point they capture a ship on which are barrels of pepper, and as it is off the coast of West Africa, the Ivory Coast, I am speculating there may also have been among the cargo, aside from the peppercorns and ivory, various vegetables from the area.  Perhaps some Ghana yams, aka White Gunea Yam or Puna yam, considered the most important food staple in West Africa.  Items not for eventual trade, but for their own use at sea.  Remember that "potato" crusted cod?

See above, my yam from Ghana.  A dual purpose vegetable here.  Half I cut up and cooked.  The other was put aside for planting.  And, what a surprise!  Not like any yam or sweet potato relative I know.  It is very close to potato.  Some of the cooking half (note - it was a 5 lb.  tuber) I boiled, then served with a stew.  Some was sliced and fried, the rest I boiled and mashed to have with turkey gravy.  Love this yam.

The reserved half, as per online directions, I cut into what they call "setts" a size of between 60 - 100 grams.  Dusted with wood ash and left to air dry for a day, then laid on the ground under my lychee tree, sprinkled with potting soil, then lightly covered with leaves.  Now we wait for the sprouts to come up.  Lord willing!

Here with an elk stew.

The pictures don't do it justice.  But for a tropical potato substitute I am excited.  Our fictional chef would not have been into growing it, but happily using this yam in creative ways aboard the ship.  


Mae Travels said...

That sounds like quite a pirate fantasy — not based on much historical knowledge, though.

best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I loved this book Claudia and I love the recipe you chose to make. Not sure I will be able to find those yams near me but I am all about Eating the World.

Marg said...

I was planning to participate this month but I am still reading it! But I do have the next book lined up!

Delaware Girl Eats said...

I think yams/sweet potatoes are totally under-rated. It seems though that they are making a bit of a comeback in recent days

Simona Carini said...

Five pounds? Wow! That was indeed some tuber. I hope the planting experiment goes well. The setts should be happy under a lychee tree. Thank you for sharing your adventures and for hosting :)