Food is all we're thinking about with the upcoming film based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling series, “The Hunger Games.” From the districts’ struggle to feed their people to the Capitol citizens gorging on rich, plentiful treats, food plays a big role — and writer Emily Ansara Baines seized the opportunity to capture the flavor.
Baines is the author of "The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook," which features more than 150 recipes for dishes mentioned in "The Hunger Games" trilogy.
“Suzanne Collins left a great [food] road map. I don’t know if she likes to cook but she described a lot of the food,” Baines told TODAY.com. “I bought new copies of each book since I didn’t want to mess up my own and then went through with a highlighter marking all mentions of food, even an apple on a tree.”
As an aspiring young adult fiction writer, Baines was drawn to "The Hunger Games" for its engaging story and strong female protagonist. She was reading it while working as an in-house chef at a post-production sound facility in New York City and came across the part in which the character Peeta burns bread.
“It’s mentioned that the bread has raisins and nuts and I thought it sounded good," Baines said. "I made it and it was popular where I worked so I kept going.”
While Baines has no formal cooking training, she learned a lot about cooking from her grandmother and best friend.
“It was a fun, creative process exploring these recipes. Some required more exploring than others, [for example] the groosling doesn’t exist but in the book it says it looks like wild turkey. Stuff like that I had to hope I was as true as possible. I also made sure [to keep in mind] that for the poorer districts, who probably couldn’t afford it, not to use rich ingredients while with the capitol I could have more fun with those,” Baines said. “I took liberties and hoped I was right!”
Each recipe includes the book and chapter where the food was mentioned in the series, a great addition for the die-hard fan who can use it to get in the mood by reading the passage before chowing down! (We've added a snippet of each passage to go along with the recipes below.)
The cookbook doesn’t shy away from the more interesting meals the characters eat either, including recipes for Mr. Mellark’s Favorite Fried Squirrel and the 75th Hunger Games’ Dutch Oven Tree Rat. Baines found this wild game section the hardest to work on, since it’s not so easy finding raccoon meat for your meal. Through research online, Baines discovered a whole community of folks who discuss catching and cooking game. She even tried to experiment with cooking squirrel once, but after the way she received it (just dead in a box, not skinned and prepared for cooking), she stuck with substitutions. So if you’re not sure about going out and hunting down a squirrel, don’t worry; Baines says you can substitute the meat in each recipe with something more palatable, like chicken.
Baines says her favorite recipes in the book are for the myriad of breads and desserts
The only foods not included in the cookbook are those with alcohol. Sadly, that means no recipe for the "cake with spirits" Katniss, Cinna and the gang enjoy after District 12's fiery debut in the first book. But you may find some liquor in the recipes for Baines’ next project, "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook."
As you’re prepping to watch "The Hunger Games" this weekend, try some of these tasty recipes from the world of Panem and see if yours look as delicious as the food we’ll see on the big screen. May the (cooking) odds be ever in your favor!
Prim's basil-wrapped goat cheese balls
"On the table, under a wooden bowl to protect it from hungry rats and cats alike, sits a perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves. Prim's gift to me on reaping day. I put the cheese carefully in my pocket as I slip outside." - "The Hunger Games," page 4
Yields 25 servings
- 5 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 25 large basil leaves
- Extra-virgin olive oil to taste
In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture onto each basil leaf. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
District 11's crescent moon roll with sesame seeds
"I open the parachute and find a small loaf of bread. It's not the fine white Capitol stuff. It's made of dark ration grain and shaped in a crescent. Sprinkled with seeds. I flashback to Peeta's lesson on the various district breads in the Training Center. This bread came from District 11."- "The Hunger Games," page 238
Yields 8 to 16 rolls
- 2 (.25-ounce) packages active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, thinly sliced and room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Mix in sugar, salt, eggs, butter, 1 cup all-purpose flour, and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Beat until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add remaining all-purpose and whole wheat flours, and mix until smooth again. Scrape dough from sides of bowl. Using your hands, knead dough for ten minutes on a lightly floured surface, then place until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Grease a large baking sheet. Punch down dough. Divide in half. Roll each half into a 12 inch circle. Spread melted butter over each circle. Cut circles in half to yield 8 to 16 triangle-shaped wedges. Roll up wedges starting at the wide end. Curve edges to make a crescent shape. Place rolls with small pointed side down, 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, at least 90 minutes (preferably 2 hours).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine 1 large egg with 1 tablespoon milk. Brush roll with egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake rolls at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Rue and Katniss's apple-smoked groosling
"For awhile all conversation stops as we fill our stomachs. The groosling has delicious meat that's so fatty, the grease drips down your face when you bite into it." - "The Hunger Games," page 202
Yields 2 servings
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
- 2 (1 1/2 to 2 pound) wild turkey breast halves
Combine the vinegar, water, paprika, salt, lemon pepper, and marjoram in a glass jar and shake to blend. Place the turkey breasts in a large Ziploc bag. Pour marinade over the turkey and carefully seal the bag, removing most of the air. Refrigerate for about 1 to 2 hours. Build an indirect fire in a kettle grill or water smoker and add 3 or 4 water-soaked apple-wood chunks to the fire.
Remove the turkey breasts from the marinade and place on the indirect-heat side of the grill or smoker (discard remaining marinade). Slow smoke at 225 degrees F for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the breast meat registers 165 degrees to 170 degrees F well done. The turkey will retain a slightly pink color from the slow smoking and the wood. Slice and serve.
Capitol-grade dark chocolate cake
"The supper comes in courses. A thick carrot soup, green salad, lamb chops and mashed potatoes, cheese and fruit, a chocolate cake. Throughout the meal, Effie Trinket keeps reminding us to save space because there's more to come." - "The Hunger Games," page 44
Yields 1 cake, or 8 to 10 servings
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup fine-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup cold brewed coffee
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups (1 pound) butter (no substitutes), softened
- 9 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 1/2 cups fine-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth; batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 45 minutes.
While cake cools, prepare icing. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed or using a wooden spoon and lots of muscle, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Reduce speed to low and add confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add milk as needed until frosting reaches preferred spreading consistency. (For thicker frosting, add less than a cup of milk. To thin out your frosting, add more milk. The choice is yours!)
Once cake has thoroughly cooled, spread icing over the top.
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Lisa Granshaw is a writer and producer for TODAY.com. She wishes you all a ‘Happy Hunger Games week!’ and is glad she lives in a society where she can say that without having to watch our children now battle to the death.