Corned Beef & Cabbage: A Dwarven Feast?

With St. Patrick's Day nigh, we decided to cook a dwarven repast from Heroes' Feast: Corned Beef & Cabbage. It's also an opportunity to spotlight how different cultures express their identity through food in fantasy campaigns.


Corned Beef & Culture​

It's worth pointing out that corned beef and cabbage is associated with St. Patrick's Day in the United States, but that's not necessarily the case everywhere. Cows weren't commonly bred for their meat in Ireland; that came later thanks to expanding British influence. In fact, the term "corned beef" is British:
The British invented the term “corned beef” in the 17th century to describe the size of the salt crystals used to cure the meat, the size of corn kernels. After the Cattle Acts, salt was the main reason Ireland became the hub for corned beef. Ireland’s salt tax was almost 1/10 that of England’s and could import the highest quality at an inexpensive price. With the large quantities of cattle and high quality of salt, Irish corned beef was the best on the market. It didn’t take long for Ireland to be supplying Europe and the Americas with its wares.
As you might imagine, tastes have changed considerably since then. Corned beef in the U.S. is actually made from brisket, a kosher cut of meat from the front of the cow. Because brisket is a tougher cut, the cooking process changes the flavor of the meat considerably to something much more tender than its predecessor. Heroes' Feast specifically recommends brisket for its recipe.


Fantasy Beef & Culture​

Heroes' Feast doesn't have much to say about the recipe other than it's associated with dwarves:
From the mines of the Ironroot Mountains to the halls of the Iron Hills, this savory winter repast is a favorite of dwarves everywhere. Hungry miners will blush pinker than the beef itself when their noses catch the distinct scent of coriander, allspice, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and red pepper flakes wafting from a full-to-the-brim cauldron. Served in a light, tangy broth with generous helpings of boiled cabbage and doused in vinegar, this dish is sure to satisfy the sale cravings of even the saltiest dwarves (just as long as you don't forget the ale).
The recipe calls for pickled spice, which were weren't able to procure in pandemic conditions, so we instead made our own. I also overdid it on the celery (as a new chef, I'm still learning measurements). This meal takes over four hours, so it's not something you're going to whip up for your players just before they arrive to game.

For all the references to salt, the recipe does its best to minimize your sodium intake. The butter is unsalted and the chicken broth is low-sodium, presumably because you'll add the salt yourself.

Overall, the meal was surprisingly tasty. It was spicier than I might have expected, but then we created our own pickled spice so that surely had something to do with it. Some kind of bread would go well with it (Heroes' Feast rarely mentions any sides to go with the recipes). All that said, there's a lot of meat and mostly vegetables so I'll be eating this all week for sure.


Where Do Dwarves Live, Anyway?​

There's a reference to Ironroot Mountains in the recipe's introduction, which is in Eberron in eastern Khorvaire:
The Ironroot Mountains are a stretch of mountains in eastern Khorvaire, lying parallel to the Hoarfrost Mountains and along the western border of the Mror Holds. It is believed that the Ironroot Mountains have some of the richest mineral deposits in Khorvaire. The dwarves of the Mror Holds trade and mine in these mountains, but their operations tend to come under attack by the Jhorash'tar orc clans. Many clans of Jhorash'tar orcs live on the mountains, making it incredibly dangerous for wandering travelers and even more so for any dwarves.
Heroes' Feast also mentions the Iron Hills, eastward of the City of Irongate in Greyhawk:
The Iron Hills are a massive series of highlands extending eastward of the City of Irongate and surrounded by the United Kingdom of Ahlissa to the north and the Principality of Naerie to the south. The Iron Hills are the home of the Kingdom of the Iron Hills Dwur, ruled by King Holgi Hirsute (ml dwf LG Ftr15), who is firmly allied with Irongate. The hills produce very high grade iron ore, and several kinds of precious metals. Gnomes and humans do some of the mining in the area, but the largest and most productive mines are dwarven-run.
There's nothing in either of the above wikis that explains the history of how dwarves came to create such a dish. Given the winding history of how corned beef and cabbage has come to be associated with St. Patrick's Day, a meal like this is an opportunity to tell their story, particularly of a well-traveled people who have faced a lot of hardship.

Your Turn: Is dwarven cuisine different from other meals in your campaign?

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
There are three good methods to make a corned beef:

1) For the time-pressed, use an Instant Pot. Instant Pots are great for this. I use mine once a week in the winter to make a Yankee pot roast. It cooks in less an 90 minutes.

2) For those with day jobs, use a Crock Pot. Crock Pots are designed for all day braising. Prep your stuff the night before, put it in a Ziploc bag, and dump it into the Crock Pot. Turn it on and go to work. Your dinner will be waiting for you when you get home.

3) For the traditionalist, use a Dutch oven. The only difference between a Dutch oven and a Crock Pot is that it is much safer to leave your Crock Pot unattended all day long than to leave your oven unattended all day long.

If you don't care about your fat intake, take care to cook your corned beef with the fat side up. This way, as the fat cooks, it will melt through the meat, imparting flavor. If you do care about your fat intake, don't make a corned beef. It's loaded with dietary fat. That's why it tastes good.

Add your cabbage and potatoes toward the end so they don't get too soggy. And get a good, solid, whole-grain mustard to serve alongside. If you can't find soda bread, either a hearty rye (preferably seeded) or pumpernickel is an excellent pairing. For beers, you're going to want a Kolsch, not a stout or porter. The salt will make you thirsty, and the Kolsch will take care of that and also cut through the fat. Plus, the fruitiness of the Kolsch will accentuate the subtler notes from the bay, peppercorns, and fennel. For a wine, again, choose a fruity red like a Beaujolais or Grenache. On the white wine side, you wouldn't be wrong in selecting a dry Riesling.

Finally, if you have a Penzey's near you, I recommend them. Their spices are far superior than the McCormick you'll find in your local grocery. The herbs and spices are fresher and of better quality. You can seriously taste the difference.


face it. Hero's feast is just another cook book with a little bit of the Realms icing to make fans buy the book.
I was curious as to how good any of these recipes are. Honestly between my shelf of cookbooks, the internet and just my decent knowledge of cooking in general this book was a hard pass for me from the start.
Finally, if you have a Penzey's near you, I recommend them. Their spices are far superior than the McCormick you'll find in your local grocery. The herbs and spices are fresher and of better quality. You can seriously taste the difference.
I can attest, there is a Penzeys near me. They also have a webstore too. Their selection and quality of spices is far and above any you'll find in a chain grocery store. Admittedly though their prices can be a little high but compared to McCormick's Gourmet line, they are well worth it. Actually reminds me I need to stock up for the coming BBQ season soon.


Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
I most have missed the extensive pasture level in the mines of Moria needed to raise cattle.

Meatwise, dwarves would likely eat mutton, elk, deer, moose, llama, alpaca, goat, or bear, or game fowl like grouse, partridge, quail, or dove. Not to mention eel or freshwater fish from any mountain or cave streams. If anything, they'd eat a lot of mushrooms and lichens, not to mention root vegetables such as cabbages and potatoes.

If they were to eat beef, though, it would be corned beef as the beef would be salted to keep longer during transit.

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