In my novel Fireborn, there is a secret organisation called the Guild of Shadows, tasked to defend Earth from supernatural threats. Each member of the guild is assigned a gargoyle guardian, and the pack of gargoyles is used to keep watch, and fight off threats. To incorporate the Gargoyle into my novel, I researched the history behind these terrifying looking stone creatures, perched on top of buildings, watching all below.
The word Gargoyle stems from France and was and was an architectural appendage designed to carry water from the roof and building, to prevent leaking and water erosion of the stone. The water spout on the stone piece’s mouth was known as the Gargoyle, which when translated, means throat or gullet, and kind of sounds like the word gargle.
The actual decorative creature, which typically depicted wings, horns, talons, tails and wings, is called the grotesque. According to myth, the sculpture is considered a protector and guardian of buildings, designed to ward off evil. This myth traces back to the French legend of Le Gargouille, a dragon with huge bat-like wings and a long neck that terrorized the townsfolk near the River Seine by burning buildings, swallowing ships and vomiting water from its mouth and flooding areas. It is said that when the dragon was defeated, its head was cut off and mounted on the church walls, to ward off evil spirits from the people in the church.
These stone sculptures can be found in numerous ancient cultures, like the lion head water spouts in Greece and Rome, the Green Man in Celtic folklore was a human head entwined with leaves was used to represent fertility, and the griffin symbolized
a guardian of the divine to the Egyptians.
Pain au Chocolat Recipe
2 sheets of gluten free puff pastry (with each sheet cut into 12 squares)
4 3.5-ounce bars of your choice of chocolate cut into six 2×3/4-inch pieces
1 large egg beaten
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line baking tray with paper sheet.
Brush the top of each pastry square with egg and water glaze.
Place 1 chocolate piece on the edge of each pastry square.
Roll the dough tightly over the chocolate and repeat for each square.
Place pastry rolls on baking sheet.
Brush remaining glaze on top of the rolls and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Bake until pastries are golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Serve warm so the chocolate is melted!
Today we welcome the landvaettir, a Nordic nature spirit that translates to land wight. The landvaettir were known as underground elf guardians of Iceland and Germanic areas, that dwelled in fields, amongst rocks, near bodies of water, trees, forests, rivers, meadows, mountains. Sometimes they appeared as humanoid, other times as trolls, and if as beasts to scare people off.
When the Norse people ventured to Iceland, the land was full of wights, whom they sought friendship with. Landvaettirs were untrustworthy of human invaders for bringing war, bloodshed and destruction to the land.
Through the Nordic’s interactions with the land wights, myths spread that still exists today, to respect the landvaettir for the happiness of the land depends on them. If angered or their homes disturbed, the wights unleashed havoc that prevents people’s land from thriving. To this day, many farmers in Iceland dare not disturb rocks on their property out of fear of angering the Landvaettirs living there. Legend says keeping them happy brings rain and allows them to defend the land from other threats.
Nowadays, Iceland is said to be protected by four landvættirs, as depicted on the Iceland coat of arms:
- Dreki the dragon in the northeast.
- Gammur the eagle/ griffin in the northwest.
- Griðungur the bull in the southwest
- Bergrisi the giant in the southeast.
Caldeirada (fish stew)
It’s winter in the southern hemisphere, so I was inspired to include a hearty fish stew for a healthy, and wintery meal!
Ingredients (serves 4)
800 g peeled and cut potatoes
60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red capsicum (pepper), membrane removed, thinly sliced
3 tsp smoked sweet paprika (less if you don’t like it spicy)
1 pinch of saffron threads
3 tsp red wine vinegar
100 ml dry white wine
400 g mussels, cleaned
4 x 100 g pieces skinless cod (or whatever fish you prefer)
12 prawns, peeled and deveined
- Boil the potatoes and a pinch of salt on medium heat.
- Cook the onion in the oil until soft.
- Add the garlic and capsicum and stir for 1-2 minutes.
- Mix in the paprika, saffron, vinegar, wine and 2 tbsp water and bring to the boil.
- Add the mussels for 2-3 minutes or just until the mussels open. Remove the mussels from the pan, and reduce the heat to low.
- Put the fish and prawns, and cover and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. During the last minute of cooking, return the mussels to the pan and season to taste.
- Divide the warm potatoes between bowls, and spoon the stew over the top and serve.
Today’s Mythological Munchies is inspired by Romanian legends which feature in my latest novel The Silver Thief. Today let’s welcome…or should that be velcome in the accent…Dracula!
When people think of Romania, they often associate it with the famous town Transylvania and Dracula (Strigoli translates to vampire in Romania). Strigoli were known as undead monsters unable to stand sunlight, and as such rose from the coffin/grave at night to terrorise villages. Legend had it they drank the blood from innocent victims via veins in the side of the neck, as means to sustain their own life.
Strigoli legends are what contributed to the vampire and Dracula legends that Romania is famous for. In fact author Bram Stoker’s infamous novel Dracula was based on these stories, but his version of the myth incorporated a man dressed in a black cape and suit underneath, with fangs and the ability to turn into a bat at will. Dracula and Strigolis were rumoured to killed by exposure to sunlight, contact with snow or a stake direct to the heart. Other myths suggested garlic and nailing clothes to a coffin wall would ward them off.
Pretty much everyone knows about Dracula. But have you heard of the legend that inspired the tale? Dracula was based on Vlad Tepes, meaning Vlad the Impaler, a ruler of the Walachia region of Romania in the 1400’s. Check out his castle below, known as Bran Castle in Brasov Romania, also known as Castle Dracula! To Europeans, Vlad was known for his gruesome acts upon attacking soldiers or even those nobles within his own court who did not demonstrate loyalty. But to the Romanians, he was a hero who defended his country, the Christian religion and implemented laws to protect them.
Get ready for a delicious Romanian treat as featured in my latest novel The Silver Thief.
Papanasi (cheese filed donuts)
3 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups gluten free flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum extract
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour – for coating (before frying_
Oil for deep frying
- Mix all ingredients, and let batter rest for an hour in the fridge.
- Remove batter from the fridge at least half an hour before frying until it is at room temperature.
- Create little balls of mixture and dip in a bowl of flour. Shake off excess flour.
- Flatten the balls and cut a hole in the middle using a small cookie cutter. Keep the cut outs for later as you can deep fry and serve them on top of the doughnuts.
- Heat oil for deep frying to sizzling point (not too hot!) and fry each doughnut for 3-4 minutes on each side.
- Remove donuts and place on papered plate to absorb the excess oil.
- Place the doughnut on a serving plate, and fill the hole with sour, sour cherries/ strawberries and jam. Place the little dough circles on top.
For my next munchies stay tuned for more Romanian inspired treats…mmm…
For any of you that loved the movie Antman, you are going to love today’s mythology section. Please welcome the Abatwa, a bunch of tiny Zulu humanoid creatures of about half an inch in height, that are small enough to co-exist with and ride ants for transport.
African myths says the Abatwa were born from the tears of the nature spirit Vash’ Nok’ that fell to the earth and burst into the Abatwa people. They reportedly hide under blades of grass, sleep in ant holes and reside in the mountains in the tunnels of anthills. Typical hunter gatherers, they feed on roots and other grasses, and hunt meat.
Apparently the Abatwa are shy and elusive, only appearing to children below the age of five or magicians with the sight. Kind of reminds me of Africa’s version of fairies, minus the magical powers and wings.
If you venture into the mountains of South Africa, watch where you step, because
accidentally squashing an Abatwa will result in you being shot with a poisoned arrow that brings sudden death.
For those that may cross an Abatwa’s path, do not offend it by criticising its size. Follow the Abatwa protocol, and praise it for its greatness and you may live.
Mince and Bhontshisi
Mince and Bhontshisi (Beans) (serves: 2 – 4)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 peppers (any colours)
2 teaspoons curry powder
400g lean beef mince
1 beef stock pot
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can red kidney beans
Sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 sprigs Italian parsley
1. Cook onions and garlic until transparent, adding peppers until soft.
2. Add curry powder and stir it in with a wooden spoon.
3. Brown mince with other ingredients.
4. Add stock and tomato paste to the mixture.
5. Combine beans and stir into the mince mixture.
6. Season with salt and black pepper.
7. Add parsley just before serving.
8. Serve with hot rice and sliced chillies.
Greek legends say Pegasus is a white winged stallion, born from the blood of Medusa and the foam of the sea-god Poseidon. After his birth, Pegasus flew away to Mount Helicon to live with the muses that befriended and cared for the goodhearted and gentle creature. Whenever he struck his hoof to the earth, a spring burst forth that was said to bless the drinkers with the gift to write poetry. As such Pegasus was considered an inspiration to writers, but also a representation of glory, wisdom and heroism.
The most famous story of Pegasus involves his assistance in battle of the Chimera that had been terrorising the people of Lycia with his devastating fiery breath. The warrior Bellerophon tamed Pegasus with a golden bridle given to him by the goddess Athena, allowing the human to ride the great flying horse, and shoot arrows at the Chimera and kill it.
Myths tell of the winged horse bringing lightning and thunder from Olympus, the home of the gods. The horse became famous in stories depicting him carrying Zeus the god king through the stars. For Pegasus’ service to Zeus, he was honoured by the god and turned into a constellation on the last day of his life. The seventh largest constellation in the sky is located in the northern hemisphere, at latitudes +90 degrees and -60 degrees, and looks like a square with three legs bent like horses.
Greek Kolokithokeftedes (Zucchini Fritters)
Veggie of your choice (i.e. shallots or spring onions)
100g feta cheese
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
1 cup plain gluten free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
Pinch of cracked pepper
1. Grate zucchini and place in a bowl and sprinkle with some sea salt. Set aside for 10 minutes then squeeze excess liquid from zucchini.
2. Combine zuchini, veggies, cheese, eggs, herbs, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.
3. Refrigerate mixture until firm, so you can roll into round flat fritters.
4. Dust patties with extra flour for a crispier coating.
5. Heat oil in frypan over medium heat.
6. Cook patties until golden and drain excess oil on paper towel.
7. Serve with tzatziki and more feta.
During my research for the Fireborn series, I came across all sorts of well known mythological creatures, like the minotaur, vampire and goblin etc. But there was also a host of less known creatures from less familiar cultures, which I am giving a spotlight! So today I welcome the Tengu!
The Japanese creature Tengu translates as half crow, half human. If you watch Japanese animation or video games then you’ve probably heard of them. Folklore says the Tengu had a large, red beak or nose, glowing eyes and wings that stirred fierce winds and could make thunder noises. Like many mythological creatures, they posses the ability to shapeshift, but were mainly reported as seen in bird and human form.
Positive myths indicate the Tengu were formidable warriors, possessing martial arts skills, that protected mountains, forests and Buddhist law. The negative myths suggest a mischievous side that played pranks on travellers, and they brought war with them.
Curried Pumpkin Soup
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1kg pumpkin (seeds scraped out and chopped into chunks)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dairy free butter
- 1 onion (or 2 small)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (anti inflammatory and fights infection!)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric (also anti inflammatory)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- Tin coconut milk
- 500 ml vegetable stock.
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
2. Cut up pumpkin into chunks, and place on a baking tray. Brush with olive oil and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper (if you like). Bake all together for 40-45 minutes.
3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan on a low-medium heat and cook the onions and garlic.
4. Add in the spices and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5. Add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Once the pumpkin is cooked, blitz into a soup with a stick blender.
7. Serve with a garnish of chopped rosemary, a dollop of sour cream or a drizzle of olive oil.
Fomorians were believed to be the ancient and native inhabitants of Ireland. Various names are often associated with them, ranging from spirit from ‘beneath the sea’, giants descending from Noah’s son Ham that settled after the great flood, spirits of nature and chaos even to demon pirate gods.
In terms of physical appearance, the legends differ greatly, portraying the Formorians as monstrous and fearful cyclops-like beings with one eye, arm and leg, to beautiful elf-like creatures, and even giants with the body of a man with a goat’s head.
Brawn and strength is attributed to these giants, who were reported to tussled with visitors to Ireland over territory, and even conducted raids to pillage treasure.
Magical powers possessed by the Formorians include the ability to clear away a fog, recede water, stop a storm and even bring plagues to their enemies. Stories allude to their amazing hearing, where the wind brought them words from afar. Cool!
Formorians most famously featured in the Dungeons and Dragons games as ogre like beings, and King Balor was the father of the elf prince in Hellboy 2.
St Patrick’s Day Cupcakes
Oohh I’m so excited for this week’s munchies: St Patrick’s Day Cupcakes! Now I’ve done a basic version below, but I saw some pretty cool designs if you like more of a challenge, so please check out these videos if you’re interested: leprechauns, shamrock(four leaf clovers), Leprechaun hats, over the rainbow, and pot of gold cupcakes.
1 cup gluten free flour
2/3 cup sugar or alternative like honey (half the portion size as honey is sweet!)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk (or alternative)
1/2 cup melted dairy-free butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Green food colouring if you want green cupcakes
1 1/2 cups dairy-free butter (use at room temperature for better mixing)
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or flavor alternative like mint
Green food coloring, optional
- Preheat over to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Combine the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
- Beat the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.
- Add we ingredients to dry mixture and blend.
- Put cupcake papers in a cupcake tray and pour batter into paper.
- Cook for 18-22 minutes. Test with fork until it center comes out clean.
- Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan, and add to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla, salt and 3 to 5 drops green food coloring and mix until thick like whipped cream.
- Add food coloring to frosting if desired; frost cupcakes.
- Decorate the cupcakes with frosting.
Let’s welcome the Zmey, a Slavic dragon-like creature. In Russia, they consider the Zmey to be a green, three-headed creature that can spit fire and regrow their heads if chopped off. While in Bulgaria they believed Zmey to be a mixture of man, snake and bird, a beast with a snake’s body, scaly human arms and wings. Interesting to read about the variances between the cultures.
Myths considered them wise beasts that possessed superhuman strength and magic (my kinda dragon!). Bulgarian and Serbian folklore believed the Zmey were malevolent protectors, and each village believed a Zmey guardian defended their crops from Lamia and Hala which threatened the land with drought or hail.
The only thing that could wound a Zmey was an earthenware dish, so if villages broke a plate during a storm, they would crush the fragments so the Hala couldn’t use it against the resident Zmey.
Last by not least, there were also stories that the Zmey lived in underground caverns, hoarding treasure. So if you ever wonder into a cave, I hope you find Zmey treasure!
These are the fluffiest and yummiest muffins ever.
Muffin Mania Ingredients
2 cups of gluten free self raising flour
2 teaspoons of honey or 150g of sugar if you like it sweet (I find the honey is enough for me)
½ to 1 cup desiccated coconut
80 g of dairy free butter
2 x eggs
2 x tablespoons of vanilla bean extract (this also adds to sweetness hence less need for sugar)
1 x can of coconut milk
Fruit of your choice (I love blueberries or raspberries or ripened, spotty bananas which also adds to sweetness!)
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
2. Line Muffin tin with paper cases or use butter to lubricate (I use the silicone muffin trays which don’t either of these).
3. Sift flour, and mix with coconut and sugar if you use it.
4. Combine vanilla extract, honey, eggs, coconut milk and melted butter. Mix with fork or egg whisker for about 1-2 mins.
5. Add the wet mixture to dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
6. Fold in the fruit.
7. Spoon into tray.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until you can stick a knife/fork/skewer in and it comes out clean.