“Many good men have been bad kings, and some bad men have been good kings.” – George R. R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons
And never truer here, when Harrowmont seems the obvious choice (too obvious, with that Liam Neeson face) and ends up being the worst thing to happen to Orzammar: he closes off trade with the surface, oppresses the Casteless in a good scenario and massacres them when he destroys Dust Town in the worst (should Branka live), and still has time to get Orzammar into a war with the surface, thus leading to complete isolation.
The traditionalist’s traditionalist does not love change. He clings to the old ways as a shield against the threats Orzammar faces every day. “But he’s a politician!” some protest. “What would he know about hunting in the Deep Roads?” He’s a very old, very loyal friend of King Endrin Aeducan. He may be an old man now, but he was young once, and no doubt accompanied his friend and patron into the depths more times than the younger generation would believe. When King Endrin’s middle child is exiled, he accompanies him or her on the first leg in person, with only one man-at-arms to guard him. Whatever else he may be, Lord Pyral Harrowmont is no coward. His taste in cookery is just another manifestation of his brave, somewhat weary belief in the old ways.
Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredient list. Many are optional, and substitutions are both easy and acceptable.
4 ounces fatty bacon, sliced**
1 pound kielbasa
8 ounces smoked ham
1 pound beef stew meat (chuck or bottom round is ideal)
¼ cup flour
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 pound green cabbage, shredded
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh sauerkraut
8 juniper berries**
½ tsp caraway seeds**
2 bay leaves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp marjoram
2 tsp good-quality paprika
1 quart beef stock
1 cup stewed tomatoes, chopped
hot pepper sauce to taste**
** optional ingredients
Fry the bacon in the bottom of a Dutch oven and remove when crisp. If you aren’t using bacon, use 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the kielbasa and ham and saute until it browns. Remove with a slotted spoon. Dredge the beef in the flour and brown. Remove with a slotted spoon. Saute the onion and carrots until the onion is translucent and add the cabbage and mushrooms. Saute until the vegetables are wilted. Add the garlic and stir.
There is a great deal of contention and very little agreement on what to do with the sauerkraut. Some people rinse it, others don’t. I love sour food, so I opt drain it without rinsing, but those who prefer less tartness (or less salt!) may want to rinse it before draining. Either way, add it to the pot now, together with all the remaining ingredients. Some people like to add prunes or diced apple at this stage, but neither is required.
Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring every half hour or so and adding a little water if it starts to look dry.
Serve with dark rye bread and something green. Sliced cucumbers, even brined cucumbers, work splendidly. Despite the beef and sausage, this stew pairs better with white wines. Try a riesling or sauvignon blanc (Hungarian badacsony is ideal, but it’s hard to find), or serve beer.
Author’s note: This stew is modeled after bigos, an Eastern European hunter’s stew. I fell in love with it when a friend brought his family’s version to a party. It hit all my flavor buttons: rich, intense, a little sour, a little spicy, and very filling. It was a lively party and not ideal for sharing recipes, but it’s been 20 years and I still remember it. This is as close as I’ve been able to get without knowing the details. Chris S., if you’re reading this, thanks for introducing me to this wonderful stew! Your version is still better!
Sorry about the long recipes today. It seems to be a thing with Aeducan-themed recipes.
Saved Orzammar for last. I really like the city and all the turmoil when you arrive (all those dwarves stewing in their terribly old traditions and stubborn mindests). Political intrigue, wrestling with the morality of the caste system, the proving, and of course the epicness of the deep roads (where all of Branka’s dirty secrets are revealed… I don’t think any of my wardens have ever sided with her.) Also, Oghren, who is unabashedly disgusting and obnoxious (I kind of love him anyway).
This playthrough I’m going to pick Bhelen. Even though he’s not a great person, he seems to be the best ruler. My dwarven wardens always side with Harrowmont because of the personal vendetta they have (and the front row seat they had to just how soulless Bhelen can be in his quest for power), but Harrowmont clings to old ways and the epilogue never seems to end well for Orzammar if he’s ruler. Bhelen wants to bring long needed change to the dwarves, and since I hate the caste system, it’s a little easier to stomach choosing him.
Side note: this is the party I’ve been bringing out about 80% of the time. Wynne butting heads with Zevran constantly is pretty great. Zevran is shameless and sarcastic and drives her crazy (which I appreciate because I can only hear so many platitudes and so much motherly advice before I want to launch the mage into some darkspawn). If she wasn’t a healer, I’d have Sten in the party instead. I love Sten. And Sten/mabari interactions are always gold.