Novelty and tie-in cookbooks. There’s no shortage of them. Star Trek has one, as does Star Wars. Doctor Who has one too. Hell, even Hannibal has a cookbook. I don’t think there are any recipes in it for human flesh, though. Maybe. Probably. Hopefully. Adding to this list of novelty/tie-in books, we now have the juggernaut of gaming – Minecraft, with the Minecraft: Gather, Cook, Eat! Official Cookbook written by Tara Theoharis and published by Titan Books. Incidentally, this isn’t Tara’s first visit to that strange world of blocky terrain, spiders and Creepers. In 2018 she gave us another, rather less-official version, called The Minecrafter’s Cookbook. Gather, Cook, Eat! on the other hand, is an entirely official release.
It’s a reassuringly well-made thing: hardback, with a cover designed to look like the grass texture from the game. Inside, the book is broken down into different sections, including drinks, desserts and even one on meal planning which recommends which recipes might go together. It also features a section on dietary considerations, listing whether a recipe is vegan and/or gluten-free, and even one for converting US measurements into metric. It leans heavily into the block aesthetic of the game, with plenty of in-game images sprinkled throughout. The biggest conceit, other than the game tie-in, is to break recipes down according to the “player type” that inspired the recipe, be that fighter, hunter, gatherer, builder, etc.
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Any cookbook will rise and fall on the quality of the recipes inside and, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so that’s what we did. We tested four recipes from the book to see if they stood as things you’d actually want to eat, or if they were just novelties that you might try once before shoving the book onto the back of a shelf to sit and gather dust alongside the The Sopranos Family Cookbook (yes, that exists).
Kicking things off was a two’fer. The “Smoker” brisket paired with the “Redstone Dust Rub”. Each recipe includes an estimate of prep time as well as cooking time, the “yield” or serving size, dietary notes and whether or not you’ll need any particularly special tools. The directions are well laid out and follow in a nicely logical order. With the aid of my eight year old daughter we were able to assemble the redstone rub really easily and then slather the brisket in it before leaving it overnight in the fridge to marinade before slow-cooking the following day.
So was it worth the combined thirteen hours of prep and cooking time? Happily, yes. The rub is similar to other barbecue inspired spice rubs that you can find online, but it manages to stand on its own rather than being just a clone of other recipes. It’s sweet, spicy (we cut down on the black pepper and only used mild chilli powder on ours) and my daughter proclaimed the end result one of the most delicious things I have ever cooked, so we can chalk that one up as a big win.
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For pudding we made the “Cocoa Chunk Cookies”. There’s nothing really specifically Minecraft-like about these, other than you can make and eat cookies in game. It’s a pretty bog-standard chocolate chip cookie, though the addition of flaked salt at the end proved to be divisive in the Rockwood household, with some liking it and others not so keen. The recipe also called for you to use a “2 3/4 inch cookie scoop”, a tool that we had never heard of, nor did we own. I’m not sure if this is a common implement in American kitchens, but I don’t think many UK kitchens are likely to have one, so we just had to spitball the sizing.
The end results, following the instructions to the letter, gave us fairly decent results, however the cookies could have done with longer in the oven. The 15 minute cooking time proved to be insufficient, and even after removing the cookies when “the edges are light brown” as per the recipe resulted in some of them being underdone. Still nice, though!
Our final recipe was the “Potion of Night Vision” which is a sort of carrot-cake inspired smoothie using a base of coconut milk to which you add frozen banana, carrots and assorted spices… and it really wasn’t good. It was in desperate need of sweetening, and the taste of the coconut milk pretty much wiped out every other flavour. That one was not a hit with either my daughter or myself so it ended up going down the sink!
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It’s a good idea, I get what they were aiming for with it, but the coconut milk is just too strong. I’d suggest trying it with oat milk if you want to make it yourself. The drinks section is the weakest in the book, with some of them sounding kind of horrid, honestly. Black tea with popping candy in it? That’s a hard pass. Cola with syrup and coffee in it (the “Survive the Night” soda pop)? Uhm. No. I think I’m good.
In the end we had three successes and one very definite failure. Not a bad ratio all in all. There are good recipes to be found here, ranging from simple ones to get little Minecraft fans involved right up to some seriously challenging and complicated ones that require a fair bit of cooking skill. Some of the recipes do ask for things that aren’t common in the UK, so there’s going to be some substitutions and internet searches going on, but it’s a book that’s earned a spot in my kitchen and is definitely one I’ll come back to again.
I’m still not putting popping candy in my tea, though.
Minecraft: Gather, Cook, Eat! is out now from Titan Books.