Harry Potter And The Delectable Feasts

–by Ronit Treatman

What is Harry Potter’s favorite food?  According to The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, it is treacle tart!  Local author Dinah Bucholz has compiled the recipe for this and many other dishes found in J.K. Rowling’s seven Harry Potter books.   This cookbook is the perfect resource for planning a celebration inspired by the Harry Potter series.

We learn a lot about English cuisine in this tome.  Dinah Bucholz reveals the roots of some of the featured recipes.  For example, we learn that Sugar Biscuits came from the Ancient Romans, who founded London in 43 AD.  Tea, “the most British of drinks”, came from China in the 1600s.  During the Victorian Era, when India was a British Colony, mulligatawny soup (“pepper water” in Tamil) became very popular in England.  

More after the jump.
Ms. Bucholz tells us where in J.K. Rowling’s stories each dish appears, and provides us with a recipe. This is especially helpful for those of us who have not read the books.  It enables us to know which character cooks or likes which treat.  

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook is geared for American cooks.  There are suggested substitutions for ingredients that may be difficult to find in our local supermarkets.  I personally think that it is worth making an effort to purchase the right product in order to prepare an authentic dish, and really get into the Harry Potter spirit!  For example, on page 178 we find the recipe for Harry Potter’s favorite treat, treacle tart.  Treacle is a syrup that remains when sugar is produced from sugar cane or sugar beets.  Several substitutes are suggested, such as corn syrup, molasses, or maple syrup.  It is possible to purchase English golden syrup (treacle) online at the British Food Shop at this link.

This cookbook is being marketed with children in mind.  The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook website has a section where recipes which require liquor for their traditional preparation are presented for adults.  

A wonderful idea came to me as I flipped through the book.  In honor of the final Harry Potter extravaganza, when the last movie in the series is released, I could plan an English afternoon tea!   It would be just like the ones Harry Potter enjoys in the story.  Ms. Bucholz explains how to brew a proper pot of English tea (page 36).  Her book does not tell us exactly which type of tea people in England brew for afternoon tea.  An informal survey of my friends from the United Kingdom revealed that any loose leaf Twinings tea will do.  Earl Grey and Lady Grey tea were their favorites, served with sugar and milk.  To accompany the tea, I could prepare some consummately English treats that no one in my family has ever tasted.  Harry Potter enjoys his tea with crumpets (page 32), rock cakes (page53), or Bath buns (page 56).  We could try to bake any one of these for an authentic experience.  

We decided to prepare crumpets.  These are yeast dough pancakes which are toasted and served with clotted cream and jam.  You can purchase English clotted cream from The Devon Cream Company at Whole Foods, as well as your favorite jam.  We bought strawberry jam, as suggested on the jar of clotted cream.    

Preparing crumpets reminded me of baking Challah.  You mix the yeast dough, and let it rise for about an hour and a half.  The kitchen fills with the delicious smell of rising dough.  Instead of braiding and baking, I poured the dough into greased metal cookie cutters placed in a greased frying pan.  The recipe called for crumpet rings, metal rings that contain the batter as it cooks.  I don’t have any, so I used what I had on hand.  Fittingly for a Harry Potter tea party, our crumpets were whimsically shaped like hearts and stars.  I was surprised to find that crumpets are a little salty.  They are not really cakes, but rather a sort of skillet bread.  When combined with strawberry jam they are absolutely delicious!

After our tea party, we saw the second part of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.  When we came home I had just the thing to take the bitter out of the bittersweet feeling we were experiencing.  Treacle tart!  What does it taste like?  An English shoo fly pie.