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The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook review from Dryad in the Elm

I just can’t help but drag this cookbook out sometime between October and November, and I make a treat or three out of it every year all the way through the holidays.  Then I put it away until the next autumn comes around. Naturally Halloween makes me think of pumpkins, and being a Harry Potter fan makes me think of pumpkin pasties and pumpkin juice, but I think it’s more than that. I know it was around Thanksgiving that the movies were released, and they played through the holiday season. I’m sure that’s part of it, our family has a tradition of running off to the movie theater with family after the Thanksgiving feast is over. I know that’s how I saw more than a couple of these movies. I also can’t seem to get it out of my head around Christmas time, I even hear the theme song in my head whenever I think of gingerbread and candy canes. Maybe it’s all the snow at Hogwarts, or maybe it’s those amazing holiday feasts they had.

There’s also a strong feeling of tradition at the end of the year, of timeless foods and family quirks that have gone on so long that there’s only a very vague notion of where and when they started, or who they came from. My family has English roots, and it just seems to me that plum puddings, mincemeat pies, eggnog, and fruitcake should be a part of that. Unfortunately, now that Grandpa has passed, I’m the only member of the family who likes any of those at all. So, if I want them, I have to make them myself.

That’s why one October a few of years back I picked up a copy of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory–More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles and Wizards by Dinah Bucholz. There’s another unofficial cookbook out there, but this one is longer and has more recipes. I got it for the pumpkin pasties and butterbeer, but I also saw that it has more of the recipes I craved. Fruitcake, cranberry sauce, Christmas pudding, eggnog, all that goodness.

There is, naturally, more than holiday food in here seeing as how the books cover a year of Harry’s life. Traditional English foods for every meal of the day are included, things that were lost in American cuisine but remain in our ancestral culture. Naturally, there is a detailed explanation for how to serve a “proper” cup of tea, as we Americans with our teabags in our mugs are barbaric. Before I got this book I wasn’t even sure what Yorkshire pudding was, or a trifle, or crumpets. Now I have recipes for that, as well as kippers, toad in the hole, pease pudding, cock-a-leekie, treacle tart, spotted dick, and other foods that I’ve only run across in classic literature or fairy tails and nursery rhymes.

Also, there’s plenty of Harry Potter references that make eating the food lots of fun (and for food history buffs there are tales of where the English treats originated). I think it would be amusing to invite people over and serve them rock cakes, but that’s probably my odd sense of humor. More fun would be to pick recipes that are mentioned as being from the same movie, then set out a buffet of those foods alongside some pumpkin juice and butterbeer, then have a Harry Potter party with like-minded people. Currently my parties just consist of me and my budding Potter fan. One of the best joys in parenting is introducing your children to the things you enjoyed when you were young, it’s like seeing everything again for the first time.

One final thing about this book, it’s a great “gateway” cookbook to introduce younger cooks to the kitchen. When I got it, I had barely begun to think about such things as making my own pudding without using an instant mix. The details of cooking a whole chicken were vague and mysterious, and I was kind of lost without a microwave.

Yet, here in this book there is roast pork loin (and Bourbon-glazed pork loin with peaches – yum), roast chicken and beef, poached salmon in honey and dill sauce, savory meat pies, french onion soup, breaded pork chops, and beef stew. Several potato recipes are given (including french fries), glazed carrots, gravy, and other sides. It’s a great source for various custards, pies, cakes, cookies, and an entire chapter on candies (including acid drops and sugar mice). There’s even a recipe for puff pastries and one for marmalade. It has ice cream recipes for those lucky enough to own an ice cream maker.

Some recipes are advanced, and some are quite suited to the young or inexperienced chef. A Harry Potter fan who has never really stepped into the kitchen will even find directions for preparing and seasoning frozen peas, bacon, or scrambled eggs. If you know a young fan who is starting to show interest in preparing their own food (or will have to when they move out), this cookbook will help make the experience far more entertaining.

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