Culinary wizardry: Cookbook offers look into real foods in the Harry Potter series

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Hogwarts' main dining room in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

Stacey Kratz, Warner Bros.

Harry Potter fans can immerse themselves once more in the world of The Boy Who Lived when the final movie comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Friday with one more look at Harry's final showdown with Voldemort and, hopefully, some nice extras and bonus features.

But if that's not enough to satisfy your hunger for all things Potter, there's always "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook," by Dinah Bucholz (Adams Media, $19.95) www.dinahbucholz.com, which offers fans a feast of the tastes of Harry's world.

True, there are no house elves in most home kitchens to ease the preparation of, say, peppermint humbugs, which require not only close attention to a candy thermometer, but also pulling the hot candy taffy-style, snipping it into 3/4-inch "pillows" and wrapping each piece individually in waxed paper.

And though you may enjoy the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding included in the book, it's not going to magically appear on your table without some hard work and a decent eye for a quality piece of meat.

In truth, "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook" is really an authentic glimpse into traditional and typical British cookery, with references before every recipe to each dish's appearance in the seven-book series.

Some of the food featured in the cookbook, like a recipe for the hamburgers Harry eats with Hagrid at Paddington Station in the first book, is mentioned only briefly by author J.K. Rowling.

Other recipes, like Aunt Petunia's English Strawberry Trifle, are major plot points — readers will recall that dessert being splattered all over the kitchen, and all over Harry, by Dobby the house elf, resulting in Harry being locked in his room with no way to get out (until the Weasley boys show up in their flying car).

The cookbook also includes historical information about each dish, making it a valuable culinary guide to the culture that spawned the series.

Every recipe is "real" food, not a made-up Muggle version of Polyjuice Potion or butterbeer — though there is a nice recipe for the pumpkin juice Harry and his friends are served every year on the Hogwarts Express.

And though the publisher emphasizes on the front cover that the book is not "authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by J.K. Rowling, her publishers, or Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.," its loving treatment of the series and attention to small details will resonate with fans who've grown up — or just grown older — with Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Much is made of Ron's enormous appetite and his mother's excellent cookery, as well as Harry's awe at the huge feasts at Hogwarts and the fabulous treats lining the shelves at Honeydukes (there are recipes for sugar mice and sherbet balls, though they don't squeak or levitate).

And the food is imaginatively grouped, with sections titled, "Good Food With Bad Relatives," "Treats From the Train" and "Lunch and Dinner in the Dining Hall."

And, as with the many delightful surprises in the book, there are eye-opening culinary experiences in "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook." Who knew, for example, that a Knickerbocker Glory (see "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone") contains custard AND Jell-O AND ice cream, as well as chopped nuts, fruit, chocolate syrup and whipped cream?

It's extravagant, complex and unusually satisfying — just like the series in which it appears.

Knickerbocker Glory

Bucholz, the cookbook's author, writes that Knickerbocker Glory was first made in the United States in the 1930s, but failed to catch on here and instead migrated across the pond to become popular in Great Britain. She also writes that the dessert's "layers of ice cream, jelly, custard, fruit and whipped cream look like striped knee breeches," then called knickerbockers — or that the name might just refer to New Yorkers.