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.

Cook's note: For a no-fuss version of this dessert, try instant vanilla pudding and good-quality canned whipped cream (NOT Cool Whip). Or, for a more authentic flavor but easier prep, pick up a tin of Bird's powdered custard from any of our local British markets or from specialty foods stores.

2 cups custard (recipe follows)

Whipped cream (recipe follows)

2 cups any flavor Jell-O, prepared in advance

Chopped toasted nuts, such as hazelnuts or almonds

2 cups chopped fresh fruit, such as peaches or berries

1 pint vanilla ice cream

Prepare the custard, whipped cream and Jell-O in advance; chop and toast the nuts ahead as well.

Wash and, if necessary, peel and chop the fruit you are using. Set out six tall sundae glasses.

Divide 1/2 pint of the ice cream into the bottom of the six glasses. Then evenly divide 1 cup of the fruit into the glasses. Then evenly divide 1 cup of the Jell-O over the fruit and 1 cup of the custard over the Jell-O. Repeat the layering once with the remaining ice cream, fruit, Jell-O and custard.

Top with the whipped cream, toasted nuts and chocolate syrup. Serves 6.

Custard:

1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, or 11/2 cups whole milk

3 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the cornstarch and salt in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the milk and cream and stir until the cornstarch dissolves. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Cook the milk mixture over medium-high heat until the mixture is just starting to bubble and thicken. Reduce the heat to low. Temper the yolks by slowly pouring 1/2 cup of the hot mixture into the yolks while whisking constantly. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan, stirring constantly.

Turn the heat back up to medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly but gently, until the mixture is thick. Once the mixture starts to thicken, it must be handled gently or the cornstarch will lose its thickening power. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Strain the custard through a sieve into another bowl. (You may need to push it through the sieve with a rubber spatula; this gets rid of lumps.) Cover the custard with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and chill until it is set.

Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the heavy cream, confectioner's sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whip until firm peaks form and stay in place when you lift up the beater and turn the bowl upside down.

— "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook," by Dinah Bucholz

Creamy Onion Soup

In "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," Harry arrives at the Weasleys' ramshackle home in the middle of the night with Albus Dumbledore, who looks forward to giving Mrs. Weasley an opportunity "to deplore how thin you are." By way of remedying this, she stirs together a thick, hot onion soup for Harry. This soup, very British, is much different from the dark, brothy "French" version usually eaten in America. It's good with crusty bread or, even more authentic, with Irish soda bread.

1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) butter

2 large onions, cut lengthwise and then sliced 1/8-inch thick

4 cups chicken broth or 4 cups water and 4 teaspoons chicken-flavored soup and seasoning mix

Freshly ground black pepper

Salt

2 cups whole milk, divided

1/3 cup flour

Heat the butter in a four-quart pot. Add the onions to the pot and cook over low heat until the onions are golden, about 30 minutes.

Add the chicken broth or the water and soup mix, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the onions are very soft, about 30 minutes.

Combine 1?3 cup of the milk with the flour in a bowl and mix well, beating out the lumps with a whisk. Add this mixture slowly to the soup while stirring constantly. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Add the rest of the milk and just heat through; do not boil. Serves 6.

— "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook," by Dinah Bucholz

Individual Beef Pies

One of Britain's most popular snacks, individual-sized meat pies are widely available in that country, even at convenience stores. However, this home version of beef pie with onions and mushrooms tastes much better than most commercial versions, more like the nice homemade pies Mrs. Weasley sends to Harry once he learns he's expected to survive the summer on Dudley Dursley's grapefruit-heavy "slimming" diet in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Pie crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into pieces

1/2 to 3/4 cup cold water

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter and shortening over the flour mixture. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse yellow meal without any white powdery bits remaining, about 15 pulses. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup water over the mixture and toss with a rubber spatula until the dough sticks together. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time if the dough is dry (better too wet than too dry). Divide the dough in half, form into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least two hours or up to three days.

Filling:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

8 ounces chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken broth

1/8 teaspoon ground thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt and pepper

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet and add the beef in two batches, searing over high heat on each side until crusty brown, about four minutes per side. Transfer each batch to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the skillet and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring and scraping up the fond (browned bits), until the onions are well browned. Add the flour and mix until combined. Add the chicken broth and again mix until combined. Return the beef to the skillet; add the thyme, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Simmer for two hours. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. On a generously floured surface, roll out one of the disks very thin. Use a 41/2-inch cookie cutter to cut out circles. Fit the circles into a 6-cup muffin pan. Fill generously with the beef filling.

Roll out the second disk of dough. Use a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut out six circles. (You may have enough dough to cut out one more 4 1/2-inch circle and one more 3 1/2-inch circle to get one more pie. If that's the case, use a 12-cup muffin pan and fill the empty cups halfway with water.) Brush the rims with water, lay the circles over the filling, and press with your fingers to seal. Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg and cut slits in the top of each pie to form vents. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake an additional 20 minutes, until they are golden brown. Makes 6 or 7 pies.

— "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook" by Dinah Bucholz

Irish Soda Bread

This easy-to-prepare bread, which requires no rise time and is a great project for kids to help make, is a nice accompaniment to the onion soup Mrs. Weasley serves Harry for a late-night supper in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and grease and flour a 9-inch round baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and sugar. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it is completely rubbed in. The mixture will still be floury because of the much higher proportion of flour. With a wooden spoon, stir or fold in the egg and buttermilk until a dough begins to form. Turn the dough onto a flour-dusted work surface and knead briefly, just until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a round and dust the top with the extra flour. Place the dough into the prepared pan and score an X about 1/2-inch deep on the top of the dough.

Bake for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 40 minutes until the bottom is dark golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving. Irish soda bread tastes best the day it is made, but makes the best toast ever after the first day. Serve with soup or stew. Makes 1 loaf.

— "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook" by Dinah Bucholz