Butterbeers and Treacle Tarts: Cooking with Harry Potter
Did you go see Harry Potter this weekend? The world of Harry Potter, from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade to the Burrow, is not only full of magic, but tasty and often whimsical treats. And while Fizzing Whizbees might not be an option in the theater concession stand, you can make some Potter-inspired treats at home for your next party or movie night.
Some of the food from Harry Potter is obviously magical and out of reach for us Muggle cooks. Chocolate frogs and refilling plates are out of our league, but many of the exotic-sounding food from Harry Potter are simply traditional British and UK fare, and totally manageable.
I’ve rounded up a set of three recipes and some resources for magical munchies for your family to try: Butterbeer, Treacle Tart and Shepherd’s pie. I also recommend The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz, which has hundreds of recipes all linking back to the specific page numbers in the Harry Potter series, as well as a hearty helping of historical food facts.
Butterbeer is a staple in the Harry Potter series, the gang’s go-to when out and about in Hogsmeade. This recipe from WizardWorldPark is slightly labor-intensive, but a quick three-ingredient version can be found on Mugglenet. Also, a quick Google will yield lots of fun adult versions for the older wizarding fans.
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda
In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer.
Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the rum extract.
In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes.
To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass). Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each glass, then stir to combine. Fill each glass nearly to the top with additional cream soda, then spoon the whipped topping over each.
Treacle tarts also show up regularly across the series, as a standard dessert at Hogwarts to something served up in Hagrid’s cabin. While standard in the UK, American readers may not be familiar with treacle. It’s a sugary syrup and can vary in grade from light golden to black, which is closest to molasses. Corn syrup and molasses, respectively, can often be substituted in the US if treacle is hard to come by.
Not So Humble Pie has a beautiful version she attempted with the help of an English friend. Pastry and tart fans have to give it a try!
yields one 9″ tart, serves 6-8
150g all purpose flour
113g cold unsalted butter, cubed
5-6 tablespoons ice cold water
235g golden syrup*
215g fresh white breadcrumbs*
zest of a large lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of water
*Note on the ingredients: Fresh breadcrumbs are not the same as those dry powdery breadcrumbs in a can. To make fresh breadcrumbs, use any slightly stale white bread you can find. Remove the crusts, toss into a food processor and pulse until light and fluffy. If your bread is too fresh, it may not work well in your machine, becoming dense and gummy. To turn fresh bread into crumbs, place the bread in a warm oven until slightly crusty, before processing.
If you lack a food processor, grate chunks of slightly stale bread with a box grater.
Golden Syrup is widely available, however in many parts of the United States it can be difficult to find. Many large grocery chains do carry small tins of Lyle’s Golden Syrup either with the pancake syrups or on the baking aisle. You can also order it online from Amazon’s Grocery & Gourmet Food.
In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, cubed butter and salt. Pulse until the bits of butter are a tad smaller than peas. Pulse in the water, adding a little at a time. Use just enough water to bind the dough.
Gather up the crumbs and form a ball, then wrap in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 375°F. Add the golden syrup to a medium sauce pan and place over medium-low heat. Swirl the syrup until it is warm and fluid. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Set aside and work on the crust.
Roll out 2/3rds of the dough and drape it over your tart pan. Roll out the remaining third of the dough into a rectangular sheet and then cut ribbons from it with either a knife or a fluted ravioli cutter.
Fill the tart with the breadcrumbs mixture and smooth.
Drape the strips over the tart to form a lattice (for a handy how-to click here)
Some variation of meat pie turns up frequently in Harry Potter, especially during mealtime at Hogwarts, and often in Ron’s hands. Molly Weasley also serves up a chicken and ham pie with boiled potatoes at the Burrow. While steak and kidney pie might be tricky with non-adventurous eaters, but Shepherd’s Pie is an easy kid-pleaser.
2 lbs. potatoes
6 tblsp. butter, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 ¼ lbs. ground beef
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup beef broth
¼ cup milk or half-and-half (optional)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
While the potatoes are cooking, melt 2 tblsp. butter in a large frying pan or cast iron skillet. Over medium high heat, saute the onions in the butter until tender and beginning to take on a little brown color. Remove the onions to a plate and hold until later.
Add the ground beef to the pan and cook until no pink color remains. Drain the excess fat and return the ground beef to the pan.
Add the onions back to the pan along with the corn, peas, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir together and add the beef broth. Reduce the heat and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes adding more beef broth if necessary to keep the mixture just moist.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
While the beef mixture is simmering, drain the potatoes and mash with the remaining 4 tblsp. butter, salt and pepper. Add the milk or half-and-half if desired.
Place the beef mixture in a baking dish or leave it in the cast iron skillet if you used one.
Spread the mashed potatoes on top.
Place the skillet or baking dish in the preheated oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and distribute the grated cheese over the mashed potatoes.
Return the pan to the oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to bubble.
Some other great blogs and resources:
The Harry Potter Lexicon
Yum Sugar’s recipe roundup
Website for the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook
One blogger’s menu and decor for her own Harry Potter Party
Mugglenet is always a great go-to for all things Harry Potter
Want to know more about English cooking? Try here.
Follow the conversation: #HarryPotter