Something you may or may not have picked up about me from reading this blog: I am quite the nerd. So when a Hogwarts letter for me arrived in the mail (a very clever dinner invitation by food in literature blogger Bryton Taylor), my excitement was through the roof.
I like to think I put effort into my dinner parties, but I have nothing on Bryt. Coming to the front gate, I could tell I had the right the house by the ‘Platform 9 3/4′ sign. The front verandah was decked out with broomsticks and Deatheater wanted posters. Inside, there were shelves and tables filled with spell books, jars of potions ingredients, candles, cauldrons and magical homework assignments. In the room decked out as the Great Hall, the ceiling had been decorated to look like the night sky, and candles strung up from the chandelier as if they were floating. The hallway had portraits of wizards past on the walls, and even the bathroom was decked out as the Herbology greenhouse, complete with a mandrake. I wasn’t the only one gazing around in wonder the entire time, wondering if I’d somehow made it to the real Hogwarts.
As it was (wisely) decided to be a potluck dinner, each of the guests brought along a wizarding inspired dish (or one of the many very British dishes mentioned in the books). We feasted on chicken drumsticks, pies, and the best damn mashed potato I’ve ever tasted, along with Bryton’s butterbeer and Laura’s Polyjuice potion. Afterwards we had pumpkin pasties, cauldron cakes, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jellybeans and Danica’s liquorish spiders, ghost nuts and Golden Snitch chocolate truffles.
With food bloggers and book bloggers (and all Harry Potter nerds) in attendance, there was a lot of conversation about nostalgia for old Young Adult novels, ‘shelfies’, how we go about reviewing things, fantasy tv series… Definitely my kind of crowd!
Short on time but determined to make something vaguely wizard-y, I settled on the relatively simple treacle tart – the favourite dessert of Harry Potter.
I followed this recipe from Adventures in Cooking with a few small changes, some good, some not so much! Here’s a few notes I’ve made for next time:
- Try a different shortcrust pastry recipe – maybe I didn’t add enough butter and too much water, but I found this pastry got a bit tough, and in the large tart was almost impossible to put a knife through. This made it quite difficult for guests to serve themselves at the party! The shortcrust pastry I’ve used for tarts previously seemed to work much better.
- I found rolling out the pastry much cleaner than spooning it into the tins as per the recipe.
- Definitely a good call to skip the sugar in the pastry – the filling is more than sweet enough on its own.
- It really does need the lemon juice – I tried to substitute with an orange I had on hand, but it isn’t acidic enough to cut through the sweetness from the golden syrup.
- Treacle tart must definitely be served with cream and/or ice-cream – the flavour is quite intense, and the balancing it out with creaminess would make it just right.
- The fact that golden syrup is difficult to get in the USA really surprised me – it’s something I’ve always taken for granted, and always have in my pantry.
Besides the tart, I of course had to have a go at making a real feather quill (yes it really writes) and sewing up Hogwarts robes. I was slightly ambitious with the latter as I’ve never tried sewing a garment with lining or pockets before, but it turned out mostly alright, if a little short due to running out of fabric. I ran out of time to get any schoolgirl outfit pieces, so just went with a dress in Slytherin green under the robes. Almost everyone else came as Gryffindors! Oh well, it takes all sorts to make the world go around…
What an amazing night! Big thanks to Bryton for the invitation, Danica for the great photos and all the other guests for the fabulous feast.