My memory for plot, character and general content of books is pretty temperamental but one part of books that always stays with me is descriptions of food. Due to this, all my favourite childhood authors were ones that paid close attention to this aspect of storytelling. Roald Dahl is an obvious choice due to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I still remember the red box in Matilda that Miss Honey’s father used to let them take a chocolate from after every meal.
Food often represents comfort, especially in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. When Harry is on the Hogwarts Express, he realises that for the first time in his life he can buy all the Mars bars he wants without Dudley eating them all. To his surprise, the magical treats available are even more delectable. These include fat pumpkin pasties, drooble’s best blowing gum, chocolate frogs and the infamous bertie bott’s beans. Then, when he arrives at Hogwarts, and overcomes his initial fear of being sorted into the ‘wrong house’, he is rewarded by a comforting feast. I remember the part where the food miraculously appears on the golden plates being one of my favourite bits. J K Rowling’s descriptions of piles of golden roast potatoes, jugs of gravy, and the rich, sticky treacle tart for dessert are even more poignant considering her experience of poverty at the time of writing it.
My foray into fantasy novels was largely due to the descriptions of ‘second breakfast’ in the Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings. There is something so comforting about the descriptions of Bilbo’s pantry in his hobbit hole, with stacks of cheese, loaves of bread and fruitcakes. This is one aspect I feel that transferred well into the recent film adaptation. The point where they are invited into Beorn’s woodland home for milk and honey is also a welcoming respite in the Hobbit. As well as this, the morally devoid character Gollum’s aversion to the elven lembas bread in LOTR is surely proof of how comforting and wholesome the food is.
Even now as an adult I find descriptions of food in books both fascinating and enchanting. Haruki Murakami’s novels have wonderful descriptions of his characters carefully preparing meals, such as spaghetti, boiled eggs and the more adventurous dishes Tengo prepares in IQ84. I even wrote an essay for my undergraduate degree about the food in Great Expectations, focusing on the comforting experience Pip has of sharing bread and butter with Joe, and how this relationship with food becomes spoiled as he is forced to steal ‘vittles’ from the larder. These include a fat pork pie and a bottle of wine which Magwitch gratefully bolts down similarly to Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Harry steals a loaf of bread and a flagon of pumpkin juice from the breakfast table for him.
Does anyone else share this weird fascination with fictional food? I can’t be the only one desperate to taste the huge chocolate cake in Matilda, or the lashings of ginger beer and cold cuts from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventures!
(Featured picture is a lemon meringue pie I made recently)
I really need to get better at taking pictures of the completed meal before eating it…
These burgers are so cheap and easy to make, and are a good way to make sure you’re getting enough protein! I like to serve them with fresh spinach in a bun, but they’re really good in wraps too. I’ve introduced the ingredients as I go along, but included a rough list of exact quantities at the end.
Drain a can of pre-cooked chickpeas, and a can of borlotti or kidney beans in a colander, then empty them onto a chopping board and dry with paper towel.
Roughly chop the beans with a knife, you don’t have to chop them finely but don’t leave that many intact
In a large bowl, grate in one large peeled carrot, or a couple of smaller ones. The moisture
from the carrot along with the tomato puree (added later) will be enough to bind the burgers, so no need to add egg.
Then add the seasoning; I used a generous amount of cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander as well as a pinch of salt and pepper and 2 cloves of garlic, crushed. Add about 2 tbsp of tomato puree.
Optional extra: I added grated red cheddar as well, which means you don’t need to serve the burgers with cheese. This can be left out to make the recipe vegan.
Next form the burgers into patty shapes with clean hands. I find that a small palm-sized amount is the best size to prevent breakage when frying. Coat the patties in flour. I managed to make 9 with this recipe.
I couldn’t film the last step, but gently heat about 2tbsp of oil in a pan and shallow-fry the burgers for 5 minutes on each side until golden and heated through. I’d recommend frying them beforehand then adding them to a grill to heat up if you want to serve them at a BBQ just to make sure the flour is cooked. Enjoy!
1 400g tin of chickpeas
1 400g tin of borlotti/kidney beans (or dried equivalent soaked overnight)
I never really thought of writing down the recipes of food I make, but this one is such a good go to and is actually really cheap to make! I usually make a big batch if I’ve got friends coming over and it can be adapted to use up ingredients you have. You can replace the vegetables, or add meat – I prefer to keep it vegan. If you don’t have premade curry paste there’s a lot of good recipes to make your own from scratch.
I kept the recipe very simple – there’s definitely better curries out there but this is just how I like to make mine.
Prep: 10 Mins – Cooking time: 40 Mins – Serves: 4-6
2 large sweet potatoes or a few smaller ones
1 large onion (I prefer red onions) or 2 small ones
3 cloves of garlic
400g tin of chickpeas (can probably replace with lentils)
400g tin of tomatoes
500ml of stock (I use a vegetable stock cube dissolved in water)
2 tbps tomato puree
2 tbps curry paste (I use Patak’s premade madras paste)
2 tsps of cumin, chilli powder, ground coriander, whatever other spices you have
200ml coconut milk (makes it creamy and a bit less spicy)
1/2 lime juice
freshly chopped coriander/cilantro if you can get it
2 tbsp ground almond makes it sweet
1 tbsp mango chutney (also good to serve with it)
Dice onion and finely chop garlic.
Heat oil in a large pan and start frying the onion. Then add garlic and curry paste, and cook on a low heat, while you chop the vegetables.
Add the peeled and chopped potatoes, the washed and sliced courgette, and the can of chickpeas (after draining them in the sink).
Fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes (making sure nothing gets stuck to the pan), then pour in the tinned tomatoes and stock.
Chuck in the rest of the ingredients, while the curry comes to a boil.
Add spices and taste to check hotness.
Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. (You can go watch TV at this point just remember to come back and stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn/stick).
Check that the potato is cooked throughout (it will be soft and easy to cut through) and it’s done!
I like to add a handful of fresh spinach at this stage which wilts and cooks v quickly in the hot curry. You can also add more stock/coconut milk if its too dry.
Serve with rice and naan bread! This also reheats and freezes well. If you enjoyed this or want more recipes please comment! If you have any tips for improving this recipe please comment those too!
(I’ll try and take better pictures next time – I was hungry!) A xxx