Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Unofficial Hogwarts Cookbook for Kids

The Unofficial Hogwarts Cookbook for Kids: 50 Magically Simple, Spellbinding Recipes for Young Witches and Wizards
Author: Alana Al-Hatlani
Publisher: Ulysses Press (2021) 

Official Press Release:

Perfect for any young fan of Harry Potter, The Unofficial Hogwarts Cookbook for Kids by Alana Al-Hatlani will have aspiring witches and wizards brewing potions, baking stellar treats, and cooking creative dishes in no time. From breakfast all the way to dessert, this book makes any meal or snack extra special (and educational!), with recipes like:
Rock Cakes
Granola Bars “Owl Food”
Magic Star Fruit Salad
Pumpkin Pasties
Cauldron Cakes
Acid Lollipops
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Butterscotch Beer, and much more!

The Unofficial Hogwarts Cookbook for Kids is the perfect primer to get the young chefs-in-training active in the kitchen with their parents. As a family, you’ll have fun learning cooking terms and kitchen skills with recipes that range in complexity so that all kid chefs and their potions masters (or parents) can whip up something amazing.

 

Review: 

I grew up with the Harry Potter book and movie series, and one of the most prevalent images woven throughout it is that of food. There is such an emphasis on meals and treats that it made me want to recreate the magical food even as a young adult. But where to start?
Alana Al-Hatlani has compiled 50 recipes inspired by the Harry Potter universe that are geared for children and their parents to make and enjoy together, and this seemed like a good place to start exploring.

Having taught cooking lessons to children ages 5-13 over the last 7 years, I am always on the look out for comprehensive children's cookbooks. To me, it's important that cookbooks geared for children not only have simplified recipes with ample photos (kids are visual beings after all!) but some educational component to them - what does it mean to simmer, whisk, fold? This book contains a section with safety and getting started cooking called "In the Home Kitchen: How to Cook Without a Magic Wand" (p. 10) which is arguably one of the most comprehensive chapters of it's kind that I've seen in any cookbook, let alone a children's one. The tips and guidelines in this section closely mirrored the rule list I gave out in my classes, so that made me smile. The second part of the introduction was Common Recipe Terms (p. 12) which again is well-written in language that children can understand (or parents can easily explain). 

Onto the recipes - here is where it is abundantly clear that this is a children's cookbook, though there are some drastic outliers which brought me pause. The recipes in this book range from the incredibly simple "non-recipes" such as Fruit Skewer Wands (p. 42) - sticking pre-cut pieces of fruit on a wooden skewer - or Orange Juice (p. 122) which (you guessed it) involves juicing oranges -  to those that require extensive use of the stove or oven. For instance, I personally would not be making the Easy Marmalade recipe (p. 27) if I had to keep an eye on a child, let alone letting them take the reins cooking it to a setting point of 220F (the recipe uses the cold-plate set test as well, which adds an extra layer of risk in my opinion). The fact there are instructions to make toast made me chuckle, though I can concede some children do need explicit instructions. The marmalade that I made (without children running around) was good, and simple as far as other marmalade recipes go, but I will dice the peel more should I make it again as "slices" were far too chewy.


Then there are recipes that make no sense at all within the Harry Potter universe, and feel like they were simply page-fillers to get the recipe count to 50. I read the books avidly (as our completely beaten up first edition of Philosopher's Stone can attest) and not in a single one do I remember Grilled Cheese (
p. 50), Pizza (p. 54), Quesadillas (p. 58), Macaroni and Cheese (p. 61) or pretty much anything in the Dinner section being mentioned. I'm not saying the recipes are not worth making - the Macaroni and Cheese as well as the Shepherd's Pie (p. 71) both look quite enticing - but since this is a Harry Potter themed cookbook they just seem thrown in there without reasoning.

The photos in this book are fantastic and draw the eye, though it is important to note that with a few exceptions they are stock images and may not reflect what the recipes actually look like. Side by side, the quality difference is noticeable between the author's photos and the professionally taken and edited ones, though when viewed independently they are still clear and informative. 

In general I would recommend this book as a standard children's cookbook intended for littles to cook alongside their parents, do basic prep work and clean up. I wouldn't say this is truly a Harry Potter cookbook though, since the bulk of the non-snack recipes are not featured anywhere in the series and they seem a little misplaced with the theme. However, for learning to read recipes and dabble in the mundane magic that is the kitchen this book is absolutely worth a look - and who knows, maybe it will inspire a few more kitchen magicians to follow their culinary dreams!

Available on Amazon

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