KH: Now you mentioned that your not traditional English cooking, so where did you learn how to do traditional English and Scottish fare like this? Did you have some help from a professional chef or did you just try to sample it all on your own until you got it right?
DB: I had no help at all. I have absolutely no culinary training. I'm just a home cook who really loves to cook, especially to bake. I love to make desserts, and cakes, and pies and different things like that. Everything I learned, I learned out of books. It took me a long time to master piecrust and I learned just by reading out of books. But, when I started doing my research for this book, basically the way I did it, I just did a lot of research.
I read British cookbooks, I went to British websites, and I have a huge food encyclopedia. So when I developed a recipe for this book, let's take treacle tart: I looked at a whole bunch of different recipes of Treacle Tart in different British cookbooks and on different British websites. And then, I got an idea of what the basic ingredients are in Treacle Tart and the basic method of making it, and then I cobbled together my own recipe. What I then did, is test the recipe that I cobbled together and taste it. And if it didn't taste right, I'd retest it.
Treacle Tart was easy for me because it's basically a very simple recipe. It's a tart dough with a filling that's similar to shoe-fly pie filling, which is breadcrumbs and molasses. But, I had absolutely no experience in things like fudge and toffee. That took a lot of experimentation, and I must have made about 20 batches of the fudge before I got it right. My kids loved it, they loved the glupe. You can't go wrong; in terms of flavor you can't go wrong with melted butter and sugar. But the toffee was very challenging till I got it to that...when you chewed it, it didn't stick to your teeth too much. It's still a little sticky, but it did take a lot of trial and error...A LOT! But I learned a tremendous amount from that experience.
KH: Wonderful. Now looking at your book, and I really enjoyed your book, there's like you said 150 recipes. All of the recipes start out with an explanation of where they are featured at in the Harry Potter series itself. And then you also have this little blurb as to the history of the food, where it came from, or where the name came from, how it originated, something like that for each one. Which of these recipes did you find the most enjoyable to learn about?
DB: Well I think my favorite story is about carrots, believe it or not. I discovered so many odd facts about food during my research. One of the things I discovered about carrots, I don't even remember now if I included it in the fun facts, but I think it is there. My favorite fact about the carrots was that during World War II, the British fighter pilots were using radar technology to track German fighter jets. They wanted to hide this technology from the Germans so they kind of let it leak that the reason they had such super night vision was from eating a lot of carrots. But the Germans actually bought the story because it fit in with their old wives tales that carrots are good for your eyes. Well, they are good for your eyes and they are good for night vision but they won't give you radar vision. And you'll still have to wear your glasses.
KH: That's a wonderful story. Which of the recipes do you think, Dinah, would be the best for a family to create? What was the most fun for your kids to participate with?
DB: My kids mostly participated with by tasting the food. I did a lot of the recipe testing when they were not home because it was a little stressful to do. It was very intense, I had to test a lot of recipes a day to meet my deadline. So I did most of my testing when they were in school. On days off, my husband was off from work that day, like a Sunday for example, he often took them out on a trip so that I could work. So they really enjoyed the food, they loved the ice cream, they loved the fudge and the toffee, you know all the sweet stuff. I can't say they were crazy about the stews and the soups.
KH: The Bouillabaisse Soup?
DB: The Bouillabaisse Soup, I actually did not test. That was given out to...I contracted that out to Chris Koch, a professional chef. Because it's a shellfish stew and we're Orthodox Jews and we don't eat shellfish. It's part of our cultural diet.
KH: So in order to keep Kosher, you had to subcontract some of the items out to try and test it, and have them, you know, get it down to the perfected level of recipe that you were happy with, is that correct?
DB: Yes. Chris Koch took care of all the recipes that have pork, which is forbidden for Jews to eat, and like I said shellfish, bacon..all of those recipes. We also don't mix milk and meat products, but what I was able to do was to test the meat recipe that called for milk; I was able to test it using substitutions. And I put that up on my website because a lot of people do have milk allergies or do keep a Kosher diet. They can find out how to use substitutions for those recipes on my website.
KH: And that's really good, because a lot of people who can't find some of the traditional items that are used in these European fares (some of the French items and some of the English items), so they do need to have a substitute as to what they can use to put into their recipe as well.
DB: Well yes, ingredients like 'Golden Syrup', I always write that you can always use corn syrup instead, or a molasses, or a maple syrup depending on the recipe. They do have different flavors, but they kind of behave the same way in a recipe. And they can be used as a substitution. So I tried as much as I can to do that because I wanted the recipes to be accessible so that any home cook could pretty much find the ingredients in their pantry or just run around the corner to the local supermarket and get it. There are some ingredients that do call for ingredients that are hard to find, that you have to get online; especially the candied recipes like the nougat. I tried really hard to make it without wafer paper or rice paper, but it is so so sticky, it will stick to anything. The only way to get it out of the pan and to slice it, is to coat it on top and bottom with the paper. And that was something I had to order online.
Citric Acid was another ingredient that is kind of hard to find in your local supermarket, so I had to order that online as well. But there are very few recipes like that in the book.
KH: Well you certainly do have a lot to choose from in the book. Some of your recipes on the website have alcohol in them and they are not in the books, you separated them from the website and the book. What was the reason behind that one?
DB: The original recipes that I tested appeared like that. You know, they all had alcohol in them. Everything was fine, everything was hunky dory, and then, as we got through several rounds of editing, my editor told me that I had to modify the recipes because now they found out that they will be shelving...the bookstores will be shelving 'The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook' with the children's books. And it's a problem because if children are making it, it shouldn't have alcohol in it. And Barnes and Noble and Borders are pretty strict about what they would allow to have in a cookbook for children. And so, I had to modify the recipes. I was so disappointed because it's not authentic. Christmas Pudding is just not authentic if it doesn't have Brandy in it. But, I really didn't have much choice, so I modified the recipes and I just posted on my website the original. I was allowed for some recipes to include a side bar explaining how to make the recipe if you're an adult and you want to have it in the traditional way, but I wasn't allowed to do that with all of the recipes.
KH: Now what is your next project? Do you have another book lined up for yourself?
DB: I don't have it quite lined up. I am working on another literary cookbook. I did get a new agent for that and we're working on the proposal right now. So I don't have a publisher yet, so I don't want to say too much about it until I actually have a contract.
KH: Well congratulations!
DB: Thank You!
KH: Now your book is available at Barnes and Nobel and at Borders, where else can people get the book?
DB: It's available at all of the online booksellers, and all the major bookstores.
KH: And also available through your website?
DB: Oh yes, thank you. It is available through my website, yes. Yes, you can just click on the 'Buy The Book' link and you can order it through my website, sure.
KH: Great! Now, do you have any book signings lined up for yourself?
DB: I do. I have so far one (1) book signing in December. Everything is just starting now. The events are just starting, and my calendar is slowly filling up now. One book signing, in December, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I have a food demo in Paramus, New Jersey in November. And I'm just trying to remember...another interview in October and I plan to set up some more book signings as I go along. But I haven't really gotten around to doing that.
KH: Well now November is a full calendar because, as you know, we do have the Harry Potter movie coming out.
DB: Oh yes!
KH: Are you ready to see that?
DB: I cannot wait. I am so looking forward.
KH: They've had some really good food in those feasts in the movies, and I imagine that you have a lot of those recipes down.
DB: Oh yes! Those tables loaded with food, you just want to reach out into the screen and take a bite.
KH: Well it's interesting because reading your book, like I said it to you earlier, I really had no idea what 'Spotted Dick', and 'Chocolate Gateau' was when Ron mentions it to Hermione and he's teasing her, I had no idea what that was, so it was interesting to read what that actually is.
DB: Well, you know I felt the same way when I saw 'Treacle Tart', I just had no idea what that was. I've had sort of an idea of what the 'Chocolate Gateau' was, because I remember from French class that 'gateau' means cake in French. But I didn't know why that would be different from cake, you know. So, that was interesting for me to find out what the difference is. And there really isn't much of a difference. There is a minor distinction that pastry chefs in England make between gateau and cake, but the average doesn't even know. But it was fascinating for me to learn what the foods were. I had no idea what they were and I was oh so curious because they sounded so good.
KH: Well it really is a wonderful book, you did a great job. I've read almost all of it, and I'm anxious to try some of these with my kids. So thank you very much with spending some time with me today.
DB: Thank you for interviewing me and enjoy the food.
KH: On behalf of MuggleNet and MuggleCast we want to thank you and good luck with the book. I'm sure it's going to be a great success.
*** Once again, we thank Dinah Bucholz for this interview. Please check out her website at www.unofficialharrypottercookbook.com and pick up a copy of your own and get cooking with these terrific recipes inspired by the Harry Potter series.***
July 29, 2008 - The first Half-Blood Prince teaser trailer makes its way online and plays in front of The Mummy in theaters.