Hogwarts Yule Feast Showdown
by Susu, Rosie, Hagrid, Hermi2
The year Hogwarts hosted the TriWizard Tournament, Quidditch was put on hiatus, much to the disappointment of many. Worse, the lack of inter-house sport competition made the students a bit stir-crazy. There were reports of house gambling rivalries! McGonagall put her foot down, and told Dumbledore that even though the competition between the three schools should have been enough, the kids and house hierarchies needed a competition of their own.
At the staff meeting, several ideas were cast about, including a reading marathon, foot and broom races, scavenger hunts, and even a wrestling match! Finally, it was decided that there would be a competition between the four houses, but the tasks were not going to be straight out, sports-like events. Instead, there would be a sort of multi-event contest -- where, as is traditional, points are accrued -- consisting of school subjects, including athletics, potions, gardening, animal care, library skills, dormitory maintenance, etc. The houses could choose captains for each event, who would then choose their team. The only rule was that all students had to participate on at least one team.
In the round robins to follow, it soon became clear that the finalists would be Slytherin and Gryffindor. Evenly matched in points, the teachers had to come up with a "sudden death" event.
As the Yule Feast was scheduled soon, they decided that new recipes should be developed for the foreign guests. What better way to stoke creativity than to create a competition? Without the help of house elves, the teams would need to develop a menu with a limited range of ingredients, provided by the teachers to each team. Each team had to produce a six-course meal: soup, appetizer, main course, salad, dessert, and sweetmeat or snack item.
From previous events, Gryffindor knew who the team captain would be: Hermione Granger, who previously sponsored a high tea, and who also showed everyone how to bake bread in the muggle fashion. The members of Slytherin were at a loss, as an inventory of the members didn't turn up anyone who really enjoyed cooking. Under the guidance of Professor Snape, they decided to go for straightforward, simple recipes (since they were trying to impress overseas guests with the best of English fare), and to not deviate much from written formulas. They would sway the judges with classic dishes and presentation.
Pansy Parkinson volunteered to captain the team, but not because she liked cooking (thought she did like to eat); rather, she had a crush on Draco Malfoy, and wanted a chance to boss him about on her team, so show him what life together as a married couple would be like!
The night before the cooking was to take place, boxes of ingredients were delivered to each team: pumpkins, onions, garlic, potatoes, salt, pepper, apples, sugar, flour, golden syrup, vinegar, baking powder, baking soda, cheese, chicken, eggs, apples, raisins, milk, cream, oil, butter, various cans of vegetables including beans, corn, tomatoes, standard spices, and a few other things. Teams did not have to use everything in the boxes, but any "extras" needed to be negotiated by trading with labor. Caretaker Argus Filch was in charge of dispensing the tasks and approving these trades, making the negotiations odious at best ... It may seem like a lot of stuff, but the contestants soon learned that it's not just a matter of quantity!
Right from the start, it was apparent that there were some shortfalls in the boxes of ingredients. For this soup, Pansy needed curry powder and bacon, and her team had to polish the trophies in the awards case; Hermione asked for coconut cream and hot pepper sauce, and Fred, George, Ron and Harry found themselves outside in the cold and wet weather, weeding the school's vegetable gardens. While they were there, the boys surreptitiously pilfered some leaves, herbs and roots, in case they needed them later!
Hermione's Coconut Pumpkin Soup was delightful, and the judges narrowly agreed that the classic English preparation by Pansy was the winner; maybe it was just because of the bacon? Pansy got her recipe from her grandmother, an Englishwoman through and through. Mrs. Weasley provided the recipe for the exotic coconut, cumin, coriander-scented soup; she'd met a Thai wizard while in Egypt with her family, who reminisced fondly about this soup. (Despite the loss, demand for Gryffindor's soup edged out Slytherin's at the Yule Feast!)
Slytherin Quidditch captain and seeker Marcus Flint would sometimes chew on dried pumpkin seeds as a snack. Hermione reasoned if a thug like Marcus liked pumpkin seeds, then everyone would, and she got the idea to use these instead of croutons in an otherwise "normal" salad, except that she opted to use mixed greens, rather than just one type, for interest and additional crunch.
Gregory Goyle told Pansy he'd enjoyed a fried dish when visiting Japan with his family. Unlike English deep-fried dishes, the Japanese used a delicate batter, but Goyle wanted to use a good English fish-and-chip style batter. For want of any other ideas, Pansy had him and Vincent Crabbe make this dish. Unfortunately, neither Crabbe nor Goyle really knew much about cooking (they once observed a muggle in a shop doing it), and the result was a sodden, greasy mess. In any case, when the judges were presented with the salad course, they all agreed that Slytherin had not made a salad -- they had made an oily, fried vegetable, for sure, but it wasn't a salad. So this contest was won by Gryffindor by default, since the fried pumpkin was disqualified (frankly, the judges probably did not want to put the lumpy dish in their mouths!). The house elves -- who are English, rather than Japanese -- recreated this dish for the Yule Feast, they used a good traditional English beer batter and fried it up properly. It was good!
In exchange for the beer, Filch gave the Slytherins the task of dusting the scary statues on the formerly forbidden, but still unused third floor. Crabbe made several first years do the job; the poor kids were in tears the whole time. Hermione used the purloined greens and herbs from the kitchen gardens for this salad, so the Gryffindors were spared an extra task.
In a jar with a screwcap, put together the vinegar, oil and remaining salt; add a pinch of ground pepper and sugar, if you wish. Shake very well, making sure the cap is on tightly.
In a large bowl, combine the salad leaves, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. Pour the dressing over and toss. Serve on individual plates or transfer to a serving bowl. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Cut the pumpkin small enough to be a couple of bites, and thin enough to cook in about 3 or 4 minutes. If you are using other vegetables, cut them similarly.
Heat the oil to 350°F/160°C. Dip the cut vegetables in the batter (this will mean your fingers will get goopy), then place carefully into the hot oil (do not drop them into the oil, or you'll get burned!!). Don't crowd the pot, or the oil will cool down and you'll get greasy, soggy vegetables (too bad Goyle and Malfoy didn't know this -- they tried to fry it all at once and ended up with something indigestible!). The vegetables will float up when it's nearly cooked. Turn it over to cook the other side. This should take 5 minutes total, tops. Drain on a wire rack placed over a baking tray or plate to catch the drips. Serve immediately.
This is an appetizer course, the "entry" into the main dish. This is normally a chance for the chef to offer a small "showoff" dish.
Adrian Pucey, chaser for Slytherin's Quidditch side, waxed poetic about a buttered pumkin bread, served grilled or toasted. Pansy, pumped by her success with the simple soup, deemed it sufficiently "English" enough to impress the judges.
Hermione was walking one evening with Viktor Krumm and he told her of a stuffed pasta he once had while on tour with the Bulgarian Quidditch team, reciting the recipe for her. Inspired, she produced a stuffed ravioli, one perfect pillow per person, to whet appetites.
The judges loved the ravioli, and had to visibly restrain themselves from asking for more, but they were forced to disqualify the dish because Hermione received the recipe from a non-Gryffindor student! (Viktor felt awful, and to make it up to her, insisted that she accompany him to the Yule Feast -- he promised her a good time!)
Spray a 9" x 5" x 3" inch non-stick loaf pan with cooking spray and pour batter into pan. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool. Serves 12.
To Toast: Butter a slice of pumpkin bread and fry in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, till golden brown and crusty on both sides.
Boil a pot of water and add salt, to prevent sticking. Cook the raviolis, a few at a time. They are done when they float up to the surface, plus one minute. Drain well. In a small pan, heat the cream with 1 tablespoon parsley, tomato paste and nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Do not boil. Add the ravioli and toss to coat. Serves 4 as a meal, about 10 as an appetizer.
One-Pot Main Dish
It was specified that this course had to be a casserole of sorts, something that was an "all in one" meal, not separate vegetable, starch and meat. Draco Malfoy insisted that he be in charge of this one -- a autumnal harvest dish, the servants in his home prepared it before anything else, so it would be ready for them after their morning chores. He would sneak into the kitchen and help himself to many servings of their food; he knew for certain they kept the best bits for themselves! The fine ingredients prepared for the Malfoys couldn't compete in savor to this hearty casserole. Draco forced the house elves to teach him how to make it after his first year at Hogwarts, when he realized he missed this dish. It's a "hunter style" meal, full of meat and beans! Very macho ...
Harry's Aunt Petunia excelled at these sorts of one-pot dishes, and since she frequently used him as cheap labor, Harry learned to make pastry at an early age, for his aunt's fancy dinners for his uncle's clients. Aunt Petunia would prepare this dish for her orphaned nephew out of leftovers: chicken, squash, corn, and any other odds and ends left at the end of the week. Harry took charge of this one, and Hermione was impressed with his skills. Colin -- unofficial head of Harry's ersatz fan club -- loudly declared that he couldn't believe how a pumpkin could turn into something so scrumptious! The judges agreed, and Harry's dish won over Draco's -- though again, it was a very close thing!
In a pot, melt the remaining butter and sautée the onions till translucent, then add the potatoes and pumpkin cubes and cook, stirring occasionally, till the potatoes brown. Add mushrooms and carrots, and cook till the mushrooms render their juice, then cook till the juice evaporates. Add flour and make a roux over the vegetables -- cook with stirring till the flour is lightly browned. Pour in the chicken stock and milk and stir over medium low heat till thickened. Mix in the corn, chicken and seasonings, then ladle the stew, divided evenly between the cooked pumpkin shells.
Roll out the puff pastry, according to package instructions, to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into a circle to fit over the pumpkins without too much draping (use a small plate as a template, and a sharp knife -- try not to crush the layers of puff pastry, or it won't puff up and become flaky). Place each round over each pumpkin opening, and brush with eggwash.
Bake at 375°F/175°C till the crust is golden, about 30 to 45 minutes. Serves 8 as a very hearty meal.
Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and cook till browned and crunchy. Top the pot with the cubes, and serve.
Stinging from the losses when she let others take charge of a particular recipe, Pansy steered them back to basics, refusing to consider anything other than a pumpkin pie for the dessert course. It's essentially a custard pie, flavored with pumpkin; she did ask for a pre-made pie crust though, not confident that she could produce a good one. Angry at them for losing the casserole and salad rounds, she ordered Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle to muck out the large animal stalls; after the weeping first year had a nervous breakdown on the third floor, Filch made sure it was those three who did the work. They muttered a lot of words Filch had never heard before!
Impressed with Harry's use of pastry for the casserole entry, Hermione decided to make a hand pie with puff pastry, and she needed to ask for that, since making it would be time consuming and required skills the Gryffindors didn't have. Colin, Seamus and Neville found that in "payment," they had to dust the paintings on the staircase landings. This may seem a simple task, but as the paintings are enchanted, they are effectively "alive" and they trio had to endure complaints and instructions from the residents of the frames!
The judges, once again, admired Hermione's creativity, but unfortunately realized at this point that the lettuces and herbs she had used in her salad course had not been part of the materials given to the teams. Filch also reported that he had not authorized that they be given to the Gryffindors. Alas, that meant points deducted for the Gryffindors, and though Hermione's handpies might have scored slightly better than Slytherin's entry, for this contest, Pansy's classic pie was given the nod.
The Weasley boys discovered that Peeves the Poltergeist had been the tattletale (with the encouragement of Slytherin classmates Blaise Zabini and Millicent Bulstrode). They trapped him in an inflated pig's bladder, and played rugby with it, in the classical manner. It was a two on two match, Ron and Ginny against Blaise and Millicent! (Grudge matches are often very entertaining!)
There should be two puff pastry sheets in the packet. Roll out one sheet on a floured surface into a rectangle, about 10" x 15". Cut into six squarish rectangles (each about 5" x 5", or thereabouts -- perfect squares are not necessary), and repeat with the other sheet.
Place a tablespoon of filling slightly toward one corner of the pastry square. Brush the edges with milk or eggwash, then fold over into a triangle, and press the edges of together without smashing them up (the edges need not match exactly). Brush with eggwash or milk, then sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of granulated white sugar. Place on a greased baking sheet, or even better, a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake about 20 minutes until puffed, crisp and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, so they don't go soggy.
Sweetmeat or Snack
The Yule Feast includes dancing, and a selection of dishes needs to be presented to keep everyone's energy and spirits up! These dishes are often presented several hours after the main meal, and could be savory or sweet.
Elated with her victories, and believing she had won the day, Pansy settled on another tried and true favorite: pancakes. These could be filled with pumpkin filling, rolled up, and served dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with American maple syrup. She didn't even discuss this entry with her housemates, and in trade for the American syrup, Filch assigned Slytherin to de-louse the school owls.
In contrast, Gryffindor pondered if they had gone too far in trying to offer different and interesting recipes. To be sure, they were all successes and really tasty, but as Oliver Wood, Quidditch Captain, pointed out, the goal is to beat Slytherin, not necessarily to provide intelligent fare! Down in the scoring, 3 to 2, Hermione had to agree. Going for ultra simple and traditional, they settled on a classic recipe: a candy brittle, with one "exotic" amendment: they would use pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds instead of peanuts. They had to win this one, and they did! The judges did like Pansy's pancakes, but thought them rather pedestrian for a fête. They found Gryffindor's entry to be extremely clever, as well as tasty and usual. The two teams were now tied!
In a heavy large saucepan over high heat, combine the corn syrup, water, and sugar. Stir constantly using a wooden spoon until the mixture comes to a bubbling boil. When the syrup starts to thicken, stir in the pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds and cook until the syrup becomes a pale straw color. Don't let it get darker -- it will continue to darken when you take it off the heat.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter, salt and vanilla extract. Be careful because the resulting steam could burn you -- steam burns hurt way more than water burns! Sprinkle in the baking soda and stir it as it foams; do this quickly. While still hot and flowing, pour the candy onto the buttered baking sheet and let cool for a few minutes, till you can stand to touch it.
Butter your fingers (or use two buttered forks) and start stretching the edges of the mass. As the edges cool, break them off and set them upsidedown on a piece of parchment or foil. Continue to work the warm candy -- do it quickly before it cools down too much! Stretching it will aerate it, make it easier to chew and prevent the seeds from settling to the bottom of the candy pieces. Let the candy cool completely before serving. You can store these in an air-tight container or tin.
Yields about 1 lb/450 g of candy.
Heat a griddle and oil or butter the pan. Drip some water on the skillet; if it beads up and seems to "hover" over the surface, it's hot enough. Place about ¼ cup batter onto the griddle, and cook till the pancake seems to go a bit dry around the edges and bubbles form. Flip over and cook for another few minutes. Cut the first one open to make sure it's cooked, if you aren't confident. Do not press down on the pancake, or keep flipping it over and over! You'll end up with a crashmat instead of a pancake.
Stack the cakes on a warm plate. You want the pancakes to be cooler and a bit softened. In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin pie filling and lemon juice to taste. If desired, add a pinch of salt and sweeten to taste with powdered sugar. Lay a pancake down on a plate, and about a third of the way toward you, place a line of pumpkin pie filling, then roll the pancake around it, away from you. Secure with a toothpick and place on a platter. Just before serving, drizzle with maple syrup, or drizzle it on the plate after serving the rolled up pancake.
Tie Breaker: Beverage
The two teams were tied, with 3 wins apiece, and a tie-breaker was announced. For this competition, the teams could ask for any ingredients, and could use spells under the supervision of teachers. McGonagal watched the Slytherins and Snape watched the Gryffindors.
Pansy, once again insisting on being conservative, decided that since pumpkin juice was such a favorite among Hogwarts students, that an English-style pumpkin beer -- sort of a mix between butterbeer and pumpkin juice -- was a guaranteed winner. Hermione, too, decided to be traditional, and settled on a recipe for eggnog, with the addition of pumpkin, to complement the rich, creamy drink with it's garnish of nutmeg.
Things went badly for Slytherin -- Malfoy tried to improve the fermentation of the brew by adding more yeast. Crabbe and Goyle, still upset about being made to clean out stables and the owlry, were convinced Pansy knew nothing about what she was doing. They added more sugar to the brew, to make sure it was good and punchy. Pansy herself wanted to make sure the drink was distinctive and doubled the recommended amount of pumpkin.
On the Gryffindor side of the kitchen, Seamus had left a cup of tea on the floor (he had been sitting there, exhausted) and Professor Snape had walked into it, shattering the cup and cutting his leg and hands when he fell, in surprise. Neville had tried to use a spell to stop the bleeding, but instead caused the small pieces of porcelain shrapnel to embed themselves more firmly. There was a lot of bellowing and thrashing about; everyone was tired and on edge.
Through it all, Hermione protected her brew, taking the pot outside to prepare. It needed to be cold anyway, and it seemed that inside the kitchen was far too busy and hot. All by herself, she created her winning potion, not needing any spells at all!
As for the pumpkin beer -- it tasted like sweet moldy yeast. Pansy didn't even bother submitting the recipe; quite honestly, she could not have written it out because she couldn't get her teammates to admit to their surreptitious additions. In the end, she had to conclude that even the house elves could not have saved her recipe, and Slytherin withdrew their entry, conceding victory to Gryffindor! Hermione's beverage was offered during the Yule Feast (in tiny, elegant mugs, to limit the intoxication levels!). When rising for the holiday toast, it was her pumpkin nog that filled everyone's cups!
When you're ready to serve, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the whites into the yolk concoction, being careful not to break up the air bubbles in the whites. In a separate chilled bowl, whip the remaining ½ quart heavy cream until stiff, and fold that in too, again, trying to keep the air in the mixture. Grate some nutmeg over the mixture, and a bit into each mug when serving.
Serves about 30. Or more if you use small enough cups!
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