Picnic Hamper for Sirius
by Susu, Rosie, & Fluffy
Sirius Black wanted to stay out of prison. Having escaped Azkaban, the wizard prison, he took extreme pains to hide. Albus Dumbledore had recommended hiding in the caves surrounding Hogsmeade. Sirius had Hagrid's griffin, Buckbeak, as his mount, so navigating the steep cliffs was not a problem. But even in his animagus form as a large, black labrador, foraging for food was fraught with peril. To some extent, he could raid garbage cans and gardens, but he didn't want to cause his neighbors to fret and wonder about him.
He provided for Buckbeak by capturing small animals and raiding the butcher shop garbage bins, but for himself, he appealed to Dumbledore and to his godson, Harry Potter, to supply him with food. The headmaster wisely declined, for it would not do to be associated too closely with the fugitive's whereabouts. Although Dumbledore was universally respected or feared, many in the Ministry of Magic opposed his power and wanted him out of Hogwarts. Anyway, he made sure Harry had complete access to the kitchens and the school owls, to make sure Sirius did not go hungry. He also protected Harry by enchanting his efforts so that teachers like Snape or students like Draco Malfoy did not observe him preparing and sending picnic baskets full of comestibles.
Harry felt a bit guilty taking food from the house elves of Hogwarts, even though they gave him anything and everything freely and enthusiastically. Harry had grown up with his mother's sister's family, the Dursleys, and they had not given him a single thing without letting him know how much they disliked giving him anything at all. So from time to time, he asked Dobby -- the Malfoy House Elf whom Harry had saved from unpaid servitude and who now worked at Hogwarts -- to let him cook or prepare a few things by his own labors. He never revealed where the food was going, instead appealing to Dobby's soft heart by implying romantic intentions. Harry told Dobby that he wanted to arrange a picnic for a favored girl, like Hermione or Cho.
He'd sneak up to the owlry to get Ron's owl, Pigwidgeon, to lead other larger, stronger owls to Sirius. Harry had "borrowed" a laundry basket from Hagrid, the kind with two protruding handles. He had thought two strong owls could each grasp one handle. But "Pig" insisted on helping with the carrying. Harry had fitted a lid to the basket and tied it shut with twine, and he made a loop for Pig to grasp, satisfying the headstrong bird.
Here is what Harry -- with a little help from his friends -- typically packed in the basket for his godfather:
Charlie's "Roumanian" Spicy Sandwich
Sirius, in his brief contacts with Harry, let slip that he had lost his sense of taste since the fare at Akzaban was deliberately bland and demoralizing. Dumbledore had suggested that Sirius needed a kick in the tastebuds, and Ron volunteered a sandwich recipe his brother Charlie had written about. Charlie works in Romania with dragons, and some of the local fare is spicy, filled with hot, flavorful vegetables, salty cured meats, and lovely, exotic pickles. Sirius wrote thanking them effusively, for the tasty, spicy sandwich did pop his tastebuds alive! He'd never felt so vital, so grateful to be living, and he asked for more -- he enjoyed it so much, he would daydream about it when it was gone. Harry and his friends were glad to accommodate him, since they simply needed to mix up some easy pickles, gather other prepared materials and pack them in a picnic basket for Sirius to assemble. Easy!
When you get to your picnic site, use a serrated knife to slice the loaf along the axis (Harry does this before packing the loaf up to make things easier for Sirius). Spread the top half of the loaf on the cut surface with Dragon's Breath Spread, and the other half with Olive Spread. Lay the Lemon Onions over the Olive Spread, then the banana pepper slices, then the lettuce, cold cuts, cheese. Season to taste with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and sprouts. The final quantities are up to you and your guests' preferences. Cover with the top half of the loaf and press down. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves at least 4, and as many as 8, depending how large you cut the sandwiches.
You can use other vegetables to taste, like radishes, tomatoes, a mix of bitter and mild lettuces, etc.
Hagrid's Early Frost Pickle Spread
Hagrid maintained a little garden beside his one-room hut on the grounds of Hogwarts. He was free to partake of the fare served at the school dining hall, but he liked the process of gardening, raising things from seed and caring for them. However, an early frost forced him to pick immature vegetables that were just too bitter to eat as is. He developed a pickle recipe to use up the crop, reasoning that since pickles were somewhat bitter, these would do well in a mixed pickle. The tart, sour, spicy condiment was a big hit, and Hagrid often gave it away as gifts. He kept himself in spices, trading for them with Professor of Potions, Severus Snape, in exchange for jars of the pickle. He generously gave some to Harry, who found them too spicy, and it was with great relief that he passed them on to his godfather.
Lily's Loaf, from the House Cookbook
In her leisure time, Hermione Granger likes to prowl the library. She found that in the year Harry's parents graduated, the senior class issued homemade cookbooks that all members of the class received as a sort of yearbook. Harry's mother, Lily, submitted this simple recipe for bread; there was a notation by Sirius Black in the "notes" section that he loved this loaf, and Lily had let the recipe be printed as a gift to him. Ron was fascinated by the process of proofing, kneading, rising and baking -- his mother was a good cook, but she used magic. Like Lily, Hermione had grown up in a Muggle household, so she created this loaf for Sirius in the Muggle manner, and fastidiously explained what she was doing. She had Ron fetching and carrying, mixing the flour, and sprinkling it on the countertop for kneading the dough. When the finished loaf came out of the oven, Ron declared he understood why his father was enamoured of Muggles -- they did delicious, charming, quaint things!
Stir together the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Leave to proof for 15 minutes. The yeast should look foamy and float on the surface of the water. "Proof" means the yeast needs to "prove" that it's alive. When that's done, add the oil to the yeast mixture and blend it.
In another bowl or on a clean surface (like the counter or a tabletop), mix together the flour, salt and herbs. Mound up the flour mixture and make a divot in the center, about the size of an egg, down to the bottom. (In fact, you can use a clean egg to make the divot.) Into the well, pour in the yeast mixture and oil. With a fork, beat the wet mixture, incorporating the flour from the sides of the well. Keep stirring till the dough forms a ball and isn't it danger of running all over the table. With clean hands, knead the rest of the flour into the wet dough and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep it in a warm place (not too hot, you mustn't kill the yeast) till it's just about doubled in volume.
Sprinkle the counter or tabletop with flour and place the dough onto it. Punch the dough down, meaning deflate it. Knead for 10 minutes, using as little extra flour as possible, for a tender loaf. It shouldn't be sticky, but it's a soft dough. Flour an ungreased baking sheet and form the dough into a ball, placing it on the sheet. Sprinkle lightly with a dusting of flour (use a bit of flour sprinkled through a sieve, or through a salt shaker if you're heavy-handed with the dusting). With a sharp knife, cut a broad "X" about an inch into the top surface and then cover the loaf with a clean, damp cloth (not wet!), and let it puff up in a warm place for 30 minutes. It will look really rustic and attractive with the unfloured dough of the "X" in the floured background!
Place in a cold oven (not preheated), and turn the oven on to 375°F (190°C). Bake for about 40 to 60 minutes. To check if it's done, tap on the hard surface of the loaf. It will sound hollow if it's done. If in doubt, bake for 5 minutes longer. Take it off the hot baking sheet, and cool it on a wire rack. Otherwise, the bottom crust will overcook. For a crunchy crust, cool without covering. For a soft crust, cover with a damp cloth while cooling.
Instead of Pumpkin Juice, a.k.a. Aunt Petunia's Yogurt Fruit Shake
Pumpkin juice is a great favorite among Hogwarts students, and Sirius Black would have consumed plenty of it as a kid. But Ron was concerned that if the fugitive was in hiding, he'd need something more substantial than fat-free pumpkin juice. Harry recalled a version of this recipe from when he lived with his Aunt Petunia. Frequently, his Uncle Vernon would sentence him to no food for transgressions, sometimes for up to a week. He was sure the Dursleys wanted him to die, but perhaps his aunt felt guilty about her sister's son truly going hungry in his little cell under the stairs. She would sometimes present him with a sour-ish yogurt shake, no more frequently than once a day, during those times. It was usually made with the yogurt and fruit his cousin Dudley had refused to eat at breakfast -- essentially, Aunt Petunia dumped the leftovers into a blender. It was simply a way to clean up, and was meant to be part of his punishment, but Harry actually didn't mind the shakes. He did some experimenting, and came up with this version, which Sirius declared unusual and delicious!
Hermione's Cousin's a Buckeye
Hermione has a cousin in America who attended a university there which referred to their sports team as "buckeyes." Ron laughed at the name, and she explained that a buckeye is the hard, round seed of a sort of native American tree, now endangered. She added that there was a peanut-honey-chocolate candy that physically resembled the seed, also called the buckeye. Ron rolled on the floor with laughter, chanting "Hermione's cousin's a Buckeye!" gasping at how stupid it was to name a sports team after a nearly-extinct seed, or worse, a piece of candy! Why couldn't they choose a proper name, like the Chudleigh Cannons? Harry felt bad for Hermione, and asked for the recipe out of politeness. She left the dining hall in a huff, but Harry later found a piece of paper in his Potions text, with the formula scribbled on it, but no instructions. Harry made them according to the description Hermione had given, and tested them out on his friends before including them in Sirius's picnic basket. Ron declared them "bloody scrummy!" Hermione simply smiled. She was learning to take her little victories quietly, and with dignity.
After they are stone cold, place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir the chocolate -- the chips tend to keep their shape, even though they are melted. If it's still chunky, place into the microwave for another 30 seconds, stir again, repeat, etc. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate, because it can burn.
Spear the ball with a toothpick and dip into the melted chocolate. Set on wax paper or a sheet of foil, removing the toothpick and letting the hole seal shut. Allow to chill until the chocolate hardens. Store these in the refrigerator, and keep them cold. If the chocolate becomes too cold for dipping, return it to the microwave to melt again.
Depending on how big a ball you roll, this recipe makes between 6 and 8 dozen buckeyes.
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