Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fictional Food Adventure: Reading Roald Dahl's Matilda

Reading Matilda has been a joy. I'm glad this was on the list along with Danny Champion of the World, because reading the two of them has taught me that Roald Dahl had a lot of heart and fun to give. I'd always had reservations about reading his stories; as a child the little I heard about his stories didn't really make me want to read them. I think what stood out was the griminess, the gruesomeness, the vengefulness and nastiness. I assumed that even as an adult I wouldn't be keen, but I realise there is perhaps a bit of Roald Dahl for everyone. I now know that there are several very special Dahl stories just for me; Danny, The BFG and Matilda.

I loved the development of the relationship between little Matilda and her sweet teacher, Miss Honey. There was a real sense of redemption

I thought a lot of my dear sister-in-law as I read Matilda, knowing how much my brother's wife adores this book. She lives Matilda, and it's a constant friend to her. She has lost count of the times she's read it. I'll definitely be getting a copy for my own shelves and will enjoy re-reading it, especially the scenes with the library books.

I have a better appreciation of Roald Dahl, with reservations. However great his storytelling is, there are some stories I just won't enjoy.

The recipe from Matilda is of course the famous chocolate cake that the grim Miss Trunchbull forced Bruce Bogtrottter to eat in front of the whole school, and you can read about my baking of this monstosity here:

Reading Matilda also happened to coincide with Dahlicious Dress Up Day, and I found out quite by accident that one of our local primary schools was taking part, asking all their pupils to dress up as a Roald Dahl character. I couldn't waste the opportunity to have a bit of bookish fun at the library, and so we invited the school to bring a couple of classes for a visit to the library that day. We offered them the chance to come and listen to some Roald Dahl stories, do some crafts and EAT SOME CAKE! It was just fantastic. I really don't do dressing up, and I'm not a performer, BUT I love sharing stories and enthusiasm for books. So I found a plain blue dress in a charity shop, bought some white frilly ankle socks and a bit of red ribbon, and read to the kids from Matilda. There were several other very charming Matildas listening, as well as a dazzling Willy Wonka, some Oompa Lumpas, a very dashing Fantastic Mr Fox and even a couple of Mike Teevees. They loved hearing about Bruce Bogtrotter eating the enormous cake, and couldn't wait to eat the chocolate cake we had promised, courtesy of Bev in our Cafe. We had also read the intro to The Twits, hearing the details about Mr Twit's sickeningly mucky beard, and then making our own. I game them a template for a dark brown beard and moustache with they covered in scraps of tin foil sardine tails, old cheese (real for the brave and paper for the faint-hearted, and even real cornflakes. They did a grand job and all looked disgusting in their beards. It was lovely chatting with them all about books and seeing them happily munching on the cake. I had a thoroughly good time myself, and think it was probably the most fun I've had in the library so far. I have now read that cake section of the book and know it pretty well by now! "You can do it Brucie!"

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Bruce Bogtrotter's Chocolate Cake from 'Matilda'.

I needed a good excuse to make this cake as it is pretty large, and I can't put my hand on my heart and say "I need this much cake in one go" between just the two of us. Of course, my colleagues and Boss don't mind AT ALL when I bring cake to the library but the opportunity presented itself in the shape of my lovely Mum-in-law's birthday. Chocolate is ok by her. And a big cake is very celebratory. 

I was scared. Cooking a large cake makes me nervous and bad results are expected. I don't think big cakes are a great idea, because it's hard to bake them evenly. I don't like dry cake with hard edges and neither do I like underbaked gooey cake. But I went ahead and bought the worryingly large 23cm cake tin and gathered my ingredients.
I was preparing the cake when our friend Ally was here, so while we waited for our dinner to cook I got on with making the cake batter and we all shared the crucial duty of checking flavour and consistency. Aren't we diligent?
Once we knew the batter was dandy I plopped it all into the tin I'd prepared and wished it well as I placed it in the oven. 

I checked on it regularly, because, from experience I didn't trust our over not to cinder-ise it, and kept poking the cake with a skewer. Time and again it came out still too wet so I placed a tin foil hat over the whole cake to avoid any burning or too much colouring on top. Soon the skewer was coming out cleanly and the foil had protected the cake brilliantly. It all looked rather promising.

I let the cake take its time to cool off before wrapping it up for the birthday visit the next day, at which time I made the thick, dark, shining mass of chocolate icing and plastered it over and inside the cake. Now, there is a division of opinion about the presence of jam in a fruit cake. I am not a fan but Andy grew up with blackcurrant jam sticking the layers of his chocolate cakes together, so I spread jam over half the cake and arranged it on the board so I would know which half was which, and where the dividing line was.

I'm not sure this is the best ever chocolate cake I will ever make, but for a stupidly large cake it was pretty good and very tasty and Andy's parents happily went away with a large chunk of it. I'm just glad no one was forcing me to eat more than one slender slice at a time.