Tea with Mr. Tumnus

by Cara Nicoletti on July 24, 2012

Sorry for the long pause in posts! The last couple of weeks I was traveling around England, soaking up all things literary and consuming all things edible. My dad and I left my mom and two sisters behind in the states and took a literary nerd trip, visiting most of the spots I have been reading about since I was very young. I hold my dad responsible for my love of British literature–it is his first literary love as well, and we have both been dreaming of traveling the country together since I was a kid.

The rumor about England (here in the States at least) is that the food there is bad, but I am here to tell you that this is simply not true. I had some of the best meals of my entire life while I was over there–crispy, spicy ragdaa pattice and sea bass masala so buttery it evaporated on my tongue, pig’s head stew and creamy garlic soup with crispy fatback and snails at the unbelievable St. John’s Bread & Wine, airy pasties filled with braised meat and sweet peas–I’ll stop before I can’t.

One thing I noticed about the Brits is that they take their toast very seriously. We ate all manner of things on toast–chutney, cheese, sardines, mushy peas, and of course beans, which was a concept I could never really get behind  until I actually tried it. The flat we stayed in even had a little rack next to the toaster to keep the toast from getting soggy before serving it, and on multiple occasions I witnessed people at restaurants sending their toast back for being too cold, too toasted, not toasted enough–all very politely of course.

Every time I piled something onto toast I thought of Lucy and Mr. Tumnus’s tea in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. 

“And really it was a wonderful tea. There was a nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake.”

Three different varieties of toast in one sitting and a sugar-topped cake to wash it all down–that is a dream-come-true for a diehard carb-lover like myself.

Any post on food in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe would be incomplete without at least mentioning Turkish delight–a sweet so all-powerfully delicious it lead Edmund to betray his brother and sisters to The White Witch. I remember how quickly I tore through my super-deluxe box-set of The Chronicles of Narnia the summer I was in third grade, and how vividly I could taste what I imagined Turkish delight would taste like the entire time. I imagined it was pure white and some impossible combination of dense and chewy while still being light-as-air. And there were certainly chunks of salty, roasted almonds in there somewhere.

There has never been a more delicious-sounding treat, and in my opinion, a bigger candy letdown. My aunt finally found some for me at a Middle-Eastern grocery that year and I was crestfallen when I bit into my first piece and it tasted like perfume and cornstarch. Regardless, it has been around forever and is absolutely everywhere in England so I must be in the minority of people who dislike it. I do wonder, though, how much C.S. Lewis has to do with its enduring popularity.

Turkish Delight Makes 40-50 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups superfine sugar
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons rosewater (or any extract you prefer)
  • food coloring
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Directions: Place 1 ½ cups of water into a medium saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice and boil over medium heat until mixture reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. While this mixture is heating combine the cornstarch, cream of tartar and remaining 3 cups water in a large pot and whisk until the cornstarch dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking to avoid lumps, until it is thick and gluey. Once the sugar mixture has reached 240 degrees slowly add it to the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Simmer over low for about an hour, whisking every ten minutes or so. After about an hour it should be very thick and light yellow in color. At this point add your food-coloring, extract and pistachios. Pour into a greased, nonstick pan and allow to set, uncovered, overnight. Once it has set, turn the Turkish Delight out on a surface dusted with powdered-sugar and slice with a well-oiled knife.

Sardines on Toast

I made a sampling of toasts for my tea party—one was simply buttered toast with honey, one was buttered toast with sardines and the following two I will give the ingredients for below:

  • 1 fresh small/medium baguette, sliced in half twice (4 pieces) and toasted
  • 1 8 oz can of sardines packed in olive oil (should have around 4 large fillets in it)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons good balsamic vinegar
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs (if you can find pickled eggs or want to make them, I will post a recipe for them below—I highly recommend them for this!)
  • Capers
  • 1 small red onion, thinly-sliced
  • salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste

Toast 1: Once your bread is toasted, drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil on it. Slice your cherry tomatoes and parsley and toss them on the toast. Top with sardine fillets, drizzle with balsamic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toast 2: Butter your toast. Slice your hard-boiled eggs (pickled egg recipe is below if you decide you want to use it!). Lay red onion slices on the toast, sprinkle with chopped parsley and capers (about 1 Tablespoon), top with sardine fillets and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pickled Eggs: Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • Beet juice from 1 (15 oz.) can beets
  • ¼ white sugar
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 TBS mustard seeds
  • 2 TBS whole allspice
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper flake

Directions:

First, hard boil your eggs. Place them in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Once the water comes to a rolling boil let them cook for 7 minutes. Remove them from the heat and immediately rinse them under cold water before peeling them.

To make your pickling liquid add the beet juice, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan. Make a bouquet garni with the pickling spices by tying them securely in cheesecloth (you can also use a coffee filter or empty tea bag). Bring the liquid to a boil then lower the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Place the eggs, sliced onion and crushed garlic into a pickling jar. Remove bouquet garni and pour hot pickling liquid over eggs. Seal securely and let sit, refrigerated, for at least 3 days (more if you can bear to wait!)

Sugar-Topped Burnt Sugar Cake

Makes 1 9” double-layer cake or 2 dozen mini-cakes

I chose to top my burnt sugar cake with sugar crystals to look more like what Mr. Tumnus might have served Lucy, but I will give the ingredients for a burnt-sugar frosting below—both the cake and the frosting are just as tempting as they sound (unlike Turkish Delight, blech!)

Burnt Sugar Syrup

  • 1 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup boiling or very hot water

Directions:

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (I used my cast-iron skillet). Over medium heat melt the sugar, touching it as little as possible so as to avoid clumping. You can use a wet pastry brush to brush the caramelizing sugar back into the pan. Meanwhile, boil your water.

When the sugar is all melted and a dark, golden-brown, slowly (slowly!) add the boiling water. The caramelized sugar will bubbling up vigorously when you start adding the water so be very careful to incorporate it a little bit at a time. Once all the water is in, simmer for 10-15 more minutes. Allow to cool completely before using in the cake batter.

 

Cake Batter Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cake flour (regular flour will work too)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • ¾  cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla
  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • ½ cup burnt sugar syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup full-fat milk

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift all of your dry together and set aside. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat softened butter then slowly add sugars and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat until incorporated. Dilute ½ cup of the sugar syrup with ½ cup water. Alternate adding wet (sugar syrup and milk) with the dry mixture until everything is incorporated and batter is smooth (be sure to scrape under the paddle, there are lots of heavy sugars in this recipe that want to sink to the bottom of the mixing bowl). Remove batter from the bowl, give it a quick rinse and beat reserved egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gently fold whites into batter. Pour into 2 9” greased. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Burnt-Sugar Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 2/3 cup burnt sugar syrup (should be plenty left over from the cake batter)
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Beat butter and slowly add sifted powdered sugar. Add vanilla to sugar syrup and slowly pour into the mixer with the paddle running. Beat until smooth and spreadable. If the frosting is too stiff add milk 1 teaspoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

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If there’s a literary food scene you want to see come to life be sure to leave me a comment and let me know! Or take a peek in the Recipe Index.

Leave a Comment

INDIA July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Sardines aren’t usually my thang but dang do you make em look good. Also, are you the best egg poacher ever? I’ve never heard the trick of putting them in cold water and bringing it to a boil while they’re in the pot. TRYIN’ IT. THX 4 THA TIP.

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yummybooks July 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I didn’t think they were my thang either until I tried them this time! I remember the summer when I was about 11 my mom and her twin sister were on some kind of health kick and got super into eating sardines straight from the can with just half a lemon squeezed over them. At the time I thought it was horrifying but now I kind of see where they were coming from–they’re really delicious! ps luhyou

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Susan T. Landry July 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

this is a beautifully realized and photographed post. i have just had my bowl of nutritious fiber-filled cereal…and i am salivating over sardines! yessirree. and those wee cakes…yum….

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Michelle Isenhoff July 27, 2012 at 7:45 am

Wow! Since sixth grade I’ve wished I could have joined Lucy and Mr. Tumnus. After those beautiful pictures, doubly so.

I, too, have so many British authors and stories I admire: Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling, James Herriot, Beatrix Potter, Dickens, Orwell, Austen…I could go on an on. What a fantastic trip!

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Marcy July 27, 2012 at 11:22 am

Fabulous post Cara. Absolutely love everything about it. I have had a can of sardines in my pantry for an embarrassingly long time and now I know exactly what to do with them. Can’t wait to pickle the eggs!

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yummybooks August 4, 2012 at 11:10 am

I can’t believe pickled eggs have never been worked into our chime-time platters–they are so good with some cold white wine (and some gossip)

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Deb July 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm

That sardine and egg combo is exactly what i crave everyday but I didn’t know what it was that was I craving until i saw that food on the plate. It has everything I long for…salty crunchy goodness. Will you make this for me very soon? Can we sit and eat this all day? (followed by the cakes of course!) This post was a very ambitious undertaking!!!!

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yummybooks August 4, 2012 at 11:11 am

I can’t wait to make these for you!

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shannon garson July 31, 2012 at 1:57 am

I found your blog when I was googling Beouf en Daube in Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” Thank you so much for writing the perfect blog. (I was googling because I am a potter and have been writing an essay on the central place handmade pots, food and art can have in our lives!)

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yummybooks August 4, 2012 at 11:08 am

Shannon, I just looked you up to see if I could find any of your pottery and I am absolutely speechless. If this poor butcher ever has any kind of expendable income those mushroom vessels and polka-dot tea-cups will be in my kitchen. Would love to read that essay, too! Thank you for stopping in, I hope you’ll be back!

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Elizabeth August 2, 2012 at 1:08 am

Oh, good lord, I love this post! You know, I’ve been fantasizing about planning a trip to England, Ireland, Scotland, etc. to explore all the literary places and poet stomping grounds. I will be 50 in 2013 and contemplate doing it SOLO despite the fact that I have a husband and three children. No one shares my literary nerdiness. I would LOVE to know where you went with your father –

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yummybooks August 4, 2012 at 11:04 am

Oh, Elizabeth, you really should do it! I’ve traveled very little (this was my first time in Europe!) but after this trip I’m itching to take a solo trip somewhere next. If you’re really planning on going email me, I’ll tell you everything we did! Nicoletti.cara@gmail.com

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Christina August 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm

First, I followed a link from the Smithsonian Food and Think blog post that brought me here, and boy, and I glad I came. You have a fantastic site, here. What a great idea!

Second, as far as C.S. Lewis goes, I’ve fantasized over this meal with Tumnus myself. I’ve reread the books every time I’ve had a troubled moment in my life, and there’ve been plenty of those. You’ve done a great job capturing this tea.

And finally, did you get yourself to Bath? Isn’t it amazing? I assume you spent some time in London, too–did you go to the reconstructed Globe? It’s fantastic.

I’m glad I’ve found this site, and I’ll most definitely be back.

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sunidhi August 28, 2012 at 4:51 am

lovely website. i always follow the recipes of this webstie and it is amazing. thanks a lot for posting these recipies.

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Tizzie December 7, 2012 at 10:42 pm

This was one of my favorites books as a kid and remains so now. I love reading your thoughts on it! Tumnus was a gem. So are you. Keep writing!

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jessicabenjestorf December 7, 2012 at 11:19 pm

When I first heard about YummyBooks, I was waiting to see what you would do with this one! Narnia was such a vivid experience for me, and when I finally made it to Turkey I brought home a million Turkish delights. This is so great.

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Beans December 9, 2012 at 10:25 am

I’m not sure I can come to terms with eating a sardine, though I do have an “if the world ended tomorrow” emergency can in my pantry per a recommendation from my Father, who eats a sardine sandwich every Sunday without fail! I love that this post provided so many beautiful photographed recipes, I borrowed some for a recent gathering of my book club – the idea of many small dishes, consumed while discussing books was too good to pass up!

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Beth December 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

So imaginative. This post is full of deliciousness!

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Trina December 11, 2012 at 11:03 am

Much like Marcy, I have a can of sardines in my pantry that I did not know what to do with until reading this post! This is the kind of meal I think I would really enjoy while home alone, with a good tall glass of wine and a great book. Delicious.

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Stacey January 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

Thanks for your fantastic entry! It was so perfectly balanced, and exactly what we were looking for! Along with your wonderful anecdotes, the photos and the recipes were amazing, and the inclusion of various quotes from the passages that mention or revolve around the foods were so helpful! We found your entry after googling “lion witch wardrobe food”. My 10yo homeschooled daughter is part of a girls book group who just read and discussed LWW, after which they met to view the most recent movie made of it (the one with Tilda Swinton as the witch). Often when we meet, we each bring a food themed from whatever book we’ve read – lots of fun! and yummy! For this book we had the girls try turkish delight (of course!), sardines, and tea, along with fish (shaped cookies!) and potatoes (in honor of the dinner provided by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver). For other books, we’ve recently read Al Capone Does My Shirts, Artemis Fowl, Coraline, HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and whole bunch of others. If you’re feeling so inclined, maybe you have some food recommendations for our coming months’ book discussions: Harriet the Spy, The Cricket in Times Square, My Life as a Book, and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Thank you again for your blog offering!

Regards, Stacey (homeschooling mom)

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Cait of The Acorn Cabinet January 16, 2013 at 11:45 pm

My sister-in-law sent this to me months ago and I have been looking for it ever since. I so enjoyed reading your blog and it has inspired me so much in my own creations (particularly in the art of writing letters at breakfast time). I am looking forward to creating meals from children’s books with my son when he is a bit older.

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crustacean island January 23, 2013 at 6:59 pm

PLEASE don’t judge Turkish Delight (called lokum here in Turkey) by its packaged, processed adulturation! Real sultan lokum actually is fluffy, white, and dotted with roasted walnuts, pistachios or almonds – it’s heaven! Just as good as anything the White Witch fed Edmund (minus the dark magic of course). Come to Istanbul and I’ll take you to Haf?z Mustafa for some real lokum!

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kat March 18, 2014 at 5:20 am

There are other flavors of Turkish Delight. Try one without rose water. Nuts Online sells some. Your blog is great.

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