Friday, November 25, 2016

Tea with Tumnus from C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Sardines on Toast, Madeira Cake, and Tea

Every time I go somewhere new, I always have the urge to check for closets and wardrobes for Narnia.

I grew up reading Narnia. I have the entire boxed set, complete with the advertising stickers saying "Soon to be a major motion picture." My siblings and I read them so many times that the spines are cracked and some pages are fighting for liberation.
Because they're favorites of mine, and because I always associate The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Christmas time, I decided to make it my book of the month for this November.

Which means I got to do a recipe inspired by said book. Which means I chose to do the Tea with Tumnus scene.

Which means I got to have over my favorite friend/writer/Tea with Tumnus expert: Susannah Metzler. Who has a blog called...that's right. Tea with Tumnus.
Her blog is completely awesome. She writes about writing, movies, books, filmscores, and pretty much any other awesome or nerdy thing that comes into her brilliant mind.

If you are not following her blog, you are making a terrible decision. Like, somebody-from-the-future-travels-back-in-time-to-warn-you terrible decision. So go follow her. Do not continue reading this post until you have followed her. Have you done it? Good. Onward! For Aslan!

I'm pretty sure we all know the plot of this book. If not, let me summarize:

A young, adventurous girl named Lucy stumbles through a wardrobe and into Narnia, a world frozen in eternal winter by the White Witch. The great lion Aslan has vanished, the people of Narnia live in fear, and there is always snow, but no Christmas. The rest of Lucy's siblings: Peter, Susan, and Edmund make their way into Narnia, but one of them is ensnared in the White Witch's web of power and deceit. All hope seems lost, but the return of Aslan brings about the beginning of great change...but at what cost to the great lion himself?

Both Susannah and myself are huge C.S. Lewis fans. We devoured the books as children and now, as writers, we look up to the author. There's something special about a book that young people read before growing up to become authors themselves. It pushes us to write harder, think deeper, to look back at what those books did for us as children and, in turn, want to be the author that propels other people into the world of writing and reading and magic. To Susannah and I, Narnia is one such series of books.

Needless to say, we were pretty excited about doing this Tea with Tumnus scene. We both got out our cameras. My Mom and I ran out to our local DAV to buy tea cups because I actually didn't own any and we all know that you can't do a post about a British book if you are void of tea cups. Susannah pulled out her British accent and I pulled out my recipes and we got to work.
In the Tea with Tumnus scene, Tumnus lays out a delicious-sounding table of food for Lucy: Sardines on toast, soft boiled eggs, buttered toast, sugar-topped cake, and tea. I decided that the sugar-topped cake could possibly be madeira cake, an English sponge cake often eaten with tea. And we also made pickled red onions to go with the sardines, because, honestly, eating sardines with just bread seemed a bit gross.
Susannah was really great about bearing with me and my recipe-making. When I do these posts I never really have an exact recipe in mind. I things. And hope it tastes good. Which means there was a lot of wandering around the kitchen, me asking Susannah "Do you think this will work?" and us looking at each other, shrugging, and saying something along the lines of "It should be fine" or "Yeah, I don't think it will matter."

And it all turned out beautifully. Here, let me show you:

Sardines on Toast
Ingredients for pickled onions: 

  • 1 red onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of a mixture of vinegar. We use a mixture of red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Because apple cider vinegar is good for you. But you can use white vinegar if you'd like. 
  • 3 tablespoons of cane sugar. I didn't use my beloved coconut sugar because I think it would have given the pickles a weird molasses taste. 
  • 1 teaspoon of peppercorn
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved 

1. In a sauce pan, saute the red onions in the tablespoon of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Don't let the onions brown. You just want them to soften. This takes about 5 minutes. Also, don't put your face over the pan while cooking. You'll burn your eyes. 

2. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar mixture, sugar, and peppercorns to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. 

3. Put the red onions in a mason jar along with the halved garlic. Now pour your vinegar over the onions. Let this sit for about an hour and voila! Ready to go! 

They turned out really well. I think they should be able to store for about a week in the refrigerator, but I'm not sure. Susannah and I made them on Saturday and they were polished off by Monday. 

Now you simply toast some bread (we used sourdough), open a can of sardines (which I understand sounds completely wrong, but just trust us), and put them on the bread, topping with the pickles. Awesome. 

Madeira Cake 
This was an interesting recipe to develop because all of the other recipes I used as springboards were British and thus used ounces and grams. Also, English cooks seem to use a lot of "caster sugar." Which apparently is just fine white sugar, but with a Britified name. Who knew? Not me. 

  • 1 cup of spelt, sifted. Spelt is an ancient, nutritious whole grain that has less gluten than modern wheat. 
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2/3 of a cup cane sugar. Again, I had to forsake my precious coconut sugar because it is too coarse and brown-sugar tasting for more delicate baked goods like madeira cake. 
  • 6 ounces of butter. We're both writers who are handicapped when it comes to math, but we were able to figure out how much of an 8.8 oz stick of butter we should use to get 6 oz. We're so smart.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest 
  • 1 drop of orange essential oil, and one drop only. This stuff is very strong, so you don't want to overdo it. 

1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamed (thoroughly mixed together and slightly stiff and, well...creamed). Once creamed, beat in one egg at a time. Next, add the orange oil and zest. Stir in the spelt and baking powder. The mixture should be neither runny nor doughy. 
2. Oil a spring form pan or cake tin. Pour in the cake batter. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

3. Allow to cool so that it's just warm, then dust with powdered sugar. It should be noted that the pan was still hot when we tried to dust it with sugar, which meant that Susannah was holding it with cumbersome oven mitts. It almost met a sad ending with the floor. So that's why you need to let it cool before trying to take it out of the spring form pan. 

Anyway, look how pretty it is: 
Soft boiled eggs

Or dippy eggs. Whatever you want to call them. All you do is bring water to a boil, then lower it to a simmer, add your eggs, and cook for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up, immediately run under cool water. 

Next, use the blunt side of a butter knife to crack along the top of the egg, then remove the top. That simple. If you Google "How to make soft-boiled eggs" you will come across about forty two different ways to do it. So, if you like another method, go for it. 

Now make yourself your favorite type of tea. Susannah brought over organic Earl Grey tea and we drank it in our fancy tea cups. Very classy. 
As I needed pictures for this blog post, and because Susannah is an awesome photographer, we did a food photoshoot and ended up eating our meal semi-cold. But it doesn't matter, because it still tasted great and, more importantly, we got some awesome pictures:
I even got a shot of the photographer in her natural habitat: 
After photos, we demolished the food. 
It was just that good. We decided that the pickled onions were definitely something we would eat on a regular basis, thought the madeira cake was the best thing ever, and discovered the joys of Irish breakfast tea. I think if we had laid out this food next to a cozy fireplace, Lucy wouldn't have known that Tumnus didn't make it.  

Needless to say, we had a blast. All thanks to good food, C.S. Lewis, and friendship. Three of the best things on the face of the planet. 

Have you read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? What is your favorite book from the Narnia series? Favorite C.S. Lewis novel? Please leave a comment below! And don't forget to follow Susannah's blog, twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. You don't want to disturb that time traveler, do you?

Related articles: 
Gluten and Dairy Free Seed-cake, Apple-tart, and Nut Round Recipes Inspired by The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienPumpkin Juice Inspired by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsGluten-Free Orange And Clove Scone Inspired by G.K. Chesterton

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  1. I learned recently that not everyone has read Chronicles of Narnia several times. It was greatly distressing to realize!

    My favorite Chronicles of Narnia would be Magician's Nephew or Last Battle. Those could be my favorite Lewis books as well, but I also love Till We Have Faces. Have you heard of it or read it? I've heard Lewis considered it his greatest work.

    1. It is extremely distressing. I feel the need to break into said people's lives, hand them the book, then stand over them until they finish it and realized it's awesomeness. :)

      I LOVE Till We Have Faces. It's one of my favorites of his. Though I do have a lot of favorites of his. I have an entire bookshelf that holds just C.S. Lewis books. =D Anyway, I'm glad to meet another person who has read Till We Have Faces. It's often overlooked.

  2. I have that exact same cover art on my Chronicles of Narnia! And mine are about in the same condition.
    My favorite book in the series is probably The Magicians Nephew or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. As for Lewis's other works, I also enjoyed his space trilogy and the Screwtape Letters.

    1. Lol! How cool! I love the Screwtape Letters. It's such an interesting read!

  3. I love Narnia so much! <3 And my family has the exact same editions (and a similar problem as to their conditions. :p).

    This all looks so amazing! I love the idea of remaking this scene! (though I don't cook, so I'd have to get someone else to do it for me, lol)

    Camp Half-Blood for the win!


    1. That's awesome! It's always fun to me when families have a book series that is obviously beloved by all members.

      Susannah loves Percy Jackson! She'll be happy to know there's another Narnia loving Percy Jackson fan out there! Thank you for the fun comment!

  4. Don't kill me, but I STILL haven't read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I'm an awful lover!

    But this was still enjoyable to read! The food looks delicious and the photos are fantastic. Seems like you both had fun with it (and now I'm hungry...)

    1. *gasps* Maggie!

      Just kidding. That's totally fine. I'd love to hear what you think of it when you get around to it!


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