'This is Ron,' Harry told Hagrid, who was pouring boiling water into a large teapot and putting rock cakes onto a plate.
'Another Weasley, eh?' said Hagrid, glancing at Ron's freckles. 'I spent half me life chasin' your brothers away from the Forest.'
The rock cakes almost broke their teeth, but Harry and Ron pretended to be enjoying them as they told Hagrid all about their first lessons.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J. K. Rowling
26 June 2017 marks twenty years since the first Harry Potter novel was released. Through complete serendipity of timing, I have been revisiting Philosopher's Stone this month: my nannying charges have finally decided to start the series. I've been spending bedtimes reading chapters aloud - giving (truly appalling) voice to Hagrid and Professor McGonagall, and relishing the chance to see the plot twists and turns through their fresh eyes. I know the stories so well at this point, almost by heart; it's been a true joy rediscovering them through someone else.
But I'm also reading with a greater sense of apprehension than I anticipated. I've been surprised to discover just how much it means that this book becomes one that they love too. So much of my childhood - who I was in my early years - is tied up in its pages. I read it under the covers, on the bottom bunk, at midnight, long after my dad thought I was asleep. Aged 11, I wrote to J. K. Rowling, desperate to know whether there was an Australian school for witches and wizards. In secondary school, I carved out time for rereading the books when school exam stress threatened to overwhelm me. I devoured the seventh in a single day as I housesat my granny's apartment just after my 21st birthday. Now 30, and miles away from my family, the series still comforts me when I am homesick, or lonely, or anxious. I know I am not alone in this. It's a story I have heard from many others of my age: these books, and these characters, have grown with us, and become part of us in a way few others have.
And so, while I would like to say that the opinion of a seven and eleven-year-old don't really matter to me, nothing could be further from the truth. I hope, when I see them in years to come, that they talk to me of Sirius and Lupin, of the Weasley twins leaving Hogwarts in a blaze of fireworks, of the horror of Dumbledore's death, of the Deathly Hallows. I have lived under their roof for eighteen months now, a significant portion of their young lives. We have shared so much: time spent with Star Wars, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Doctor Who, and Enchanted, playing Cop It, Bananagrams, and The Game of Life, making cream horns, sponge cakes, and toad-in-the-hole. I hope, very much, that I can add Harry Potter to this list, and leave a beloved piece of my childhood behind on their bookshelves.
Twenty years ago, when I was learning to cook, I made a lot of rock cakes. We whipped up batches of them after school, wrapping them up in cling film for packed lunches the next day. At their best, they're somewhere between a biscuit and a scone - light and buttery, and full of sweet dried fruit. The trick is not to overmix or overbake them. Hagrid's are more rock than cake; you don't want to break your teeth on your batch.
250g plain flour
75g light brown sugar
2tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter
75g dried cherries
Zest of a lemon
3tbsp single cram
25g caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Rub in the butter using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Toss the fruit and zest through, until evenly dispersed.
2. Whisk together the egg, cream, and vanilla. Pour this into the dry ingredients, and mix through with a fork, and then your hands, until you have a batter. Don't overmix - as soon as there are no floury bits, stop mixing.
3. Pull the dough from the bowl in eight evenly sized chunks. Keeping them rough, place onto lined baking trays, and sprinkle with caster sugar.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool, and then serve within a day or so - hard, stale rock cakes are (as Harry and Ron discovered) particularly unappetising.