That’s right! I know some of you are seeing this title in your email/rss feed and thinking, “uh . . . what?” Brace yourselves — things are about to get deliciously silly, because Thursday is Roald Dahl Day!
As many of you surely know, much of Dahl’s writing featured or revolved around food. This, in conjunction with his knack for dreaming up silly, bizarre, and (at times) rather disgusting-sounding dishes, led to the posthumous publishing of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes, compiled by his wife Felicity (and followed later by Even More Revolting Recipes). In the Introduction to the former, Felicity writes, “Treats were an essential part of Roald’s life — never too many, never too few, and always perfectly timed. He made you feel like a king receiving the finest gift in the land.”
I believe that, for me, being a Dahl addict at a young age instilled an early fascination with food as well. Or perhaps brought what was already there to a new level of wonder and silliness. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a sensory overload for my overactive imagination. And to this day, I can still imagine exactly what Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake would taste like. (This is also the reason why I can never, ever make the recipe for it that appears in RDRR. I contemplated it for a few minutes, but ultimately decided that there was no way anything on earth was going to taste as good as what my little 8-year-old brain had dreamed up.) But these crispy wasp-stings on buttered toast are far better than I’d imagined (and they’re actually quite good, too).
This treat was born from the Centipede’s song in James and the Giant Peach, which he suddenly launches into after having a taste of the enormous peach. He recounts the many “strange and scrumptious dishes” he has eaten, including “crispy wasp-stings on a piece of buttered toast,” but declares that he’d “go without / A million plates of each / For one small mite, / One tiny bite / Of this FANTASTIC PEACH!” I’ve never tasted a giant peach, but I can say that these things are wonderful little treats, for children or adults. Made from toast buttered with cinnamon butter and topped with sticky, caramelized coconut and lemon zest, they’re part breakfast, part snack, part dessert. If you can find it, I recommend using Lyle’s Golden Syrup for this recipe. Honey works just as well, but it also has a more distinct flavor. (Also, it’s a bit more true to the recipe’s UK roots. Plus the tin it comes in is awesome!) Golden syrup might be a bit harder to come by the in the US, where corn syrup is king. But keep an eye out. If you can find it, it’s worth the buy!
Crispy Wasp-Stings on a Piece of Buttered Toast
(Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes)
yield: 16 bite-size pieces
- 5 tbsp butter, softened
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 slices of white bread
- 2 1/2 oz. shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup of confectionery sugar
- 1 tbsp of golden syrup or honey
- zest of 1/4 of a lemon
Using a small round cookie cutter, cut 4 rounds from each slice of bread (giving you 16 altogether). Mix together butter and cinnamon and set aside.
Preheat oven to 450°. Toss 2 oz. of coconut (reserving half an ounce) with confectionery sugar. Spread out on a baking sheet. Bake until sugar begins to caramelize. (This might take a few minutes, but once it starts, it will progress rapidly. So keep an eye on it.) When it has begun to brown nicely, give it a stir, let it bake for another minute or two, then remove it from the oven.
Combine caramelized coconut with lemon zest and golden syrup. Stir, then add in remaining coconut.
Toast bread rounds, then butter with cinnamon butter. Top with coconut mixture, then dig in. (Enjoy with some fresh peach juice, if you can still get your hands on peaches.) Happy Birthday to one of the world’s greatest storytellers!