Food from the faraway tree

Shabnam Minwalla | Updated on January 12, 2018

Liquid pleasures: There are scores of blogs and articles about the ginger beer and lemonade that the Secret Seven and Famous Five consumed by the gallon.   -  istock.com

Enid Blyton’s tuck is enjoying an enormous revival

A couple of months ago, a cookbook landed on my desk.

It still hasn’t made the four-second journey from desk to kitchen, because ever so often, one of my three daughters picks it up and spends 10 happy minutes poring over it and sighing. “Oooooh, can we make rock buns and sticky piglets?” Or, “Look at these dippy eggs and soldiers.”

So much so that I’m starting to wonder if this book belongs more with the Wilma Tenderfoots and Secret Sevens in the girls’ study, rather than with Bistro Cooking and Flavours of Madras on the kitchen shelf. After all, it does marry food and fiction in the most irresistible way possible.

Jolly Good Food: A Children’s Cookbook Inspired by the Stories of Enid Blyton encourages young readers to breakfast with the Naughtiest Girl, picnic with the Famous Five and enjoy midnight feasts at Malory Towers. Not an invitation that anybody who’s grown up alongside George and Julian, Moon-face and Silky, would dream of turning down.

I certainly wouldn’t. Not if there was the slightest chance of tasting a Google bun.

For those who’ve forgotten, Google buns have been around long before Google Maps and Google Search. They made their appearance in the Magic Faraway Tree series all those decades ago.

For those who haven’t read them, these marvellous books revolve around an enormous tree in the midst of the Enchanted Woods. This is home to a host of magical beings — including the clattery Saucepan Man, friendly Moon-face and gentle Silky. The very top of this tree leads to strange and wonderful lands, and the children never know whether they will encounter a scowling giant or a friendly fairy when they climb upthe ladder through the clouds. But the best moments in the book are when Jo, Bessie and Fanny sample Moon-face’s Google buns and Silky’s pop biscuits: “Come on,” said Moon-face. “Come and eat a Google Bun and see what you think of it.”

The buns were most peculiar. They each had a very large currant in the middle, and this was filled with sherbet. So when you got to the currant and bit it the sherbet frothed out and filled your mouth with fine bubbles that tasted delicious. The children got a real surprise when they bit their currants, and Moon-face almost fell off the branch laughing.

See what I mean? And I’m pretty sure that even those who’ve never used a pinch of yeast in their lives will make an exception this once. Which is why, holding onto my apron and enthusiasm, I decided to take a crack at Google Buns — only to find that Allegra McEvedy has cheated a bit. She’s served up a recipe for currant buns dripping with sugar icing. Probably delicious but — without the pop, fizz and surprise element — downright unmagical. (And we only make magical buns in this particular nook of Colaba.)

Disappointed, I check for Google buns on Google. (Where else?) And find that there’s an entire army of nostalgic bloggers out there, determined to recreate Magic Faraway Tree treats. There are those who bake buns filled with “popping sweets” and others who make cupcakes topped with icing laced with sherbet powder. There are some who’ve tried their hand at toffee shock — another Moon-face treat that grows bigger and bigger as you chew and then just disappears. The most popular method seems to be making toffee squares and rolling popping candy into them.

That’s not all. Blyton’s food is clearly enjoying an enormous revival. There are scores of blogs and articles on the ginger beer and lemonade that the Secret Seven and Famous Five consumed by the gallon. And innumerable ideas for Famous Five parties and St Clare midnight feasts.

There are event organisers geared to create the perfect Blyton picnic for children. And “food artists” eager to conjure up a five-course Faraway Tree-themed dinner for adults. As well as swish restaurants happy to host expensive midnight feasts.

Then there are knowledgeable pieces about Blyton’s appreciation of farm-fresh foods. And academic papers on ‘The Use of Food in Enid Blyton’s Fiction’. (Don’t read these if you nurture fond memories of Kiki the parrot and Fatty the Five-Find-Outer. You only end up worrying that you’ve been drooling over “an orgy in an Edwardian emporium” and have been taken in by a form of “hypnagogic imagery”. Which you must firmly ignore and return to the pork pies and wobbly blancmanges.)

Meanwhile, as we don’t get popping candy and sherbet powder in Mumbai and Delhi, I’ve put aside the Google bun plan for the moment. But there are plenty of other recipes to choose from — more than enough for an Enid Blyton evening to relieve the tedium of homework and piano practice.


Cheddar, onion and potato quiche

Sticky piglets (sausage and dates wrapped with bacon)

Lettuce, sliced tomato and beetroot

Raspberry and vanilla water-ice

So it finally seems that the cookbook is going to enter the kitchen. And that dinner tomorrow is going to be infused with the special flavour of fiction.

Strawberry and vanilla water-ice

(Modified from Allegra McEvedy’s raspberry and vanilla water-ice)

450g strawberries

100g powdered sugar

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Put the fruit, most of the sugar and the lemon juice in a blender. Add an eggcup-ful of water and whiz until puréed.

2. Pour into a sieve and push the juice through as thoroughly as possible.

3. Add another eggcup-ful of water to the pips remaining on the sieve and stir a bit to extract every last bit of juice.

4. Add the vanilla extract, stir and taste. Add more sugar and vanilla, if necessary.

5. Pour into an airtight plastic box and freeze. Take the box out of the freezer about 20 minutes before you want to eat it. Wait till it becomes a bit mushy and spoon into bowls.

Shabnam Minwalla is a journalist and the author of The Shy Supergirl. Her latest book, What Maya Saw, is now in bookstores

Published on January 12, 2018

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