Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Very much a fairy tale for adults, Neverwhere tells the story of Richard Mayhew, a London commuter who stops to help a young woman lying bleeding on the sidewalk one night, and finds himself in the alternate universe of London Underground. The parallels with Alice in Wonderland are fairly obvious – falling into an underground alternate reality, coming of age – yet this is a much darker and bloodier otherworld.

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Without giving too much away, the inverses in London Underground are pretty fascinating. Angels are evil, doors can be opened to anywhere, and the environment resembles more of a medieval estate than modern London. Richard goes through a significant transformation when he is there. He goes from being a young, rather naive man who is willing tolerate bad behavior from his fiancee because he simply thinks this is how it is, to having a mind and will of his own. He knows he is worthy of so much more, because he’s proven himself. In many ways, this book is a “bildungsroman” as it details his transformation from boy to man.

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In one passage, Richard and Door, the young woman he stopped to help and who essentially brought him to London Underground, wake up with ungodly hangovers from drinking heavenly wine with the Angel Islington. They’ve been found by Serpentine, a type of Amazon woman and part of a group of women who act as hunter/protectors and who, in her rough way, tries to help with the hangovers by feeding the two of them. Quite ironically, I too, woke up with a hangover this morning – my first in many years. I blame my friends Jake, Maggie and Heather, without whom I would not have overindulged in red wine last night. But we had a marvelous time, and this quiche can cure any hangover. It certainly did mine.

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“What is there to eat?” asked Hunter. Serpentine looked at the wasp-waisted woman in the doorway. “Well?” she asked. The woman smiled the chilliest smile Richard had ever seen cross a human face, then she said, “Fried eggs poached eggs pickled eggs curried venison pickled onions pickled herrings smoked herrings salted herrings mushroom stew salted bacon stuffed cabbage calves foot jelly – “

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While pickled eggs DO NOT have any kind of attraction for me, the savory tastes of fried eggs, salted bacon and mushrooms caught my attention. Remembering the wonderful fried tomatoes I had as part of a delicious morning meal when visiting London a few years ago, I decided a riff on the classic British breakfast was in order.

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This is the method that worked for me.

INGREDIENTS
1.5 cups regular flour
4 tablespoons unsalted, chilled butter, cut into cubes
4 tablespoons chilled shortening, also cubed

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1/4 cup ice-cold water
5 slices of smoked bacon, good quality
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 carton sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup of half and half or heavy cream
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 cup of grated cheese – I used a mixture of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack

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METHOD

Gradually mix together the flour, the cubed butter and the cubed shortening until it forms a “rubbly” texture. I used my most awesome Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the pastry hook attachment. It’s important that your butter and shortening are cold cold cold.

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Gradually add the cold water until a dough is formed. Mine was sticky so I added a bit more flour to the mixer. Wrap the dough in plastic, form it into a ball and knead it a bit before refrigerating.

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Heat the oven to 375F. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface. Don’t use your kitchen counter as you will have a mess and if you’re doing it recovering from a hangover, it will not make you happy. Trust me.

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Press the rolled-out dough into a pie pan. Chill it again for another 10 minutes. Poke a few holes in the bottom crust with a fork. Then bake the empty quiche shell for 10 minutes.

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While the crust is both chilling and baking, fry the bacon in a little bit of  olive oil. Remove and drain, then crumble.

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Cook the mushrooms, garlic powder and thyme leaves in the bacon oil for about 10 minutes. The smell is out of this world! But do watch out for spatters from the hot oil.

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In a separate bowl, add the eggs, salt and pepper. Whisk together, then add the slightly cooled mushrooms and the bacon. Add in the heavy cream and the cheese and whisk together again.

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Pour into the slightly baked quiche pieshell and top with the sliced tomatoes. Isn’t that pretty?

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Bake for up to 50 minutes, checking occasionally. When the crust is golden-brown, that’s usually when it’s ready. The filling will have set, and the smell of the mushrooms and the savory scent of roasting tomatoes will also give you a hint.

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Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and serve in generous slices. Accompany it with a hibiscus cocktail, which is champagne and cranberry juice, very necessary “hair of the dog” for a hangover. The flavors are luscious – the sharp cheese, the savory tomatoes, the salty bacon and the nicely set eggs, set off by the bosky taste of the mushrooms.

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17 thoughts on “Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

  1. when i saw this was set in london, i was wondering if you were going to do bangers and mash. But i think you are far too gourmet for that. Looks delicious. The book sounds quite interesting also. i actually did enjoy the pub food last time i was in London.

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    1. I will tell you a little secret, Rottingkins. Certain things, like mashed potatoes, are intimidating because of their simplicity. I have not ever attempted something like bangers and mash not because they’re not gourmet enough but because I am a chickenshit. 🙂 I had some bangers and mash when I was there that were to die for, along with a toad in the hole that was divine, and fish and chips that could have made an angel weep. So I know what you mean about pub food.

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  2. How wonderful to see your writing mixed in with the lovely essence of food, always a delight to have a recipe to take away! Neil Gaimen would make anyone cook with story and imagination as he unfolds his wondrous mind. He is my favorite contemporary writer! Vanessa, please read Good Omens by Gaimen and Pratchett, and also American Gods.

    I look forward to your next book and food adventure:))
    Esther

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My friend, it means more than you know to hear that you like my writing. You are partly to blame for inspiring me to start writing, so thank you for that. 🙂 I love American Gods, and actually I was thinking of blogging The Ocean at the End of the Lane in the next couple of months or so. So definitely stay tuned. And I’m so glad you liked it!

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  3. Neverwhere is magical, I’m so glad you found a way to work it into your kitchen!!! Isn’t there a picnic in Ocean at the End of the Lane? Could a picnic be possible???

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  4. Wow, this one is pretty special to me, being Neil Gaiman one of my favourite writers ever. I adore Neverwhere, and even more American Gods…
    Your savoury tart looks really good, love the addition of tomatoes, I guess they add a bit of zing to the usual creamy mixture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you liked it. I know what you mean about Gaiman’s books. Anansi Boys, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book………all are special friends to me as well. And the tomatoes definitely added something to the quiche. I was even thinking some roasted garlic on top would be even better. Thanks for taking the time to read it!

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