Countries around the world may have embraced Halloween as the festival to brighten up encroaching winter, but November 5th – Bonfire Night – is Britain’s very own celebration. Bonfires have been lit and fireworks set off for more than 400 years since Guy Fawkes failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
These days it’s a great party excuse with fun and fantastic food to lift the spirits, entertain children and keep out the cold. Here are some ideas for eating and making merry that don’t simply rely on expensive fireworks!
Fire up the BBQ
It may be the last time this year that you get to BBQ your food but it provides the centrepoint (not to mention, warming point) for a winter outdoor celebration. I’ve got two of my favourite winter BBQ recipes below: both are traditional bonfire night fodder.
Plus a quick recipe for Big Bang Salsa. These are all designed to get round the big fear people have (particularly when barbequing the dark), which is that the food won’t be cooked through. The potato and sausage recipes start out in the oven.
I also think the fab pumpkin recipes on our website are worth looking up for Bonfire Night. >> You’ll find them here
Rubite baked potatoes
This recipe is from my sister-in-law Suzie who lives in Andalucia, Spain and is a great cook. You need a medium-sized potato per person.
1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C, Mark 6).
2. Start the potatoes off in the oven even if you plan to transfer them to the barbeque later. Cook them for about 40 minutes.
3. Cut each potato in half – they’ll be hard but hot and slightly sticky – and place a crushed clove of garlic, a bay leaf (or sage leaf) and a knob of butter in each.
4. Quickly squash the two halves together, wrap tightly in tin foil (you can do this bit much earlier in the day and leave them until you need them).
5. Finish them off in the oven or in the coals of the bonfire or barbeque. They need another 50 minutes or so. You can judge if they’re cooked by feel.
Bonfire Night Sausages with extra sizzle
Use any sausages you like for this. Plain, economy ones are best but I always try and buy sausages that come with a recognised endorsement that assures me the pigs have had a reasonable life – such as RSPCA Freedom Foods or Free Range. Or buy from a local butcher who can tell you about where they source their meat.
1. Mix together: 3 tablespoons oil, a pinch Cayenne pepper, half a teaspoon honey, half a teaspoon English mustard, half a teaspoon salt and a teaspoon Balsamic vinegar and put is a shallow dish.
2. Separate the sausages and put in the dish with the mixture. Pop them in the fridge for at least half an hour. Shake about occasionally to fully coat each sausage, so they absorb as much marinade as possible.
3. Preheat your oven to 400F (200C, Mark 6). Put the dish of sausages in the bottom about 12 minutes before you want to cook them on the BBQ – move them around about half way through that time.
4. Take the sausages out of the oven, transfer them to the BBQ and cook as normal. Keep a watchful eye as the honey will mean they ‘catch’ more easily. If you want to complete cooking in the oven, turn the oven heat up and move the sausages to the top of the oven. You still need to keep an eye on them.
Big Bang Salsa
1. Take a medium onion, one large or two medium tomatoes and a medium heat red chilli.
2. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
3. Finely chop the onion and place this in a bowl.
4. Remove the tomatoes from the water and remove the skins (these should come off easily).
5. Chop the tomatoes and add to the onions.
6. Finely chop the chilli and add to the rest. Season with salt and black pepper plus any fresh herbs you have to hand.
7. Add a tablespoon of good olive oil and store in the fridge until needed. This can be made the day before.
Bonfire night games
Bonfire night games can often be more fun than fireworks, particularly for smaller children, as they get actively involved rather than simply watching what’s going on.
Encourage children to dress up and make their own Guy Fawkes masks: You can make templates from ovals of stiff paper or card and pre cut eye holes, adding string or elastic so that children can wear them. Then get the kids creating their own version of what Guy Fawkes looked like.
Make a Guy Fawkes: It’s traditional to burn a ‘Guy’ on top of the bonfire but it’s also fun to create one and have him as an additional guest for the evening (you can always reclaim the clothes afterwards). Stuff old clothes with pillows (or other, older clothes and material), create hair out of straw or strips of paper and give him a face mask .
A good old singalong: Here’s the traditional rhyme about Guy Fawkes. It sounds great if everybody sings together. There’s no official ‘tune’ to sing it to so it’s great fun to get the kids to suggest tunes they know and have a bash at singing the rhyme with them. The best attempt can win a prize.
Remember, remember the 5th of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
We know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
The Gunpowder Plot
In 1605 plotters attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament (and King James 1) using barrels of gunpowder in the basement. Guy Fawkes was the plotter given the job of looking after the gunpowder and was caught when the plot was discovered.
He was never the leader of the Catholic rebels who were protesting the laws that had been imposed on their religion but his is the name forever associated with ‘gunpowder, treason and plot’.
Bonfires and fireworks
I’ve always loved attending public displays as you get all the ‘bang’ and none of the mess. Plus I feel safer. If you’re planning your own fireworks, buy from reputable sources and always read and obey the instructions. Sparklers are great but make sure children wear gloves and you have a bucket of water for the burnt out wires.
Bonfires look fantastic and create the centrepoint for a fantastic firework evening but they don’t work in small gardens and can definitely upset the neighbours. That said, bonfires don’t have to be massive to be effective as the picture on the left proves. And a garden can look great simply decorated with lanterns. Chances are Halloween pumpkins may still be presentable enough (particularly if you store them somewhere cold).