Bonfire Night Party Prep
Remember, remember the 5th of November...yes, it’s almost that time of year again. When the skies in Britain are lit up with fireworks and the streets the next day are littered with the remnants. There’s Guy Fawkes, bonfires, jacket potatoes, toffee apples and sausages. If you want to get in on the act and throw your own traditional Bonfire Night party, here’s a quick how-to:
Make a Guy! Similar to making a scarecrow, but with newspaper, not straw. Your Guy also needs to have a pointy hat and a beard (see photo below). No need to go authentic on the pants and jacket – they’re just going to get set on fire, so an old pair of jeans and shirt is just fine.
Buy your fireworks. Traditionally the Guy Fawkes would be dragged around in a wheelbarrow and kids would stand with their creation outside a local shop asking passersby to give them a ‘penny for the Guy’. With their takings they’d then go and buy fireworks. Selling fireworks to kids is no longer legal, but now instead of sending the kids out to buy the fireworks you can let your fingers do the walking and browse away. Bonfire Night falls during the same period as Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, so you won’t be the only one shopping on-line for fireworks outside of July 4th.
Make a bonfire. Time once was when the back garden bonfire would consist of garden waste plus any household rubbish, including broken bits of furniture. It would all be piled into a heap at the bottom of the garden and set alight. Again, no longer legal. But a fire pit works very well too. Just as long as Guy Fawkes sits comfortable on top before being set alight.
Blankets and beach chairs. It’s not a real Bonfire Night unless your guests are sat on fold-out beach chairs, huddled around the blazing fire. You can add to their comfort with a nice lap blanket. Balaclavas usually go down a treat too!
Plan your menu. The simpler the better. But best plan ahead if you’re making Yorkshire Parkin as it tastes better when a couple of weeks in advance. Here’s some of my favorite Bonfire Night foods. All utensil-free so you can watch the fireworks, instead of washing the dishes.
Bangers. Sausages of any kind all taste better on bonfire night. Just stick a skewer in them and grill over the fire-pit. Or pre-cook and bring out on a serving dish. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat with your wooly mitten-clad hands!
Jacket Potatoes. Starchy potatoes – russets for instance – bake the best and you’ll need at least one per person. You can bake them in the smoldering ashes of the bonfire until slightly charred, or in the oven before hand, using the following method:
1. Pre-heat oven to 425F.
2. When the oven is ready, wash the potatoes well, and prick each in a couple of places with a fork. Allow to dry slightly, while you tip approx. 1 tablespoon of coarse salt into a shallow bowl. Roll each potato in the salt to give an even coating, and then place on the middle shelf of the oven, preferably directly on the rack.
3. Cook for around an hour, then give them a squeeze – the potato should just give, and the skin should be distinctly crisp. If not, leave them for 10 minutes, and check again – if you overcook them, the insides will be dry, so it's important to be vigilant.
4. Take out of the oven and either put whole on to plates, or wrap in foil: they shouldn't be broken open until you're ready to eat, and then do so preferably by hitting them sharply so they burst, for maximum fluffiness.
1 pound super fine sugar
1/4 pound (one stick) butter
1 dessert spoon treacle (molasses)
3 dessert spoons golden syrup (alternatively, light corn syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Large tin condensed milk
5 or 6 dessert spoons water
Place the butter, sugar, treacle, syrup and water into a pan and heat, stirring constantly. Once all the ingredients are well mixed and melted, add the condensed milk slowly, stirring occasionally until it boils. Continue on a slow boil for 15-20 minutes, again stirring occasionally. Test that the toffee is ready by dropping a spoonful into cold water - if it turns solid, it is ready. Pour into a tray, mark out cut into pieces. Wrap in greaseproof paper (vegetable parchment or waxed paper). Store in an air-tight container.
Toffee Apples (makes 10)
10 Wooden skewers (or popsicle sticks)
10 Golden Delicious apples, scrubbed
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar
2tsp white wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1. Insert a wooden skewer or popsicle stick into the stalk end of each apple. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment (waxed paper).
2. Put the sugar in a heavy-based pan with ½ cup of cold water and heat gently, stirring until it dissolves. Bring to the boil and add the vinegar, butter and golden syrup. Boil gently for 12 minutes, until it has reached the soft-crack stage (280F on a sugar thermometer, or the point at which a little of the mixture, dropped into cold water, forms threads that bend slightly before breaking).
3. Dip the bottom two-thirds of the apple in the toffee, turning to coat. Leave to set on the baking parchment or waxed paper for 15 minutes.
1 cup butter (save some for greasing)
1 large egg
4 tbsp milk
8 tbsp golden syrup (alternatively, light corn syrup)
3 1/2 tbsp of treacle
1/2 cup light soft brown sugar
4 oz. medium oatmeal
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 cups self-raising flour (or 2 cups all purpose with 4 teaspoons of baking powder added and 1 teaspoon of salt)
1. Heat oven to 320F. Grease a deep 9in square cake tin and line with baking parchment. Beat the egg and milk together with a fork.
2. Gently melt the syrup, treacle, sugar and butter together in a large pan until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. Mix together the oatmeal, flour and ginger and stir into the syrup mixture, followed by the egg and milk.
3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 mins - 1 hr until the cake feels firm and a little crusty on top. Cool in the tin then wrap in more parchment and foil and keep for 3-5 days before eating if you can – it’ll become softer and stickier the longer you leave it, up to 2 weeks.
The Bonfire Night Ditty
Before setting the Guy Fawkes alight be sure to recite the poem commemorating his capture.
Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot