Tag Archives: bonfire night

Bonfire Night Flapjacks

If you’re planning to go to a Bonfire Night celebration, then chances are you’ll be looking for something to munch on as you’re looking skywards to take in the fireworks.

With this in mind, I’ve played around with my go-to flapjack recipe to make it a bit more seasonal. In addition to the usual butter, sugar and oats, I’ve also added some spices as well as a rather random selection of things from the store cupboard – pumpkin and sunflower seeds, apricots, dates, sultanas, hazelnuts and spelt flakes. The result is sticky, delicious and has a very autumnal flavour. It also takes about ten minutes to make, so it is incredibly easy to whip up in a hurry. Just to make the point, I’ve got the recipe below – and you’ll see that all the “extras” are measured either by the teaspoon or by the handful.

bonfire_flapjack

If you’re keen to have a go yourself, you really don’t need much more than sugar, butter and rolled oats. Otherwise, just add whatever you want (or more realistically – whatever you have in the cupboard). Dried fruits work very well, as do nuts and seeds. The one unusual thin on the list is spelt flakes – I love using these in flapjacks as they stay very crisp and add some interesting texture. It’s actually taken me a while to track them down – I used to be able to buy then in a shop in Stoke Newington, but have not found them in Clapham. Lucky for me I stumbled upon a new Wholefoods store near Piccadilly Circus, so I’ve now got easy access to all manner of weird and wonderful ingredients. Result!

So there you have it – a quick and fairly healthy idea for Bonfire Night, or just to enjoy during a quiet moment with a cup of tea.

To make Bonfire Night Flapjacks (makes 16):

• 175g butter
• 175g soft brown sugar
• 40g (2 tbsp) golden syrup
• pinch of salt
• 200g rolled oats
• 45g (3 handfuls) sultanas
• 35g (3 teaspoons) candied ginger
• 20g (2 handfuls) pumpkin seeds
• 15g (1 handful) sunflower seeds
• 20g (2 handfuls) spelt flakes
• 40g (1 handful) apricots, chopped
• 25g (1 handful) hazelnuts, chopped
• 25g (1 handful) dates, chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Line a 20cm (8 inch) square baking tray or cake tin with non-stick paper.

2. Put the butter, sugar, syrup and salt (if using) in a pan. Heat gently until the butter is melted, and then boil for one minute. Add the candied ginger and mix well.

3. In a large bowl, mix all the other ingredients. Add the butter/sugar mixture and stir well. Put into a tray, spread the mixture evenly, press down and bake for 20 minutes. It should have a rich brown colour when done.

4. Once the mega-flapjack is cooked, let it cool completely, then turn onto a chopping board and cut into pieces.

Worth making? Absolutely! This reicpe is incredbily easy to make, tastes delicious, and can be

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Fiery Lentil Soup

So what are you up to for Bonfire Night? Baked spuds around the fire, sweets or messy toffee apples?

Personally, I’m a big fan of a flask of soup with some bread to keep the cold out, and I’ve got a recipe that is a guaranteed winter warmer. It’s good old-fashioned lentil soup, which is probably one of the easiest soups to make and I think by far and away one of the most satisfying.

I’ve recently been adding a lot more spices to my food, and that includes a lot more chilli. I’ve actually started to get quite experimental, and I can only apologise to everyone who has been surprised to find allspice cropping up in a range of dishes (albeit – no disasters so far!).

However, today is not an exercise in culinary risk-taking. Rather, it’s my “normal” lentil soup which has been fortified by a sharp twist of lemon juice at the end, and a swirl of chilli paste (in the form of sambal olek). The result is something that is robust, satisfying and packs rather a punch in the flavour department. However, if you’ve got folks around who perhaps prefer things a little milder, adding the chilli at the end avoids them running around looking for glasses of water to kill the heat.

So if you’re off to some Bonfire Night festivities, wrap up warm, keep your pets safe, and have a great evening!

For spicy lentil soup (serves 4, easy to double/triple):

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated

• 3 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
• 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
• 250g red lentils
• 1 stock cube
• 1 litre hot water
• salt and pepper, to taste
• lemon juice and chilli paste, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook on a medium heat until translucent (five minutes).

2. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for two minutes (don’t let them burn). If they get too brown or start to stick, add a dash of water.

3. Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds. If it seems too dry, add some water – this will form a thick paste, and as the water evaporates, it will become oily and cook the spices. Don’t be tempted to add more oil.

4. Add the lentils and carrots and cook briefly, then add the water.

5. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the stock cube, and keep simmering until the lentils are tender. Add more water if the soup is too thick, then add some salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add a dash of chilli paste and a squeeze of lemon juice, erring on the side of caution!

Worth making? I think the addition of the chilli takes this from a good soup to a great soup. An excellent choice to keep the chill at bay this week!

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Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November…

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…

Yay! Tonight is Guy Fawkes Night, so we will all wrap up warm, stand round a large bonfire, and look up at the fireworks over Alexandra Palace, while partaking in a collective ooooh and aaaaah as the sky lights up. Alexandra Palace is not a royal residence, but was purpose built in the 1870s as an entertainment venue, and as it is perched in a hill, if is the perfect place for a fireworks show. I’ve been in previous years, and it’s great, but this year, I’m lucky enough to be heading off to the house of some friends who live nearby, so I get all the benefits of an amazing show, but all the comfort of being in someone’s garden, with food and drinks within easy reach.

For the party, I produced two contributions. One batch of spicy roasted tomato soup (see here) which I had jazzed up with a bit of Piment d’Espelette, so I won’t repeat that one today. And to offset this healthy, hearty and savoury soup, I also whipped up a batch of toffee apples.

As you can see, they are the classic sort – small, on a stick, and bright, bright red!

This was the first time I’ve made them, so there were, of course, a couple of things to think about.

First, what sort of apples? While I have a source at work who comes in each Monday morning weighed down with cooking apples, they were too large and a bit too tart for this. Perfect for a pie or a Waldorf Salad, but not here. No, the apples need to be smaller, but sweet, juicy and crisp. So at the greengrocer, they were selling small russet apples. Perfect!

Now, the obvious next question – what to coat them with?

Should it be the pure sugar caramel coating, coloured shocking red, or a more muted butter-and-brown-sugar toffee? Well, I went for a combination of both. The dipping toffee is a combination of white and brown sugar, butter, cream, vinegar (!), golden syrup and a dash of salt, then a good dash of food colouring to get the classic red colour. I know, I know that I could have stuck with the natural colour, but this is a night for bright colour. Plus, it’s only once a year.

So…if you fancy making them, then there is still time today! Just get apples, wash and dry them. Then make the toffee, dip the apples, and you could be enjoying them by the bonfire in less than an hour.

And if you want to make them ahead of time – be warned! The sugar coating will absorb moisture from the air, so make them as late as possible, or store them wrapped in lightly greased or buttered cling film in a sealed container. You’ve been warned. Don’t blame me if then turn into a sweet, sticky, red mess!

Enjoy the fireworks – and enjoy them safely!

To make toffee apples (makes 8-10):

• 8-10 small, crisp apples
• 300g white sugar
• 100g brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon white vinegar
• 25g butter
• 4 tablespoons (80g) golden syrup
• 1 pinch of salt
• 50ml cream
• 50ml water
• 1 teaspoon red food colouring (optional)

First, wash the apples. Put into a sieve and then pour lots of boiling water over them (this will help to remove any wax – you’ll see that the wax turns white and can be wiped off). Dry well with a clean cloth. Put a twig or wooden skewer into each apple. I used wooden chopsticks. Prepare a baking tray by lining with greaseproof paper, and grease lightly with butter.

Next, make the toffee. Put all the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then cook on a medium heat without stirring (for around 20 minutes), until the mixture reaches 140°C (280°F). Either use a sugar thermometer, or check by dropping a spoonful of the mixture into cold water – if you get very hard drops, it’s ready. If it is still quite soft when you squeeze between your fingers, keep cooking.

Remove from the heat, and as soon as the toffee stops bubbling, dip each apple in the caramel. Rotate the apple quickly to ensure an even finish, then place on the greaseproof paper to cool.

Worth making?  These apples are sticky and basically everything will end up reg (hands, tongue, face) but they do have a lovely caramel flavour which is super with the apples. And hey, it’s only once a year…surely not that bad for you?

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