Planning a Samhain feast

Samhain is probably one of those holidays that most people don’t even realize is vastly Pagan in tradition. The evolution of Halloween is one of the clearest routes of insight into the merging of Pagan traditions with other traditions throughout the world, especially Christianity. As I have been helping people see what a Samhain feast could be like, I find myself getting tangled in more modern Halloween party websites. The lines between Samhain and Halloween are very blurred.

For more information about Samhain, please refer to my blog called, “Samhain, the witches’ new year” posted on October 17, 2011.

Roasted Chestnuts

There is something about roasted chestnuts that just means the end of summer has arrived.

To roast 2 1/4 pound chestnuts:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Using a small, sharp knife cut a cross into the skin of each nut. Put in a roasting tin and bake in the oven until the skin opens and the nut inside is tender. This takes about 30 minutes. To eat, peel away the tough outer skin and the white inner layer. I have found that it is much easier to peel away this outer skin if you do it while the chestnuts are still quite warm.

Note – If you try to roast the chestnut without cutting the skin, it will try to burst open anyway. But the chestnut is likely to burst open quite explosively. Save the mess in the oven and the risk of injuring yourself and make sure the skin has been cut on each nut.

Harvest Vegetable Soup

Serves 6
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

1 oz butter
1 leek, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 rings
1 onion, finely chopped
1 courgette (zucchini), chopped
8 oz swede or turnip, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 medium potato, diced
1.5 pints vegetable stock
3 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 pint milk
3 oz sweetcorn, thawed if frozen
chapped fresh parsley, to garnish

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the leek, onion, and courgette over a medium heat until softened (about 3 – 4 minutes). Add the swede or turnip, carrot and potato. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for another 2 – 3 minutes. Pour in the stock and cook gently, covered, for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Blend the cornflour to a smooth paste with 3 – 4 Tbsp of the milk. Add the remaining milk to the saucepan with the sweetcorn, then stir in the blended cornflour. Heat gently, stirring constantly until the soup thickens and just begins to boil. Cook for another 1 – 2 minutes over a very low heat. Season to taste and then ladle into warm bowls. Serve, garnished with chopped fresh parsley and crusty bread. If desired, you could add cooked chicken or a tin of beans to this soup to make it a full meal.

Pork Roast

Take the pork from the fridge and dry it thoroughly. Let it sit out for at least an hour. Using a sharp knife, slice the skin halfway through the layer of fat into a diamond pattern. Be very careful not to cut the string holding the roast together. Take a tablespoon of salt and rub that into the skin.

The roast must be as dry as possible. Cutting the skin and into the fat allows the fat to be released while the pork is cooking. It also makes it easier to eat the crackling afterwards. The salt also serves to help release the fat and pull out any remaining moisture.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Roast it in the oven, without covering, for the specified time. It works out to 25 minutes per pound + 25 minutes. Take it out halfway through cooking and rotate the joint. The pork is done when the juices run clear.

Very important – Do not baste the pork joint.

Gourmet Sweet Potatoes

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Serves 8.

    5 sweet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Bake sweet potatoes 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until they begin to soften. Cool slightly, peel, and mash.

In a large bowl, mix the mashed sweet potatoes, salt, 1/4 cup butter, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, sugar, and heavy cream. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup butter, flour, brown sugar, and chopped pecans. Mix with a pastry blender or your fingers to the consistency of course meal. Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until topping is crisp and lightly browned.

Herbed Corn

Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves 10.

    12 cups frozen corn
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

In a large saucepan, combine corn and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 4-6 minutes or until corn is tender. Drain; stir in the remaining ingredients.

Rye Bread
1 packet yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 quart warm water
3 cups rye flour
2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon melted shortening
9 cups all purpose flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in the 1/4 cup of warm water, set aside and let stand until frothy. Pour the quart of water in a large bowl, and add the rye flour, salt, caraway seeds, shortening, and yeast mixture. Mix well. Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, until bubbles start to form on dough’s surface. Gradually mix in the all-purpose flour, until the mixture has become a firm dough. Knead on floured board for about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and let rise until the dough doubles in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Knead again for 10 minutes. Form into 2 loaves and put in greased and floured loaf pans or on cookie sheets for a more natural look. Let them rise again until doubled in bulk, and then bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

Mulled Wine

Mulled wines are a traditional favorite, no matter what the occasion, but Halloween presents a terrific opportunity to introduce others to its appeal. The Banshee Mulled Wine recipe is a warm wine punch sure to clutch the palate of all Halloween gouls.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

    One bottle of red wine (suggestions: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot or a Spanish red)
One peeled and sliced orange (keep peel to add zest to taste into cooking pot)
One peeled and sliced lemon (keep peel to add zest to taste in cooking pot)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
5 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup sugar (or honey can be substituted)
2/3 cup brandy or cognac
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (avoid boiling), for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the honey or sugar has completely dissolved. When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have blended well it is ready to serve. Ladle into mugs (leaving seasonings behind), garnish with a blood orange segment and perhaps black plastic, Halloween spiders and enjoy!

Country Apple Dumplings

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves 16.

    2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
2 (10 ounce) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle Mountain Dew

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cut each apple into 8 wedges and set aside. Separate the crescent roll dough into triangles. Roll each apple wedge in crescent roll dough starting at the smallest end. Pinch to seal and place in the baking dish. Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Pour over the apple dumplings. Pour Mountain Dew over the dumplings. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

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