Sunday, 30 October 2011

an autumnal bonfire banquet

hello everyone! i hope you had a brilliant weekend, full of delicious food and wonderful company. i spent mine with my awesome mum, grandparents and my brother's family, enjoying an end of season bonfire at the allotment.

i've dreamt about having an allotment picnic ever since having started the project a year and a half ago. and although eating cherry tomatoes straight from the vine or fresh sugar snap peas from the plant is fantastic, it's not quite the feast i had always romantically pictured in my head.

some of you might question why it's taken me until the cold month's to get round to having a picnic among the veggie patch, especially given England's propensity to be overcast, grey and wet in the autumn? well, it's quite logical really. we needed to burn the weeds.

there's been a massive pile stacking up, ever since my return from australia. and the best way to celebrate the end of a productive season, was to burn the lot. and because you need to stand around for while to make sure it all burns properly, you might as well eat good food in the company of lovely family...

my brother had great fun starting the beast a-roaring!

and the first course was enjoyed by all...

it also happens to be coming up for my favorite night of the whole year - bonfire night! a peculiar english tradition that started with a dude named guy fawkes who plotted to blow up the houses of parliament in london... anyway, it was an epic fail, and the government enforced a national public day to remind us all not to try the same thing.

it's a weird "holiday", but i love the way it brings the local community together, and we all actually enjoy being cold. wrapping our hands around a steaming cup of soup or mug of hot chocolate, and piling on warm hats, gloves and scarves. you get hypnotising bonfires, pretty sparklers and magnificent fireworks all in one place, and every person is smiling.

so, when foodbuzz offered me the chance to create my ultimate autumn bonfire feast for this month's 24x24, i was super excited, and started planning out the menu straight away...

for first course we indulged in local wild mushrooms...

i made a mushroom and leek soup, thickened with wholegrain rice and flavoured with thyme. it may not be the most photogenic food, but it was super tasty, easy to make and everyone enjoyed it!

for seconds we ate sausage (because a bonfire night celebration isn't right without), homegrown carrots as fries, and roasted locally grown brussel sprouts. yummy.

they were served with a homemade chili  & pepper chutney. a recipe from the 'jamie at home' cookbook, which packs such a spicy punch it had me in tears on friday from the heat. i also made my famous dill dressing with yogurt and mayonnaise - goes down a total treat!

♥ for the third savoury course, we ate butternut squash and spinach pasties with cornish quartz cheddar and homegrown red onion in a buckwheat shortcrust pastry - these were as phenomenal as they sound!

for dessert, we had a scrumped apple and wild blackberry compote with homemade ginger parkin (see recipe and video below) and a dollop of creme fraiche.

my brother also bought some interesting drinks for us to have with the meal... i adore the orchard pig juice! :)

and to truly celebrate the bonfire banquet properly, we played with sparklers! (and there's still another 20 ready to go for the 5th too...)

the logistics of carrying all the yummy food up there was actually pretty easy. big thermos for soup, pyrex for vegetables and sausage, tin foil wrapped pasties in a tin, a le creuset for the apple blackberry smoosh. if you've never had a hot winter picnic, you really should!

and finally, i want to offer up a recipe for you all to try out for november 5th, even if you aren't remotely english, because it's so yummy: ginger parkin.

ginger parkin recipe
225g (1 1/4 cups) medium oatmeal
110g (1 cup) buckwheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp honey
110g (1/2 cup) butter
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

1. mix together the oatmeal, buckwheat flour, baking powder, salt and ginger.
2. place the molasses, agave nectar, honey and butter in a saucepan, and place over a low heat.
3. melt until it forms a runny caramel, then stir into the dry ingredients.
4. mix in the egg and the milk, one at a time, until well combined.
5. place in a lined baking try, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours at 150c.

cook's notes: this should bake until very firm, then ought to be left in a tin for a week to soften and get rather unctuous and tasty. otherwise, slice up and enjoy after 24 hours of rest - though this is pretty tough, it still tastes wonderful!

thanks to all my family for celebrating with me, and making it so much fun! i hope we get to have a hot autumn picnic at the allotment every year, and start a new tradition....

have you ever made ginger parkin? how do you celebrate bonfire night? what's your favourite hot picnic food?

ps. to learn a little more about bonfire night, check out this video i made last year with my brother - i hope it explains a little more about it, and gives a sense of the atmosphere of the occasion!

pps. thanks to foodbuzz for hosting this month's 24x24 event!


  1. It really was as tasty as it all looks, thanks Alissa!

  2. looks fabulous, and thanks for the parkin recipe, I'll try it out with a substitute for oats as I can't eat those.

  3. I had a soup for lunch today that was definitely not photogenic but delicious nonetheless. :) Yours sounds tasty too!

  4. Hi Alissa! Thanks so much for your kind comments on my blog!
    Your Autumn bonfire party looks totally awesome! Those pasties have got my tummy rumbling! I've never made buckwheat pastry, but I must give it a try.
    Like you, bonfire night is my favourite night of the year!! I don't know why as it's often wet and cold, but there's something very magical about the night and I LOVE a good firework display! Hope you have a great night on Saturday x :)

  5. Wow, I want to celebrate, too - but I think I might get in trouble for lighting a fire out here. :) The picnic looks amazing!

  6. Soup looks great! Pasties look amazing! Your blog is absolutely beautiful, from the photos, to the recipes, to the author:-) Cheers from the Big Apple!

  7. This looks so fun! What a great way to spend time with family and friends and eat great food! Can't wait for the pasties recipe! :)


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