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24th October 2012

Fairy Fodder that butter wouldn’t melt

Halloween brings you a fairy feast

Halloween has its roots in the Celtic tradition of Samhain. This ancient festival, the first day of winter, is traditionally kept on 1st November, or the Christian Feast of All Saints and the fodder on offer, though delicious, certainly isn’t one for the waistline. Celtic food equals a lot of potatoes and an inordinate amount of butter and it was customary to leave it out for the fairies so it’s a wonder they were ever able to take off again.

Here are some of the highlights:

Colcannon Mashed Potato, mixed with chopped kale or green cabbage and onions. Create a well in the middle and fill with melted butter which you dip each spoonful into before eating.

Fadge Cake made with a potato cake mixture of freshly boiled potatoes, a little salt, melted butter and flour to bind. Layers of sliced apples were laid on the base and a pastry lid on top. When the fadge was almost ready it was sliced round the sides, the top turned back, the apples liberally sprinkled with brown sugar and (more) butter, then it was returned to the oven for to melt the sugar into a sauce.

Barmbrack – basically a fruit loaf with sultanas and raisins served toasted and buttered. The Halloween version contained various objects including a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin and a ring which were used as a sort of fortune-telling game.

Boxty pancakes – another Halloween favourite. Grated raw potatoes were squeezed in a cloth, sieved, and mixed with baking powder, salt and a well-beaten egg. Sufficient sweet milk was added to make a pancake batter. These were served hot, well-buttered (of course) and sprinkled with caster sugar. They could also be made into scones called farls and baked on a griddle…

No goes – blackberries were not to be picked or apples taken from the tree because it was said that puca (Irish goblin) spat on them the night after Samhain. Meat was also a no-no.

Ghoulish games

Most people will have heard of bobbing apples but lesser known are the divination games of ‘Nut Crack Night’, an unofficial name for the October 31st celebration. Scottish and northern English people believed nuts were powerful sorcerers. The most well-known game goes: two nuts are named after a potential lover and put on a grate in the fire. If a nut burns true and steady, the lover will be faithful; if it pops, they’re not to be trusted.

Ultimately Halloween is an excuse for a party and using up some Harvest veg so add some mulled wine to the menu and let traditional Halloween festivities commence!

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