Whatever you do on Bonfire Night, you can be fairly sure that the best place to be is outdoors. Bonfire Night is the distilled essence of autumn, the culmination of everything wonderful about the season before the long cold winter sets in. Orange, gold, and burnished copper; the world ablaze (quite literally) in a riot of wood smoke, cold air and cordite. Hands down the best night of the year.
And of course, there is food…
Many of our food memories are bound up in Guy Fawkes night. Family rituals abound, with smouldering baked potatoes, dark treacle toffee, and sticky sausages aplenty. Parkin, or gingerbread cake, is an absolute must. As is steaming hot chocolate; preferably with a wee dram as extra protection against the chill.
So what makes the best Bonfire Night food?
Although everybody has their favourites, probably instilled since childhood, we reckon that there are a few requisites.
- Easy to cook; preferably low and slow
- Casual food, that will sit without spoiling
- Choice, for grazing and coming back to
- Warm; goes without saying
- Family friendly; crowd pleasing
Slow roasted meat
Pulled pork immediately springs to mind, mounded into soft white bread with apple sauce and stuffing. If you are lucky, it could be full on hog roast with crackle and a drizzle of well flavoured gravy. In fact, need we go further?
Slow roasted meat need not be pork though, although pork does seem to have a certain autumnal flair. Lamb shoulder, a rolled joint of beef, even a chicken, can all be roasted to pull apart perfection. Our spare rib recipe would do the trick; admirably even.
Sausages do not necessarily need to be pork. They can be beef, or even square. Apart from the square stuff which always needs a frying pan to perform at its best, Bonfire Night sausages are best cooked in an oven until sticky yet crisp on the outside. A handful of thickly sliced onions, apples, even potatoes, makes them even better. Hot dogs are generally well received on Bonfire Night; gourmet if possible. Decent sausage and lots of good fillings elevate the humble hot dog to must-have food status.
Baked potatoes are often a Bonfire night staple, although if you put them in the actual bonfire you may need to wait until morning to eat them. Not quite handheld food, but not a full on sit down meal either, a baked potato will happily sit on a paper plate or grasped in a paper napkin (read kitchen roll). Bread of some description is generally a must and lays claim to the original and best vehicle for hand held food. Soft and squidgy white rolls are your best bet here. They must not be so squidgy that they squash to nothing at first bite, but an artisan sourdough roll will possibly be met with some resistance, if not quite a broken jaw.
Sauces and sides
As ever, it is the attention to detail that makes such a meal, and the little things that count. All the usual suspects may attend, but try to add in a few special details too. So tomato ketchup, yellow mustard, and possibly mayonnaise, should be standing to attention but think along the lines of lots of roasted/fried onions, small gherkins, and plenty of grated cheese. Chunky relishes, hand-cut coleslaw, or a big earthenware pot of Boston baked beans.
Whatever you decide to serve on bonfire night, make it cosy and make it comfortable. The stuff memories are made of and turn into family rituals that last.