Bonfire night is an event, specific to England, to celebrate the failure to assassinate King James in 1605. Like a lot of observed ‘holidays’, the historical meaning gets lost, but the tradition still lives. Families get together around a bonfire in the garden and let off fireworks or go to local fireworks displays, similar to how Americans celebrate 4th of July. As an American expat, I much prefer bonfire night for a couple of reasons. Reason 1 – see earlier blog post. Reason(s) 2 – I love autumn, I love the crispness in the air, bundling up around a bonfire, and especially the traditional food involved.
Since moving to the Market Harborough, we started a tradition of spending bonfire night at my in laws. Sausages are always incorporated into the dinner menu somehow, this year was no exception. I was in charge of dessert and didn’t really know what would be ‘bonfire-y’. My colleague, Keredy, suggested Parkin, which is a Yorkshire cake traditionally enjoyed on bonfire night. My 2nd cousin – once removed – Jack suggested marshmallows, which got me thinking… what goes with bonfires or campfires? S’mores! Here’s how it went…
I researched some Parkin recipes online and came across one from Delia Smith. She’s a trustworthy source, so I went with it:
Traditional Oatmeal Parkin
8 oz (225 g) medium oatmeal
4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
7 oz (200 g) dark syrup or golden syrup
1 oz (25 g) black treacle, plus 1 teaspoon
4 oz (110 g) margarine
4 oz (110 g) soft brown sugar
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C).
First weigh a saucepan on the scales, and weigh the syrup and treacle into it.
Then add the margarine and the sugar to the saucepan and place it over a gentle heat until the margarine has melted down – don’t go away and leave it unattended, because for this you don’t want it to boil.
Meanwhile, measure the oatmeal, flour and ginger into a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt, then gradually stir in the warmed syrup mixture till the mixture is all thoroughly blended.
Next add the beaten egg, and lastly the milk. Now pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 1 hour 45 min.
Then cool the parkin in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out.
Parkin should be made a few days before it is intended to be eaten. This is one bonfire tradition I can get behind. It is one tasty cake with flavours of dark treacle and ginger. Best served while sitting around a fire.
S’mores are an American dessert traditionally eaten around a campfire. Since we have not yet gone camping, a bonfire is the closest thing. The origin of the s’more (short for Some More, because they are so good you always want some more) is unknown, however the first printed recipe dates back to 1927 from ‘Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts’ by Loretta Scott Crew. There are three simple ingredients in a S’more – marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers. Graham crackers are not native to the UK, so I used digestive biscuits as a substitution. Desperate times call for desperate measures… it works.
How to make S’mores on bonfire night:
Step one – take a large marshmallow, place on the end of a long stick – we used bamboo skewers – then place the marshmallow dangerously close to the flames of the bonfire. It’s ok if the marshmallow catches fire, just blow it out – it adds to the experience/flavour.
Step two – take a digestive biscuit and place a piece of chocolate on it. The best sort of chocolate would be the flattest bar you can find. Hersheys is traditional to the US, but Sainsburys own will work fine too.
Step three – place the marshmallow – still on the skewer – on top of the chocolate piece and digestive biscuit. Then place a second digestive biscuit on top of the marshmallow creating a marshmallow and chocolate sandwich. Gently remove skewer, stick (whatever you might be using).
Step four – squash a bit so that the marshmallow goes a bit oozey, then put it in your mouth and eat it.
These were a hit with the fam.
The rest of the evening was spent burning things, as you do on bonfire night.
Fun for the whole family…I love bonfire night.