The British put a lot of effort into Guy Fawkes Night: firework displays are painstakingly laid out, effigies are cleverly fashioned, enormous bonfires are created, and a huge fuss is made over everything. Everything except for the food, that is.
On 5 November it is commonplace to be greeted at parties with little more than a rock-hard jacket potato and a sickly-sweet toffee apple. Considering that the British love their grub, and that a bonfire essentially provides a wonderful cooking apparatus, it is curious how we overlook what could be quite the foodie occasion. Tristan Welch, head chef at Launceston Place restaurant in Kensington, agrees the typical Bonfire Night menu could do with sprucing up, and has created some sophisticated but simple recipes to dazzle any guests you may have dropping by this Friday.
"These recipes make the whole Bonfire Night a bit more of an occasion," Welch says. All of them can be put either on the barbecue or, better still, on the bonfire – which is a novel way to cook food while also having a rather primal appeal to it. As Welch explains: "There's nothing like standing around a fire and having a good old natter. To be cooking your own food on the fire at the same time really gives you that sense that things are being done how they should be done." He is clearly inspire d by his own childhood, as he fondly recalls his mother's efforts on Bonfire Night: "My mum was a keen baker... There were always pumpkin scones, because it's just after Halloween."
The beauty of these recipes is that everything can be prepared during the day and just placed into the bonfire when it's up and running – which allows youmore time catching up with your guests.
Wood-roasted lamb with chicory salad
300g-400g roasting joint from a leg of lamb
1 bunch of thyme
1 bunch of rosemary
Half a head of garlic
2 heads of chicory
Dash of virgin rapeseed oil
Dash of cider vinegar
And something else from the market to add to the salad to spice it up.
Take the roasting joint and trim to an even shape if necessary. Cut a bulb of garlic in half and sprinkle generously with salt. This brings out the natural oils of the garlic and makes a great seasoning for the lamb – all you have to do is rub the cut side of the garlic over the lamb.
To protect the outside of the lamb from the intense heat of the burning wood, wrap the thyme and rosemary around (this will also create a great flavour).
Lay out 6 even pieces of butcher's string that have been soaked in water (so they don't burn so easily) across the chopping board, ensuring they are long enough to tie around the lamb and herbs. Then lay the thyme and rosemary so that they will cover the outside of the lamb entirely, and tie the string.
To roast the lamb will take no longer than 20 minutes. Serve with chicory salad .
Sausage rolls cooked on sticks over a bonfire
4 large sausages or (300g sausage meat)
4 green sticks of wood
1 egg yolk
100g piece of puff pastry
If you are using the sausages, remove the meat from the skins and discard the skins. If using sausage meat, start from this point.
Chop the shallots finely, and sweat them down in a little butter and seasoning.
Once they are cooked, chop a couple of sage leaves and add to the cooked shallots, allow them to cool.
In a chilled bowl, have the sausage meat ready and add the cooked shallots, then gently mix together.
Using a fresh stick, scratch off the green bark at the tips of the sticks, where the sausage meat will come into contact with them, then wash well and dry.
Roll out the puff pastry on a floured table. Brush with egg yolk and cut in to 1.5cm strips. Pat the sausage mix tightly around the end of the 4 sticks in a sausage shape, then gently twist the puff pastry around them. Hold over the fire to cook.
Cinder toffee and dark-chocolate lollipops
Makes at least 12
Ingredients for cinder toffee:
5 tbsp water
20g bicarbonate soda (sifted)
Ingredients for lollies:
300g dark chocolate
Acetate plastic sheets (or you can use the plastic pockets you use in files)
Bain-marie to melt chocolate
Boil everything except the bicarbonate of soda in a heavy-based pan to 148C. Add your bicarbonate of soda and mix quickly into the mix. Pour onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper and leave to cool.
When it has cooled, smash the cinder toffee with a rolling pin and keep to one side.
In the meantime, melt the dark chocolate gently until it is just liquid. Using a spoon,pour about 30g each time in a rough circle shape onto the clean plastic sheets, then place a lollipop stick on the circle and sprinkle the cinder toffee over.
Place in a cool place to set.
Baked figs and rhubarb with cream and mint
6 figs peeled and cut in half
150g fresh rhubarb
50g icing sugar
1 small bunch of mint
4 good dashes of rum
Fresh cream to finish
Cut a sheet of tin foil into squares and lay eight tin-foil squares two-by-two. These will be folded over to form parcels. Take the figs and divide them between the four squares, placing them to one side of the square, leaving enough room on the opposite side so that it can be folded over evenly. Slice the rhubarb and scatter over the four piles of figs, along with a dusting of icing sugar and a dash of rum. Fold over the double-layer foil squares to cover the fruit, then crimp the edges to seal the parcels.
To cook, place the parcels on the glowing embers of a camp fire for 3-6 minutes, depending on the strength of your camp fire.
To serve, break into the parcels and sprinkle them with fresh mint and cream.
Hot smoked Tunworth cheese on a camp fire
1 whole ripe Tunworth in its wooden box (alternatively Camembert will do)
Salt and pepper
Wait until the flames are dying down on the camp fire and the wood is glowing red. Take the cheese and remove any wax paper surrounding it, and then soak the box it came in in a little water, to prevent it from burning too quickly.
Place the cheese back in the box with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Take a good bundle (8-10 stems) of green nettles and place on the fire. They must be fresh so they don't burst into flames. They will start to smoke a little. Place the cheese on top of them, with some more nettles covering it, to insulate it from the heat. The cheese will be ready to eat in about 10 minutes.