To make toad-in-the-hole something to pick up in the hands, for Bonfire Night I cook individual ‘little toads’
taking a picnic – impractical in a crowd – we’d make a feast in our kitchen beforehand for friends coming with us, and get the insulation in early.
Bangers, creamy mash, angels on horseback (oysters wrapped in bacon and baked), jacket potatoes overflowing with parsley butter – there’s a reliable list of favourites for this kind of party. There should be something on the menu to amuse the children, but also a few substantial things to satisfy adults digging into mulled wine. With Hallowe’en just past, gimmicks feel wrong; this party thrives on simple ideas, with a little indulgence here and there.
The combination of Yorkshire pudding and sausages usually finds fans, but to make toad-in-the-hole something to pick up in the hands, for Bonfire Night I cook individual ‘little toads’ – they are no more trouble to do. I also make a big pot of steaming hot soup, this one sustained by chestnuts, parsnips and the sweetness of apple and honey. There’s a spiced pistou to swirl on top for a little injection of extra flavour.
Baked cheeses are useful and easy to prepare, but are often only made with Camembert. You can try other cheeses, as long as they have a bloomy rind, from the white and creamy Wigmore to pungent Stinking Bishop. The slight bitterness of chicory leaves, used as spoons, is a good counterpart to the richness.
More and more I make cakes as pudding, relying on recipes for soggy types, because they can be made in advance. A sticky orange and honey cake, crowned with broken honeycomb crisp, will gratify everyone. You could serve it with ice cream, but I wouldn’t want to chill everyone down – perhaps hot custard, for extra insulation? I can’t wait.