Nigel Slater

Smoky dishes for Bon­fire Night. Plus, mack­erel chow­der

The Observer Magazine - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs JONATHAN LOVEKIN

To­mor­row’s night sky will be awash with neon green pe­onies and sap­phire crowns, sil­ver foun­tains and their ac­com­pa­ny­ing screeches and bangs. No tree will be safe from the pas­tel sparks of a ro­man can­dle. All too noisy for this guy. Just give me the glow­ing em­bers of the bon­fire, some­thing good in a glass, and, of course, the food.

I rather like Bon­fire Night food – fill­ing, cheap and good-na­tured. I’m not sure cook­ing any of it on the bon­fire re­ally works. Baked pota­toes ex­plode, sausages scorch and ev­ery­thing else is cov­ered in minute flakes of grey ash. Bet­ter, I think, to bring a lit­tle feast from a toasty kitchen into the cold night air; a tray of sim­ple, hot and sticky fare for peo­ple to eat with one eye look­ing hope­fully at the night sky, scared to miss a sin­gle, ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive fizz or pop.

The food must be hot; plen­ti­ful, too. The smell of cordite, or at least its mod­ern-day equiv­a­lent, does won­ders for the ap­petite. Sausages in some form or an­other seem as es­sen­tial to these cel­e­bra­tions as turkey is to Christ­mas. I like mine stuffed into a soft bun if at all pos­si­ble – some­thing messy and un­kempt, with too many sausages jostling for at­ten­tion and slightly too much dress­ing or sauce. Oh and a squirt of mayo too, please (Kew­pie for me).

We tend to like food that can be eaten with one hand hold­ing a sparkler but I think there should be some­thing more sub­stan­tial. I do not mean fancy. This is Bon­fire Night, when we, surely, want food that is as crowd-friendly and un­chal­leng­ing as pos­si­ble: stuff to eat while stand­ing round a blaz­ing pyre while the kids write de­li­ciously rude words in the dark with a sparkler.

Tra­di­tion states our Novem­ber 5th feast be eaten to the sight of a burn­ing ef­figy of Guy Fawkes, but there’s some­thing of a cor­nu­copia of mod­ern­day vil­lains I’d much rather see go up in smoke. Se­ri­ously, one is spoilt for choice. A good enough ex­cuse to light a fire and hun­ker down to a vast roast­ing tin of sausages.

Sausages, shal­lots and grapes

May I sug­gest you make the most of the sticky sauce that ac­cu­mu­lates in the tin – it is far too good to miss? Soft bread to dip, a floury bap per­haps, will be most nec­es­sary here. Use the sweet­est grapes you can find – muscat are a good bet at this time of year – if you are us­ing slightly tart fruit then cor­rect the sea­son­ing with a lit­tle more mel­low bal­samic vine­gar. Serves 4

small shal­lots 250g olive oil 3 tbsp cock­tail sausages 500g cherry toma­toes 200g red wine 150ml muscat grapes 200g bal­samic vine­gar 2 tsp

Peel the shal­lots, trim­ming the roots as you go. Warm the olive oil in a roast­ing tin, add the shal­lots and let them brown, as evenly as you can, over a mod­er­ate heat. If the cock­tail sausages are still joined, as they so of­ten are, sep­a­rate them from one an­other and add them to the brown­ing shal­lots.

Keep­ing the heat quite low, let the sausages cook un­til their skins are glossy and sticky, mov­ing them round the pan as nec­es­sary. Add the cherry toma­toes, press­ing down on them with the back of a wooden spoon to en­cour­age their juices to flow into the pan.

Pour in the wine, turn up the heat and let it bub­ble en­thu­si­as­ti­cally for

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