Smoky dishes for Bonfire Night. Plus, mackerel chowder
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