Bonfires in The Quiet Spell of Winter

There is no substitute for a good meteor shower, lounging around a fire will do just as well. Ever wonder what there is to eat in from of a fire besides marshmallows? Here’s our solutions, tested in the cold wintry landscape north of Montreal:

This bonfire night menu is simplicity itself and much of the preparation can be done the day before. As a busy student, I like to keep all recipes to the minimum of ingredients and effort, and I enjoy cheating with good-quality, ready-made foods, too. Around the bonfire, you’re sure to enjoy the hot roasted potatoes eaten out of newspaper cones, while a large jug of hot, fragrant apple juice will help keep the chill out of the evening air. Later a hotpot of garlicky sausages and beans will entice your hungry guests inside. You will find this bonfire feast is even easier to make and a lot more fun if you encourage your friends to help out with the toffee apple cakes and the fudge custard–no food fights allowed. Cook’s Timeplan up to 1 day ahead: Toss the potatoes in the oil and seasoning ready to roast. Cover and place to one side. Prepare the newspaper and greaseproof cones by taking a double sheet from a newspaper and folding it in half. Using the middle of the crease as your centre, curl the left-hand bottom corner in and up towards the top left to form a funnel shape, and then curl the right-hand corner around it. Curl a sheet of greaseproof paper and use it to line the newspaper. To make sure the cones don’t uncurl, fold the tip of the cone over and flatten slightly. Make all the dips and dressings. Cover and place in the fridge. Make the sausage and bean pot, but cook only 15 minutes. Put in a cool place, then, once cold, cover and place in the fridge. Make the toffee apple cakes. Cool, cover and set aside. Make the fudge custard, then cool, cover and place in the fridge. To serve at 7pm 5pm: preheat the oven to 220^(o)C. Heat apple cider
6pm: put the potatoes in the oven to roast. 6.30pm: bring the sausage mixture to the boil on the hob, then uncover and finish cooking in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the sausages are heated through. When ready, turn the oven temperature down to 170°C and keep warm. Place the covered parsnips in the hot oven beside the sausage and bean pot for 20 minutes to reheat. Keep warm in the low oven. Stir well before serving. 6.50pm: toss the salad ingredients just before serving the sausage and bean pot. 7pm: spoon the hot potatoes into the paper cones and serve. Place a sheet of foil loosely over the toffee apple cakes and put them in the turned-off oven when you take the sausage and bean pot out to serve it. Put the fudge custard into a small saucepan and warm through gently just before serving or, alternatively, serve the custard cold over the warm cakes.

Salt ‘n’ Peppa taters
1.New Potatoes, rinsed or wiped 6 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons each coarse salt and coarsely ground black pepper Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Halve any large potatoes. The pieces should be big enough for just one or two mouthfuls. Put potatoes in an even layer in one large or two small roasting tins. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Shake the pan to make sure all the potatoes are coated with oil and seasoning. Place the tin in the oven and roast the potatoes for 35-40 minutes or until they are golden brown and tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Shake the tin once or twice during cooking to brown the potatoes evenly. Serve immediately or turn down the oven to 170°C, and keep warm for up to 30 minutes. If time is short, then cheat and use frozen potato bites such as McCain’s, cooking according to package instructions, and add rosemary and garlic, served with a selection of the dips and dressings below.