Foods for Samhain
Planning your Samhain Feast
Come the end of October in the Northern Hemisphere, the Wheel of the Year is turning and summer is giving way to winter. It is the time for harvest celebrations and honouring those who have died in the previous year. For many Pagans, it is a time to celebrate Samhain. Some people may celebrate the now more secular holiday of Halloween. Others will be celebrating the Catholic All Soul's Day on November 1st.
Whether you call it Samhain or Halloween, if you're planning a celebration, you'll need to decide what foods to serve. These seasonal treats will be just the thing for adults and children on Halloween night.
The History of Samhain
and how do you pronounce that anyway
At Lammas and Mabon we witnessed the death of the Sun God through the harvesting of the fields. At Samhain the Crone Goddess, as ruler of the Underworld, returns to the Earth when the veil thins to escort Her God Son back to the Underworld. There He will reside until He is once more born from the Mother Goddess at Yule.
This circle of birth, death, and rebirth which is linked to the seasons can be seen in many cultures, ancient and modern, around the world. Samhain in the Celtic calendar marked the end of the harvest season, the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new year.
Samhain is a Gaelic word meaning summer's end. It is pronounced sow-in in Ireland, sow-een in Wales, and sav-en in Scotland.
and similar celebrations
In the Celtic calendar, Samhain marked the beginning of Winter and the end of Summer. This was also the end of the third major harvest of the year. Animals had been brought back down from the pasture, to be housed once more in the barns and fenced in pens. Households had gathered in crops and preserved as much as they could for the coming winter months. Hay filled the lofts to feed the animals.
The days were getting shorter, night was drawing in closer each night. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was thinning. Early families would carve faces into turnips (no pumpkins in the British Isles back then) which they would carry from place to place. Candles would be placed in windows. And people would dress up in ghoulish costumes. Not to scare away the spirits of the dead, but to welcome and guide them. On Samhain night, the veil between the world's was at its thinnest and those who had died could return to see family and loved ones. When they returned once more to the land of the dead, the spirits of those who had died in the previous year would travel with them.
The traditions of Samhain are very similar to those practised in Latin American countries today at Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Over time, the focus changed, the spirits of the dead became things to be feared rather than welcomed. The focus of the costumes became something to scare away demons and hide from them instead of welcoming home departed family members.
Samhain traditions continue in mutated form today in the childhood festival of Halloween. Original traditions, which started in the British Isles, were carried over to America where they transformed over time into the customs we know today. Dressing up in scary costumes, carving Halloween pumpkins, trick-or-treating.
In recent years, these customs have begun migrating once more into the British Isles and now you can see young British children dressing up and trick-or-treating as their American cousins have been doing for generations.
Cooking for the Harvest Season
Tempt your taste buds with these seasonal recipes. Foods always taste better when they are bought locally and eaten in season.
Meat and Fish
- guinea fowl
What's in Season at Samhain
Sabbat Foods are Seasonal Foods
Some of the foods which would be in season this time of year include:
Fruits and Vegetables
- brussels sprouts
- butternut squash
- jerusalem artichoke
- sweet potatoes
- swede (rutabaga)
- winter squash
Of course, what foods are in season will vary locally.
Snacks and Finger Foods
Place bowls of these delicious snacks around for your guests to nibble on before the main meal or celebration.
To save time, you could buy many of these items in the shop. Think about how much more satisfying it could be to know you made these yourself though. Better still, ask a few of your guests to each try their hand at making one of these snack foods to bring to the party.
There is something about roast chestnuts that just means the end of summer has arrived.
Once roasted, you can either eat them as is, or use them in other recipes like this delicious Mont Blanc.
- 2 kg /2 1/4 pound chestnuts
- To roast 2kg /2 1/4 pound chestnuts:
- 1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
- 2. Using a small, sharp knife cut a cross into the skin of each nut.
- 3. Put in a roasting tin and bake in the oven until the skin opens and the nut inside is tender. This takes about 30 minutes.
- To eat, peel away the tough outer skin and the white inner layer. I have found that it is much easier to peel away this outer skin if you do it while the chestnuts are still quite warm.
- Note - If you try to roast the chestnut without cutting the skin, it will try to burst open anyway. But the chestnut is likely to burst open quite explosively. Save the mess in the oven and the risk of injuring yourself and make sure the skin has been cut on each nut.
Swede (Rutabaga) chips
The humble swede, or rutabaga as it is called in America, can be mashed, roasted, or fried. I like turning it into chips.
- 1 large swede for every 2 - 3 people
- olive oil
- sea salt
- Peel the swede and cut it into wedges about 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long.
- Place in a steamer and steam for about 5 minutes. Or parboil for 2 minutes.
- Remove and dry with clean kitchen paper. If you have time, let them air dry for 10 - 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle the chips with olive oil and a bit of paprika.
- Place the chips in on a baking tray and put in the oven 400F/200C/Gas 6 for about 35 minutes.
- While hot, sprinkle with some sea salt, if desired.
Root vegetable crisps
What could be better for snacking on than a big bowl full of crisps. Make them more interesting by cooking them yourself.
Add a bit of variety from run of the mill potato crisps by thinly slicing and crisping up an assortment of root vegetables. Parsnips and beetroot are especially nice, plus they add a touch of colour to the snack bowls.
Finish these root veggie crisps off by sprinkling with a bit of sea salt, or a bit of paprika.
- 1 potato
- 1 parsnip
- 1 beetroot
- 1 carrot
- 1 swede
- Thinly slice a variety of root vegetables. Some suggestions include beetroot, parsnip, swede, carrot, and potato.
- Toss them in a bowl with olive oil and place in a single layer on a baking tray.
- Bake in the oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for about 10 minutes. Check and turn them every few minutes.
- When they are lightly browned take them from the oven and season with sea salt. They'll crisp up as they cool.
- Serve warm, or let them cool and store in an airtight container.
Czech Harvest Festival
There is nothing like a hearty bowl of soup on a chilled autumn evening.
They are also the perfect way to use up leftovers and an assortment of fresh vegetables.
Try one of these delicious soups as a starter before the main meal at your Samhain celebration.
Hearty Vegetable Soup
If desired, you could add cooked chicken or a tin of beans to this soup to make it a full meal.
- 1 oz butter
- 1 leek trimmed and sliced into 1/2 rings
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 courgette (zucchini) chopped
- 8 oz swede or turnip diced
- 1 large carrot diced
- 1 medium potato diced
- 1.5 pints vegetable stock
- 3 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1 pint milk
- 3 oz sweetcorn
- thawed if frozen
- chopped fresh parsley to garnish
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sautÃ© the leek, onion, and courgette over a medium heat until softened (about 3 - 4 minutes). Add the swede or turnip, carrot and potato. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for another 2 - 3 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and cook gently, covered, for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Blend the cornflour to a smooth paste with 3 - 4 Tbsp of the milk. Add the remaining milk to the saucepan with the sweetcorn, then stir in the blended cornflour. Heat gently, stirring constantly until the soup thickens and just begins to boil. Cook for another 1 - 2 minutes over a very low heat.
- Season to taste and then ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley.
- Serve with fresh bread spread with lashings of butter.
Pumpkin and Apple Soup
If you wanted to get really fancy, Instead of cutting the peel off, top the pumpkin and use a spoon to hollow out the inside of the pumpkin shell. Rinse and dry the shell thoroughly. Serve the Pumpkin and Apple Soup in the hollowed out pumpkin shell.
Or, if you are really wanting to be adventurous, why not bake your own individual bread bowls to serve the soup in.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 - 60 minutes
- 1 small pumpkin about 18 ounces
- 1 Tbsp peanut oil
- 1 onion peeled and chopped
- 1 small potato peeled and chopped
- 5 cooking apples
- 1/5 pints vegetable stock
- 1.5 oz single cream (light cream)
- sage leaves to garnish
- Using a sharp knife top and tail the pumpkin, stand it on a flat surface and run a sharp knife down it to peel. Roughly chop. Peel, core, and chop 4 of the cooking apples.
- Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion; cook until softened. Add the pumpkin, potato, and the 4 chopped apples and stir. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 - 20 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
- Carefully spoon into a blender and blitz thoroughly (you may have to do this in batches), or use an immersion hand held blender to purÃ©e it in the saucepan. Return to the pan and stir in most of the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
- Core and grate the remaining apple. Spoon the soup into warmed serving bowls and top with the remaining cream, grated apple, and sage leaves.
- Note: Try deep frying the sage leaves beforehand. Just drop the leaves into hot oil for 1 - 2 minutes, then drain.
Harvest Festival Squashes
Main Dishes for a Samhain Feast
meal ideas for adults and children
The general rule in our home is no pork unless the month has an R in it, making this an ideal dish for the Autumn months. This rule was handed down from the days when refrigeration methods were non-existent or not as reliable as they are today, and from a time when pigs would have been reared during the summer months and slaughtered come Autumn harvest time.
Bloody FIngers (Salmon fish fingers)
Kids love fish fingers, or fish sticks as we called them growing up back in Kansas. Forget the box of frozen fish fingers and try your hand at making these yummy salmon bloody fingers.
Make in advance and freeze for up to 30 days.
- juice and zest of 1/2 lemon plus wedges for serving
- 2 salmon fillets (350 gm) skinned
- 600 gm cold cooked mashed potato 1 tablespoon fresh herbs (some good suggestions would be dill chervil or parsley)
- 5 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 5 tablespoons linseeds
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Drizzle the lemon juice over the salmon fillets. Cook in the oven until tender and flakes easily. Oven temperature 325F for about 10 - 15 minutes.
- Flake the salmon into a bowl, then add the potato, herbs, and lemon zest. Mix well together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with baking paper (kitchen parchment paper) and sprinkle with 3 Tablespoons each sesame seeds and linseeds.
- Top with the salmon mixture and use a palette knife to flatten it to 1 inch deep (2.5cm) with neat square edges. Cut into 12 chunky fish fingers, separating them out a little.
- Sprinkle over the remaining seeds. Cover and pop into the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. Or freeze completely to be cooked another day.
- Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7 (425f) Drizzle the fish fingers with olive oil and cook for 15 minutes (or 20 - 25 minutes from frozen).
- Serve with catsup for the kids to dip them in.
Exploding Brains - or roast tomatoes
These make a tasty accompaniment to your Samhain feast.
- 1 dozen cherry tomatoes
- sea salt
- balsamic vinegar
- 1. Preheat the oven to 325F/Gas mark 4
- 2. Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with seal salt and balsamic vinegar.
- 3. Bake in oven for about 10 - 15 minutes, until tomatoes have softened.
- Serve while hot.
Gooey Eyeballs - or Devilled Eggs
Once the mainstay of any buffet table, devilled eggs seem to have gone out of fashion these days.
- 12 eggs
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 1/4 tsp salt
- pinch pepper
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- Place the dozen eggs in a large pot of salted boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, drain and run cold water over the eggs.
- Once cooled, peel the eggs. Rinse under cold water to remove any residual shell. Use a sharp knife to cut each egg in half length-wise. Scoop out the yolk into a bowl and place the cooked white onto a plate.
- Add the mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and mustard powder to the yolk and fork it together until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Place a heaped teaspoon of the yolk filling into each egg half. If desired, add a sprinkling of paprika over each egg. Arrange on the plate and serve.
Delicious goodies for kids and adults.
Round off your Samhain feast with a selection of desserts. To save a bit of time, ask some of your guests to prepare and bring these treats.
Chocolate Beetroot Cake - it's gluten free!
Deliciously decadent and gluten free! I found this recipe at Riverford Organic Vegetables
The beetroot adds moisture to this cake, it has the texture more of a brownie.
Resist any urge to frost this cake, it is rich enough on its own.
Prep Time: 15 - 20 minutes
Total Time: 55 - 60 minutes
- 250 g dark chocolate chopped
- 200 g unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 250 g beetroot cooked
- 3 eggs
- a drop of vanilla extract
- 200 g caster sugar
- 50 g cocoa powder
- 50 g rice flour (ground rice)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 100 g ground almonds
- Put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn't touch the base of the bowl. Leave to melt then remove from the heat.
- Puree the cooked beetroot in a food processor. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla and sugar, and mix until smooth.
- Sift the cocoa powder, rice flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds. Stir the beetroot mixture into the melted chocolate and then fold in the dry ingredients.
- Use baking parchment to line a rectangular tin, roughly 28 x 18cm. Pour in the mixture and place in an oven preheated to 180Â°C/Gas Mark 4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until just firm to the touch. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out slightly sticky. Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into squares.
Little ones will enjoy helping you make these, and they will enjoy eating them even more!
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: Makes 18 cookies
- 160 gm plain flour
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 4 oz butter refrigerated
- 2 oz caster sugar (granulated sugar)
- 2 Tbsp milk
- You will also need: 2.5 inch round cutter
- 2 baking trays lined with parchment paper
- white writing icing
- a cocktail stick
- Sift the flour and cocoa into a large bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and add to the bowl. Rub it in with your fingers.
- When the mixture is like fine bread crumbs, stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the milk over the mixture and stir in with a fork.
- Stir the mixture until everything starts to stick together. Then, squeeze it with your hands to make a ball of dough.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and put it into the fridge to chill for 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.
- Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface and a rolling pin. Roll out the dough, until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
- Using the cutter, cut out lots of circles and lift them onto the baking trays. Collect the unused dough and roll it out again then cut more circles. Continue this until all the dough has been used.
- Bake the cookies for 10 - 12 minutes.
- Leave on the baking tray for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- Using the white writing icing, draw a spiral on each cookie. Use a cocktail stick to drag lines from the middle outwards to make a web.
Spider Fairy Cakes - Spooky bite-size mini cupcakes
Making cupcakes from scratch is dead easy.
Mini-cupcakes will appeal to kids and adults alike.
- 4 eggs
- 8 oz sugar
- 8 oz self-raising flour
- 8 oz butter melted
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line 2 x 12-hole fairy cake tins with paper cases.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy.
- Carefully fold in the flour and butter.
- Pour the mixture carefully into the paper cases.
- Bake the cakes for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the tin.
- Spread the top with icing and place a plastic spider on top of each fairy cake.
proceed with caution
If you are planning a festive Samhain feast you will want a selection of drinks to serve as well.
For adults, red wine will go with any autumn dish.
Kids will enjoy the purple prickle drink and they will love telling you that they're drinking green slime with worms!
Finish up the evening with mugs of warm mulled cider, with or without alcohol.
Green Slime and Worms
This delicious juice drink will appeal to any kid, whatever their age. You don't have to tell them it's good for you.
- 8 granny smith apples peeled and cored
- 8 kiwi fruits peeled
- 1 cantaloupe (or other round melon) peeled and chopped
- Jelly worms
- Put the apples, kiwis, and melon into a juicer. Pour into a glass and stir. Add the jelly worms to the glass.
- Note: If you don't have a juicer, blitz the fruit in a food processor and pass it through a sieve using a spatula.
Purple Prickle Juice
The fun of a fizzy drink without the added calories or sugar.
- 2 parts Grape juice
- 1 part Soda water
- Combine grape juice and soda water. Serve chilled.
Make this an adult only beverage by using dry cider and adding a small bottle of dark rum.
- 2 litres sweet apple cider
- ½ litre fresh orange juice
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ginger
- Cinnamon sticks
- apple slices
- orange slices
- In a large pan combine the apple cider, orange juice nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Simmer slowly on low heat for about 15 minutes. Take care that the cider does not boil. Add the cinnamon sticks and orange slices to float in the pot and serve warm.
- You can refrigerate any leftover mulled cider, it's nice cold as well.