Serving A Samhain Feast
celebrate with a Samhain feast
While most of the Western world knows October 31st as Halloween, to some it is Samhain. Instead of celebrating a secular holiday of costumes, candy and consumption, many who follow Earth-centric spiritual practices mark the night as the end of the seasonal year and beginning of the new one. For them, this night is a time to celebrate the last of the harvest and to honor the ancestors. As you would expect with a celebration that marks the end of the harvest, there is PLENTY of food!
A Meal For The Turning Of The Wheel
community is common unity
As I pointed out in my lens about how I'm an alchemist, I don't have a specific spiritual community that matches and shares my exact beliefs. So I take part in a lot of multi-faith gatherings where I share space with people who have related beliefs. So for a Samhain party, it's going to be a bunch of Wiccans, various Pagans, some Asatru and a whole bunch of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and more. But where we all relate is how we view the Earth and the fact that we all work with the elements.
So I use things like that to create an evening where everyone can find something to related to and share. Earth, air, fire, and water tend to be incredibly universal and as such they make the perfect foundation for a Samhain feast. The recipes I'm sharing here are meant to represent the various elements, but all this would also just make a really good dinner for a secular Halloween party too. Just double or triple the recipes to adjust the amounts to feed the number of guests you are having.
Carrots not only are a great representation of the energies of Earth, but they are easy to cook and lots of people like them. If you have a really big crowd you'll want to make sure you have a very large pan to cook these in. I find that a big cast-iron skillet works best. You can also do these on a grill outdoors if you 1) have a grill and 2) have weather at Samhain that allows you to cook outdoors.
How this recipe cooks up depends on if you use baby carrots or regular carrots, and how big the bunches are. If you want this for a large side dish, allow about 1/2 a small bunch per person, or 1/3 a large bunch per person. If using pre-packaged, baby carrots, go with about 1/3-1/2 cup per person. These are best eaten fresh and sometimes get a bit soggy if you save them for leftovers.
You can also omit the dressing portion or the goat cheese if that suits the meal plan better.
- one bunch carrots
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- soy sauce
- approx 3 oz goat cheese
- Preparing Your Carrots - Wash the carrots. Peel them if you wish, but they cook up great with their skins too. Trim the leafy tops and root end from the carrots. If very large, cut carrots in half and then split the halves lengthwise. (None of these steps is necessary for packaged, baby carrots)
- Cooking Directions - Heat a large frying pan or skillet over high heat. When ready, drizzle in some olive oil. When that just starts to pop and hiss, add your carrots and stir to coat them with oil. Make sure the carrots are in a single layer. To char properly, they all need to have a side touching the pan bottom.
- Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes. After about 4 minutes check to see how the carrots are doing.
- While carrots are cooking, make a sauce by mixing 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbsp of soy sauce and 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil.
- When the carrots become charred (blackened) on the bottom, remove the pan lid, flip the carrots so that a fresh side touches the pan and allow to finish cooking. Test for the texture/firmness that you like.
- Transfer cooked carrots into a serving bowl. If you have a lot of carrots to cook, repeat all of the above. Multiply the dressing recipe as necessary.
- Break up the goat cheese into tiny pieces and scatter over the carrots. Drizzle on the dressing, toss and serve warm.
Serving Dishes To Suit The Season - add a seasonal touch with whimsical dishware
To help set the mood for your feast, it's fun to use serving dishes that look like harvest vegetables. Even the most simple soups, salads and side dishes look fancy when served in a beautiful dish.
Fresh Bread - representing the element of Fire
Symbolic of the harvest and the transformation of Fire is a loaf of freshly-baked bread. And this recipe is great in that you start it the day before and don't hardly have to spend any time making it! (really!)
No-knead bread works by letting the water in the dough do all the work for you. You absolutely have to get this going the afternoon before your feast to allow for 18-20 hours of rising time, but it can be baked up a few hours ahead of the meal and wrapped up or it can come out of the oven about fifteen minutes before you are ready to start eating.
This recipe is covered by it's very own lens, No-Knead Bread (no kidding!), complete with step-by-step instructions and photos showing you the entire process.
The "Dumb" Supper
In some traditions, one feature on Samhain night was the "dumb" supper, where everyone eats in total silence. This was done to honor the ancestors and beloved dead. Oftentimes the ritual dinner was done to welcome the departed, inviting them to join the meal. Place settings would be set for those no longer with us, and sometimes favorite foods would be made as offerings.
You and your guests might like to make part of the evening meal follow this old tradition as a way of representing Spirit.
Fried Sage Leaves - representing the element of Air
Sage is most often known to people as a purifying incense, but since this is a feast, here's a delicious way to adapt this aromatic into an unusual appetizer. People are often surprised by this one and sometimes it gets eaten really quickly so you may want to triple or quadruple this recipe if you're going to offer this to a small crowd. You might also consider making some up, and then keeping more ingredients on hand and whipping up a fresh serving later in the evening.
You'll get a more rich flavor by using butter, and even more flavor by using salted butter, but olive oil works just as well too.
You can also use this as a garnish on soups or salads.
- 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
- 1 large bunch of fresh sage
- Pick the sage leaves off the stems and discard. Also get rid of any blemished or wilted leaves.
- Melt your butter or heat your oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
- When butter/oil is hot, drop in some sage leaves. These cook quickly (in seconds, so don't let them get over-browned or burned!) and then fish out with a fork or utensil and place on a paper towel to drain.
- Repeat until all your sage is fried. Put onto a decorative plate and serve. Goes well with cheeses and nuts or just by itself.
Mulled Applie Cider - representing the element of Water
This hot (or warm) drink, also known as "Wassail," is lovely on chilly nights and the smell is fantastic. Apple cider is juice made by pressing apples, as simple as that, and it's worth finding a nice organic version to use when making this drink.
You may want to make a smaller batch of spiced cider ahead of the party and play with the spice mixture to tune it exactly how you like it. Increase or reduce ingredients as you prefer.
- one half -gallon apple cider
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp whole cloves
- 1/4 C brown sugar
- zest of one lemon or small orange
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- a half -inch piece of ginger
- cut into thin coins
Good for if you are in a real holiday hurry, or making an avalanche of holiday cider.
- Get a pot large enough to hold your cider. Into the empty pot put the cinnamon sticks, peppercorns and cloves. Toast very lightly over medium heat.
- Once the spices are toasted, pour in your cider and raise heat to high. Bring the cider to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves completely.
- When the cider has dropped from a boil (big, rolling bubbles) down to a simmer (very tiny, gentle bubbles) add in the rest of the spices and the zest. Keep simmering for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Strain out the spice bits and serve in mugs or glasses. You can serve from a pot on the stove, put the spiced cider into a crock pot to keep it warm or use a punch bowl.