With November 2nd falling snuggly between Halloween and Bonfire night this year, it’s likely next Saturday will be a big night for most Brits. The boys are I are heading down to join the rest of the family at the Rye HQ for an evening of traditional All Hallow’s Eve and Harvest treats including caramel corn, parkin, treacle toffee and jacket potatoes not to mention shed-loads of fireworks, bonfire and a Guy Fawkes effigy. We picked up our fireworks this year from a local pyrotechnic veteran in Maidenhead. Called Supreme Fireworks, these guys have been in the business for over 40 years and have in the past done the firework shows for Pink Floyd and Queen, and more recently provided the special effects for the latest George Clooney flick, The Monuments Men. If you live in the area, I recommend these guys over the high street 2-4-1 offers this year where you’ll get literally more bang for buck!
I love all the Halloween kit that fills the supermarket shelves at this time of year. M&S have a cute range of goodies this year, my favourite by far being the Witches Fingers that actually look like crooked, gnarly digits with painted nails . I also really love the limited edition Trick-or-Treacle tins from Lyle & Tate. Much to my disappointment, trick or treating never really took off here or back in Australia, but people seem to have parties and enjoy the general excitement of dressing up and decorating for Halloween anyway. Besides, Halloween started in Britain. The Jack o’ Lantern originated from a carved out root veg representing the mysterious will o’ the wisp lights that lurked in marshes and cemeteries at night. Ward off the spirits that have mischief in mind by placing a Jack o’ Lantern on the doorstep on All Hallow’s Eve.
Instead of posting a recipe for pumpkin pie or parkin, I’m going to share my tips for the best jacket potatoes and sausages that will no doubt feature on many party menus next weekend. My mum has got 10 people to feed this weekend – including some vegans, and we were wondering what she could make for dinner that pleases everyone and yet won’t have poor old mum stuck in the kitchen all night. Jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings are a super way to feed a bunch of hungry and excited folks and cater to all tastes from picky eaters to the lifestyle choices of all and sundry.
How to Make the Fluffiest Jacket Potato
This is really simple and I know it works because ever since I tried this method, I haven’t turn back. I used to prick the skin of the potato and wrap in foil but now I simply throw the potatoes unmolested and uncovered, into the oven. When they’re ready (about an hour at 180C) and browned I take them out and smash them open with my tongs. This apparently releases the steam and makes the potato light and fluffy inside. I’m not concerned about the science of it – I just know that it works.
The sausages here taste better than they do in Australia, I don’t know why or how, they just do and so we eat them more often. Plus they’re cheap and an easy way to feed fussy eaters. I used to cook them in a pan…how silly of me…because not only do they make the house smell but they spit and burst. Now I simply cover a baking sheet in foil and put the sausages in the oven. I don’t prick the skins and I don’t turn them or do anything until they’re all brown and ready to eat. I heard somewhere that it’s wise to put them in the oven as it’s heating up, this prevents them from bursting.
Toppings for Jacket Potatoes
The Brits love a jacket potato, and tuna and mayo or beans and cheese seem to be the most well-loved toppings. But here’s a few more ideas;
Garlic Mushroom – fry up plenty of garlic and chives in a some oil, add the sliced mushrooms and saute till brown and tasty. Add a little splash of white wine and cream to turn it into something really special, and don’t forget plenty of salt and pepper.
Cheese and onion – in a pan saute some finely sliced onion and garlic until it goes brown and soft, add a splash of dry sherry and season. Place on the potato and grate on plenty of gruyere cheese and melt under the grill.
Four Cheese – Parmesan, gorgonzola, gruyere and mozzarella melted.
Corn succotash – in a pan, throw in some fresh corn kernels (sliced straight from the cob into the pan), finely diced red pepper and sliced shallots. Saute until everything’s cooked and season with salt and plenty of pepper.
A dollop of sour cream and a splash of sweet chilli sauce and a side of coleslaw will go nicely on most of these toppings.