BONFIRE NIGHT EXTRAVAGANZA!

Bonfire night has becomes something of a big deal in my family. Fed up of municipal displays with crowds of people jostling for space, cheese music accompanying the pyrotechnics, and dire food from crappy fast food vans we have taken to a diy approach.

The last few years have seen our fireworks parties becoming part of the calender for lots of friends and their families. Not to blow our own trumpet too much but our parties are pretty legendary and this year was no exception.

Friday was spent cooking up a storm - like any good party - food is at it's heart. Keeping it simple we opted for simple but flavour packed curries - recipes I love from my dear friend Dhruv Baker from his book Spice which I styled. Yellow pork, the most simple recipe you can imagine where chunks of pork simmer gently in a spiced yoghurt mixture until it falls apart, and a chickpea and aubergine curry which I adapted. Rice was too much of a faff for 60 plus people so opted for naan breads - from tooting - the best naans in the land - nothing like the packets of supermarket naans that are dense and chewy - these are light and buttery and melt on your tongue as you scoop up sauce greedily. The key is to smear them in butter and wrap in foil to warm up.

Toffee apples are a must for bonfire night -especially one with lots of smalls, and cake for grownups. My gingerbread recipe from my first book Winter Kitchen fitted the bill nicely - rich and gingery, and to complement it a pear upside down cake. pear and ginger have got to be one of the best combinations. To finish it (and everyone else) we picked up local beer from Millis Brewery, aptly named Wobbler and Guzzler.

Saturday morning dawned, pissing with rain. Not to be put off - and putting our faith the forecast - we ploughed on - setting up tents, festoon lighting, braziers to keep the mulled cider warm and stocked up the bonfire. The bonfire was HUGE this year! we set it burning at 11.30 and it was nicely ready for bulking up when guests started arriving at about 4.30.

Dad had excelled himself with more fireworks than you can image and the boys had great fun setting them all up ready to fire.

True to its word, the skies cleared and the night became clear and perfect. About 60 revellers and their offspring joined us to help celebrate, it was, in short, a wonderful evening.

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TOFFEE APPLES

makes 8

8 small crunchy apples

400g caster sugar

3tbsp golden syrup

1tsp white wine vinegar

Pour a kettle full of boiling water over the apples then drain and run under cold water. Dry and push wooden lolly sticks into each apple. Set up a tray lined with baking paper.

Put the sugar, syrup and vinegar in a pan with a good splash of water. over a low heat, melt the sugar. once it has melted you want to increase the heat and bubble until you have a dark rich caramel - about 115 degrees on a sugar thermometer but it is pretty easy to tell, when it starts to turn a dark amber and smells like caramel.

carefully dip the apples into the caramel, allow the excess to drip back into the pan then stand on the baking sheet to cool and harden.