OUR evenings are turning to the sound of premature fireworks and “trick-or-treaters” knocking at the door. Although the Americans seem to have taken over Hallowe’en, we have a venerable medieval custom of the soul cake, which was given to children who would come at Allhallowtide to say prayers for the dead. These Soul cakes (more like biscuits) contain raisins, said to represent Christ’s blood-drops, and a cross to denote giving in alms.
175g (6 oz) unsalted butter
175g (6 oz) caster sugar, plus extra
3 egg yolks
450g (1 lb) plain flour
½ teaspoon each: ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or 2 teaspoons mixed spice
100g (4 oz) raisins
1 tablespoon marmalade
milk, to mix
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. With an electric beater, cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in each egg, one at a time. Sift in the flour and spice, and blend everything together with a spoon.
Stir through the currants and marmalade, then enough milk to bring it to a soft dough consistency: firm and pliable, as for scones.
Roll out on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin, and, cut them out with a large circular cutter (you should get about 12). Mark each one with a cross, and place on a lined or greased baking sheet. Sprinkle over a little extra sugar, then pop them into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack. They will keep for a good five days.
Salads are not just for the summer. Pairing up some seasonal produce to make this Mackerel and apple salad is a dish that can be a light meal in itself, or something in a bowl on the table to go with other things, such as soup and cheese. The mackerel starts raw, but the lemon and vinegar cook or cure it, like an escabèche. Use whichever apples you prefer, but sweeter is usually better here, such as Pink Lady.
3 fresh mackerel, filleted and skinned
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and washed
150g (5 oz) watercress
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 apples, core and sliced
1 stick celery, washed and finely chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
3 slices of brown toast
Roughly chop the mackerel and mix in a bowl with the cider vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard. Slice the fennel bulb down into thumb-sized pieces, and mix in with the fish. Leave this all on one side for about 30 minutes. Separately, assemble the watercress, grated carrot, sliced apples, and celery. Mix the fish and fennel again, then spoon this over the salad, along with the juices.
Drizzle the olive oil over the top, then tear the toast into chunks and scatter over. Serves two people as a main course, or four as a starter.