Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...
Try as I might, this English girl just cannot get excited about Halloween. Even though it's basically a day that revolves around candy. I went trick or treating a couple of times when I was younger but my costume attempts were woefully pathetic and we normally spent the evening sitting in the dark, hoping that nobody would put super glue in our front door lock again.
What I always used to look forward to though were the celebrations that marked Bonfire Night a few days later.
On 5th November 1605, a plot was uncovered to assassinate the King by blowing up the House of Lords during the state opening of Parliament. The plot was led by a group of English Catholics who wanted to install a Catholic monarch on the throne. Tipped off by an anonymous letter, the authorities searched the basements under the House of Lords late on the evening of the 4th November where they discovered a man called Guy Fawkes standing guard over a mound of gunpowder.
When news of the foiled plot reached the people, they celebrated the fact that the King had survived the attempt on his life by lighting bonfires and thus began a tradition which has lasted over 400 years.
Whilst we could have gone to any one of the number of public displays on the 5th November, when I was younger we much preferred to celebrate at home. We weren't going to let the small size of our London garden get in the way of any of our fire-based fun, oh no. In lieu of a bonfire, we would use a barbecue and burn an effigy of my uncle made out of old socks stuffed with newspapers (my uncle was present at these gatherings, we didn't just decide to turn him into a hate-figure). And, in a world before health and safety restrictions, we used to buy the biggest and most ridiculous fireworks we could find and have our very own display. When we moved out of out house a few years ago, you could still see the scorched grass from one particularly fine specimen that my uncle had provided about ten years earlier.
As we stood outside, jostling for position by the barbecue, my mother would bring out mug after mug of hot soup. For my brother and I, this would always be tomato soup with a crusty roll, warm from the oven, to dip into it.
This is most definitely the time of year for soup and I would still choose tomato soup over and above every other soup. This version has a slight kick from the cayenne and enough richness from the cream to feel wonderfully satisfying on a cold night. Even more importantly, it comes together in 20 minutes and uses ingredients that I almost always have on hand. Perfect for one of those evenings when only a bowl of soup will do.
Cream of tomato soup
Yield: Serves two
Adapted from the Hairy Bikers
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 pinch dried rosemary
- 1 pinch dried thyme
- 1 - 2 tsp sugar (to taste)
- 4 tbsps heavy/double cream
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Fry until soft.
- Pour in the tomatoes and then fill the can with water and add that. Add the herbs, sugar and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, allow to cool slightly and blend using a handblender or food processor. Return to the heat, add the cream and any more salt and pepper if needed. Serve when warmed through.