The ultimate Halloween or Bonfire Night party menu, from roasted pigs in blankets to mulled crab apple cider 

Lamb’s wool mulled cider/ roasted pigs in blankets with mustard, onions and apples
Feast your eyes on this spread packed with big and bold flavours, perfect for seasonal entertaining Credit: Haarala Hamilton 

Autumn parties outdoors are my ‑favourites, perhaps because I’ve never got over the childish delight of being out after dark. Mundane back gardens are exotic in the flickering light of torches, lanterns, bonfires and fireworks. No one cares about spilt drinks, slopped soups or splurging sauces. And bundled up in coats and scarves, there’s a snug camaraderie; two fingers to the weather.

Food needs to be easy to eat with one hand, since the other hand likely has a drink or a sparkler in it. Mugs of soup, chunks of traybake, sausages in buns all fit the bill – don’t think twice about firing up the barbecue for a last hurrah. But food needs to taste bigger and bolder to combat the lower temperatures and bonfire smoke.

If you have jars of mustards, tapenade, harissa, and zhoug, say, and flavoured salts or oils, bring them out and use them liberally. I’ve bunged mustard, tapenade and harissa into the recipes here, but experiment with what you have. Blandness is the enemy. Fight the big chill with big flavours.

"Mugs of soup are ideal for keeping hands warm on a chilly evening"  Credit: Haarala Hamilton 

Lamb’s wool mulled cider

Lamb’s wool is a traditional British drink, made using crab apples which burst like popcorn in the hot cider, to make a “woolly” top to the drink. There are lots of crab apples available even in city streets. None are poisonous, and although not all varieties will burst, they look gloriously autumnal bobbing on the cider.

You can make this more or less alcoholic by adjusting the quantities of cider and juice, but be ready to add a good squeeze of lemon juice if you stick to an entirely non-alcoholic version.

Prep time: 2 minutes | Cooking time: 5 minutes 

MAKES 

2 litres

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 litre dry cider
  • 1 litre apple juice
  • 8 cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced
  • A generous mugful of crab apples
  • Lemon juice and honey to taste

METHOD 

  1. Put the cider, apple juice, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger and crab apples in a pan and heat gently until it comes to a simmer.
  2. Turn off the heat, taste, and add a squeeze of lemon juice or a little honey if you think it needs it.