I first met this soup at a Mother’s day lunch and never imagined that I’d be calling it Witches’ Broth and serving it up myself a few years later at a Hallowe’en party. I should assure you that this renaming says more about the thick green colour of the soup than it does about my views on motherhood …
It is hardly a well-kept secret that Hallowe’en ranks high on my list of all-time favourite festivities. It comes at a magical time of year when the days are shortening, the air is cooling and the trees are resplendent in their cloaks of fiery colours. The children’s excitement is on a par with that of Christmas in our house as they delve deep down into their dressing-up box to pull out black gowns, orange and green-striped stockings, pointed hats and vampire fangs. We decorate the house with silvery cobwebs, read stories of errant witches and shiver at the bone-rattling skeletons in Berlioz’ dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.
I think that what makes this festival particularly special for me is that there are no pre-conceived ideas about what form the traditions should take and no expectations of receiving presents among our children. They enjoy themselves enormously through the simple pleasure that comes from sparking their imaginations and partying with friends.
Unlike in the depressing scene depicted by William Langley, we have amiable neighbours who are happy to collude in a little organised trick-or-treating, while our costumes and party trimmings are largely homemade and provide an opportunity for creative fun.
Far from being an imported custom, the roots of Hallowe’en extend further back in Britain than those of the seemingly more traditionally-celebrated Guy Fawkes night. In fact, the origins of Hallowe’en practices in America can themselves be traced to the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants during the nineteenth century.
So pull up your cauldrons, grab your wooden spoons and join us for a warming bowl of witches’ broth 🙂 .
Witches Broth: Pea and Mint Soup (adapted from a recipe by Charlotte Kilvington)
2 oz unsalted butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
600 mls chicken stock
2 lb frozen peas
1 head of firm lettuce, eg. Iceberg
a handful of fresh mint, chopped
300 mls milk
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and fry gently to soften.
Add the stock and frozen peas. Bring to the boil and simmer until the peas are tender.
Add the lettuce and mint. Continue cooking until the lettuce has wilted.
Stir in the milk.
Blend in a food processor and season to taste.
Serve with a swirl of single cream on top – pull through from the centre outwards with a toothpick to create a spider’s web.