Witches Broth (or Pea and Mint Soup)

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.

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  1. I loved Halloween circa 1950/1960’s. We had a blast back then and our teeth suffered plenty!

    I was looking forward to sharing the Halloween fun with my daughter when she was 5 and planned ‘a witches tea party’ and got a load of …’we don’t like to celebrate that dreadful American custom’. I felt put in my place and very sad. I had been looking forward to the dressing up, playing games and having a spooky inspired tea party treats. After some smooth talking and convincing a few of the mothers we would not be worshipping the devil or playing pranks, I did have the party. It had taken the shine off the event for me a bit, though.
    The girls are all 25 years old now and still tell me what fun they had coming to the all witches tea party we had.

    Your party looks lots of fun and I am sure the children loved it! The witches brew looks perfectly, dreadfully good, too!

    • I think there’s still a bit of that approach here, Melinda, although I have to say that our village seems to have fully embraced the hallowe’en spirit. There’s an annual party held by the local cubs and brownies in the village hall … as well as our own infamous get-together with friends!

  2. Lucy

     /  November 7, 2010

    I remember traipsing around the village wearing Mum’s old black cape from college with my face whitened out, blackened eyes and dark red lips. Perhaps that’s where my fondness for rock music originated? And then the parties in the shed with jacket potatoes, sausages and the games and stories that go along with it all. Alas most of the trick-or-treaters we get are teenagers wearing a mask demanding hand-outs of cash although we did have 5 little ones with parents who had all made an effort and were worthy of the chocolate lollies we had.

    Those pumpkins look a lot easier to carve than the turnips we used to inflict on Dad! Glad you all had great fun xx

    • I did wonder whether to ask O for a ‘traditional turnip lantern’, but seeing’s how our communication fails at even the level of turnip/swede, I decided not to push my luck! We had 3 pumpkin lanterns instead, with faces designed by each of our children.


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