Samhain Supper For Two
So what's on our Samhain Supper menu? It's a perennial favourite. Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon, warm,crusty bread, and a full, deep, dark bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Julia's recipe isn't the most hip or the most convenient to make, but it's a recipe that pretty much perfect in every way. I've tinkered with it over the years, but basically I come right back to the original.
There's something particularity fitting about cooking the stew the same way Julia did, especially at Samhain. It's like I'm paying homage and remembering a cookery ancestor.
It's likely I'll make the bread from scratch. I have a sourdough starter, named Pablito. Pablito came from a dear friend and mentor of ours. His sourdough starter is called Pablo. Making this bread connects us to the microbes in our environment and to our friend's house, where we've sat an enjoyed many magickal meals.
And the Cabernet is a gift from this land we call home. The wine is sumptuous and velvety and black as ink. Drinking the wine together connects us to all the times we've stared into each other's eyes, over a candlelit table, and just made googly eyes at each other. A secondary connection is to the high priestess and high priest of our coven, fast friends, beloved, magickal co-conspirators, and fellow oenophiles. Drinking wine reminds us of many a "cakes and ale" with our coven, and a wonderful celebration in the Napa Valley.
The whole meal connects us to the living and the dead and to this very moment that we're sharing, right now.
Samhain Supper For Two Ingredients
Gather and prepare your ingredients prior to cooking. Chop the bacon, chop the beef, chop the veggies, smash the garlic… Preparing your ‘mise en place’ will help things go smoothly once you’ve fired up the stove.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Arrange the beef chunks in a single layer on a tray lined with paper towels. Use additional paper towels to thoroughly pat the beef dry.
In a large dutch oven pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for several minutes, until the bacon is browned and has released most of its fat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan.
Over medium/medium-high heat, brown the beef in the bacon fat for a minute or two on each side. Do not overcrowd the pan. The beef should quickly develop a nice caramelized brown on the surface. Turn the beef to brown on all sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat until all of the beef has been browned.
Once all of the beef has been browned, add the carrots and onions to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until they develop a golden brown color. Then, carefully pour out the excess bacon fat, leaving the veggies in the pan.
Add the beef and bacon back into the pan. Toss with salt and pepper. Then, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and toss again. Place the pan, uncovered, on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the mixture, then cook for 4 more minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees.
Add the wine*, beef stock, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme. Add just enough beef stock to barely cover the beef.
Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then, cover the pan, and place it in the oven. Cook, covered, for about 3 hours. Adjust the temperature slightly, if necessary, so that the liquid maintains a gentle simmer throughout the cooking time.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
For the onions:
Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan to allow the onions to roll around in the pan and brown on all sides. Then, add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer slowly for about 15-20 minutes. Check the pan towards the end of the cooking time. Most of the liquid should have evaporated and formed a brown glaze around the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the mushrooms:
Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Once the beef has finished cooking, carefully pour the mixture through a sieve or strainer. Allow the sauce to collect in a large measuring cup (the 4-cup kind) or glass bowl. Return the beef and bacon to the dutch oven pan. Discard the carrot and onion pieces.
Arrange the brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms over the beef.
Allow the sauce to rest for a few minutes. The excess fat will rise to the surface as it rests. Use a spoon to collect and discard the excess fat. Repeat until much of the excess fat has been discarded.
You should have about 2 – 2 1/2 cups of sauce. If you have much more than this, pour the sauce into a small saucepan and simmer uncovered until it’s reduced a bit. It should be quite flavorful and thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired. Pour the sauce over the beef, mushrooms, and onions.
Serve over boiled potatoes.
Full Transparency, rather than retyping this recipe from start to finish, I "borrowed" this recipe from The Gourmand Mom.
There’s a good chance you’ll be celebrating Samhain Season this month. Maybe you gather with your coven in some secret place, go to a ritual, or plonk down on your couch wearing your black cat slippers and stripey witch socks, it’s all good. Here’s a little magick potion you might want to try. I call it “Samhain Sippers” because “Samhain Slammers” might give you the wrong impression. But hey, you know you, so whether your a sipper or a slammer, enjoy!
Samhain Sippers SpellSamhain is a transition time. There’s a liminal quality about this season. Leaves are changing colours, once verdant fields are falling blissfully fallow, night time comes a little earlier. It’s well known that Samhain is a time when the veil thins and our ancestors are, perhaps, a little more accessible than usual. And yet for all the apparent falling away and endings, it’s a time of year that ushers in dinner parties and magickal gatherings and twinkle lights and decorations.
There is some magick involved in this recipe, beyond the alchemy of blending ingredients together. The recipe calls for blackberries and rum (among other things). Blackberries are an element of the late summer. Sweet and full. Rum is sweet too and works s a reminder that life is sweet and precious. Rum is a traditional offering to guardians of gateways in various occult traditions. In my case, rum was my dad’s favourite tipple, so there’s a connection to my ancestors there too.
As you drink, think of what is sweet in your life right now. Ponder which door are opening for you this Samhain tide and which might be closing, forever. Celebrate your ancestors, be they ancestors of blood or magickal lineage, or those that have passed that influenced your life.
Samhain Sippers RecipeThis recipe takes 10 minutes to cook (if you make the simple syrup yourself) and 5 minutes more to whip together. I’m including two versions: one for making yourself a cocktail and a cauldron sized for your Samhain get together.
To Make Blackberry Simple Syrup
What you need to make the cocktails
Let’s Get To Making This Thing Already!
Making simple syrup:
In your favourite saucepan, add the sugar, blackberries, lime wedges, juice, and water over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and mash up the blackberries. You can use the back of a spoon to do this.
Pour the blackberry syrup through a mesh strainer into a bowl. You can use that spoon again to help push the mixture through the sieve.
If your not making the cocktail right away, you can store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To make two cocktails
Add 6 ounces of simple syrup, 3 ounces of the rum and a good squeeze of a lime wedge into to a cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker use your travel mug or something else with a lid. Strain into an ice filled glass. Fill up each glass with soda. Top with a lime wedge.
To make 8 cocktails
Mix up 2 cups rum, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 1 and 1/2 cups simple syrup, and 2 cups soda. Pour all of this into your favourite pitcher, punch bowl, or cauldron. Add some fresh blackberries and lime wedges.
Happy Samhain Sipping!My recipe is based on something I saw a bunch of years ago and have played with. Here’s the original recipe, which is a little more summery.
I can't help myself. It happens every year around the autumn equinox. The day comes when there's a slight chill in the air and the sun feels just a little less prominent in the sky. And all I can do is think about soup.
The soups I make at this time of year are really for my own pleasure. Most everyone else the house tolerates soup, but it's not their idea of a good meal. Me, I could and do eat soup, three times a day for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Autumn Equinox & The Harvest
The autumn equinox and the last of the summer vegetables start me thinking about balance. Equinoxes are all about still points and transitions for me. I still have warm days, but the cold isn't far off. I still have summer produce, but the farmer's market has just a little less on offer. Bright yellow squash, are giving way to orange and brown gourds, and right behind them are the dark greens of kale and other winter crops. The sunburst of fresh peaches has all but disappeared and I'm left with their slightly less ebullient counterparts, securely stored in jars.
And there's something about making do. You know, looking in the fridge and pantry and thinking "okay. There's only so much of this ingredient or that ingredient, what's the most amount of nutritious food I can make with this, right now"? For me that translates beautifully to the autumn equinox - How much is there left to do with the resources I have before I go to ground for a few months?
Autumn Equinox Soup
There's a reason I like to make soup at this time of year. One, there's that chill in the air I mentioned. Nothing like a hot mug or bowl of soup to make me feel all cozy, cuddly, and warm inside.
But really it has to do with the ingredients. There's something about the vegetables at this time of year and the various and multiple harvests coming in, that just sits right with my kitchen witch's soul.
Here's the recipe. It's simple. Home cooking at it's best. Anyone can do it. Fresh vegetables are best, but substitute in frozen or canned if that's what you have.
My Autumn Equinox Soup Recipe
Total prep time is about 15 minutes. Total cook time is 30 minutes. You'll get six (ish) servings.
You can find more favourite recipes in my book The Magick Of Food - Rituals, Offerings, & Why We Eat Together available for pre order now!
Right at the outset, I want you to know this is not an historical treatise about Dionysus nor does it cover ancient practices of any Dionysian cult. What this article is about is exactly what the title says. Dinner and drinks with Dionysus.
And when I say “exactly what the title says”, that’s a bit of a fib too. I didn’t have dinner or drinks with any person named Dionysus. He didn’t text me and say “Hey Gwion, see you at 7 for canapes and champers”.
What happened was I started thinking about making dinner. Then I started thinking about drinks. Drinks and dinner thoughts inspired me to consider enjoying my repast outside. Which, in turn, made me think of idly languishing on a chaise lounge quaffing copious quantities of excellent wine and stuffing my gob with tasty comestibles.
But Dionysus Was There
Now after that rather elaborate set up paragraph and saying that no person named Dionysus joined me for dinner, Dionysus was absolutely there with me. Let me explain…
Earlier on in the day, when the first inklings of what to eat for dinner sparked in my brain, I started thinking about Dionysus. That’s Dionysus the god. Imagine this conversation running in my head:
Me: Should I make lamb burgers with a mint, yogurt sauce?
Me: Mmm…Sounds good. What else could I make?
Dionysus: Hey there! Dionysus here. Could be the god. Might be a figment of your imagination. Up to you. Any chance we can have olives, pickled red onions, and some feta with that?
Me: Oh! Hello there Dionysus. Yes. Let’s figure this menu out. I’ve got lots of ideas.
Dionysus: Me again. Did you mention wine? You know, you have an exquisite bottle of red wine you bought in Napa a couple of months back. We could have that. Oh and I think eating outside is a great idea. Why don’t you get some of those lovely wooden platters you have. Maybe we should think about doing a ritual as well. You know, a ritual for me. I like rituals. Do you have any poetry you want to read out loud? You could light a fire, eat finger foods, and drink that gorgeous bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s just gathering dust in your cupboard. I like it when you read Yeats, or Shelley or Byron. You have a cute accent when you’re drunk and their poetry is so full of life and the angst of it all. Have I told you about death yet? It’s coming. You know, you should drink that wine during my ritual while you’re still alive.
Setting A Plate For Dionysus
Whether it’s a real god or the divine madness he inspires or my over active imagination, my conversation with Dionysus went on for quite some time. In the end, I/we decided on a variety of tantalizing nibbles including pistachios, grapes, feta, cured meats, olives, and lamb chops with mint sauce.
I prepared most of the food on a wooden cutting board, in my back garden. A fire was lit and I cooked the lamb chops in my favourite cast iron pan, right over the open flame. I popped the cork and poured the wine into a favourite carafe. There was no diluting of the wine, as would have been the thing to do in ancient Greece, but rather threw my lot in with Dionysus and drained a few glasses by me lone self.
I set two plates and two glasses. One for me. One for my unearthly guest. I piled an assortment of goodies on his plate first. Topped up his glass first. Then I went about eating and drinking from both settings, tossing in the occasional “don’t mind if I do”.
Poetry and laughter and Dionysus
Whether it was the presence of a god or the presence of 12.8% alcohol by volume, we’ll never really know, I became giddy. And when I’m alone (or with a god), satiated by a surfeit of foods, and perhaps a wee bit tipsy, I like to sing.
Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” burst forth. A surprising choice, you might think, but it’s not the first time Dionysus has requested that. There’s something of the tragic about that song after all. Then, quite loudly and with desperately long pauses, for the most impact, I read “Her Anxiety” by W.B Yeats.
Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die,
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.
Prove that I lie.
Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh.
Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.
A Serious & Silly Ritual with Dionysus
Now you might be thinking to yourself that this ritual sounds completely silly. It was. Let’s be clear, the entire ritual consisted of me eating, drinking, singing, reciting poetry, and sitting around a fire for hours. I conversed, audibly, with a person that wasn’t there and took his requests at face value. It was his ritual as he wanted it.
Its also possible that you’re thinking to yourself that this ritual sounds completely serious. It was. Let’s be clear, the entire ritual consisted of me eating, drinking, singing, reciting poetry, and sitting around a fire for hours. I conversed, audibly, with a person that wasn’t there and took his requests at face value. It was his ritual as he wanted it.
Devotional rituals don’t have to be all gloomy and somber. Or dull and sober. This one was exquisite. I laughed. I cried. I thought about mortality and the singular beauty that my life is. I contemplated the horror of oblivion. I understood that the sweetness of life can only be measured against the inevitable onrushing of death.
So yeah. A pretty spectacular night of dinner and drinks when all was said and done.
Cheers Dionysus. Let’s do it again.
It’s no secret that a big part of my craft practice centers around food. It’s an easy connection to make. Cookery is like alchemy, changing raw materials into something wholly new and yet still the same. There’s a paradox to food magic. It’s simultaneously easy and approachable and yet profound and mysterious.
I’ll be gathering with 5 other witches in October, at a week long retreat. We’ll be cooking for about 80 people, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. We’re an embodiment of the food magic paradox. We’re there to cook and support the magic of this retreat. The food we make is the magic and it sustains the magic. It’s as much a part of the magical work of the week as the nightly rituals and it is ritual all unto itself.
I spoke with my dear friend and fellow cook Tere (prounounced like “tare”) about their connection to food, magic, community, and service. We also talked a little about the healing magic of cooking for our ancestors. Here’s a snippet of our chat.
What’s The Connection Between Food & Magic?“Magic is concerned with relationships and everything about food invokes relationships for me. Complex webs of connection bring food to our tables. Many hands, many beings are responsible for my food. If I am to work magic, I need to be aware of these connections and feed them as I am fed by them.
Gratitude and reciprocity help me stay in good relationship. The food that sustains my body tells a story of lineage. This is connected to magic too. I know myself and my people through the food passed down through my ancestors. This connection anchors me and feeds my soul. As a witch, I believe all acts of love and pleasure are rituals that serve life. Food is complete sensual pleasure. Food is life force. Food is power.
If magic is the cultivation of: Interconnectedness, Reciprocity, Self knowledge, Pleasure, and Power, then food is magic.”
The Connection Between Working In A Kitchen & Serving CommunityPeople need to eat. Sustaining people sustains the magic. It is as simple and as challenging as that. It is an honor and pleasure to provide physical and spiritual sustenance for people doing deep magic together.
Kitchen witches stir in love and magic. They anchor the vital container supporting community. Feeding a group of people with complex needs requires daring and devotion. I go to my growing edge every time.
Service has always been my greatest teacher. To do it well, I need intention, self-awareness, and good boundaries. These qualities support community and magic. These are the qualities I hope to stir into the pot. “
A Profoundly Magical & Surprising Food Ritual“One of the covens I belonged to would craft rituals for each person in the group to help them grow into their magic and power. Each of us would ask for something. One person wanted help to free themselves. So, the rest of the coven planned a beautiful, sacred feast in their honor. We made sure the food was tasty as well as beautiful. The table was lit with candles, we sang to our beloved in anticipation of eating this terrific food, and then we began smearing the food all over each other. In our hair, on our clothes, all over the floor, this feast broke the rules. Our coven mate was at first shocked but then we laughed and laughed. We were all free.”
Feeding The Connection Between Our Ancestors & TodayI am very interested in this question as I think feeding our ancestors is important magic for the times we are in. To heal and make the changes we need to make in the world, I think we need to reach back to our ancestors. I’m very aware that my lineages have been severed by colonization and white supremacy. I carry these wounds into my relationships. I’ve been wondering how to repair connections and begin to live in balance and justice.
If feeding the living is a great way to support our magic, then perhaps feeding our dead is too. I want to set the table for those who came before, whether they are healed and whole or wounded and confused.
For that reason, I pick a sun-ripened tomato from my garden. Sprinkle a little sea salt on it. I simmer a pot of black-eyed peas with a simple strip of bacon. Stew some okra with more tomatoes and onions. I make a pan of cornbread cooked in my cast iron skillet. Slather it with butter. Slice a fresh onion and a jalapeño pepper as condiments.
To my ancestors who ate simply and with such divine flavors fresh from the garden, I offer this food. May you be healed and whole. May our ties be rejoined.”
A Quick Cast Iron Cornbread RecipeI’m a BIG fan of cast iron cornbread. Here’s a super simple recipe for you to try. There’s a note about using a whole stick of butter, and that being too much. Ignore that. There’s rarely ever too much butter!
If you love kitchen witchery and cooking, My book “The Magick Of Food: Rituals, Offerings, & Why We Eat Together” is now available for pre-order.