Samhain is a Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It falls on October 31st or November 1st. Central to Samhain celebrations are its unique and tantalising food traditions. Here, we will explore some wonderful recipes and traditions so that your Samhain celebration can explore the tasteful roots of your Gaelic heritage!
Barmbrack, also known as “báirín breac” in Irish, is a traditional Irish fruitcake that holds a special place in Irish culinary culture, particularly during the Samhain and Halloween season. This sweet and spiced bread-like cake is known for its dense, moist texture and is often filled with an array of dried fruits and sometimes even a ring representing marriage within a year to the person who receives it!
Check out this video recipe tutorial from Virginia Cookery School to make your own:
A hearty Irish dish made from mashed potatoes, cabbage, and sometimes scallions or leeks. It’s often served with a generous scoop of butter and a well in the center for holding additional melted butter.
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 4 cups chopped cabbage or kale
- 1 cup scallions (green onions), chopped
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)
For all your dairy needs with this recipe, check out Lakeland Dairies!
For all your vegetables, check out The Local Green Box!
- Boil the Potatoes: Place the peeled and quartered potatoes in a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, usually around 15-20 minutes.
- Cook the Cabbage/Kale: In a separate pot, bring water to a boil and add the chopped cabbage or kale. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
- Cook the Scallions: In a small saucepan, heat the milk and scallions over low heat until the scallions are soft but not browned. This helps infuse the milk with their flavour.
- Mash the Potatoes: Drain the cooked potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Mash them with a potato masher or use a potato ricer for a smoother consistency.
- Combine Ingredients: Add the cooked cabbage or kale to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Pour in the hot milk and scallion mixture, then add the butter. Continue mashing and mixing until everything is well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve: Transfer the colcannon to a serving dish. Make a well in the center and add a generous pat of butter. If desired, garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
- Enjoy: Colcannon is traditionally served hot, often as a side dish for Samhain. Serve it alongside your favourite main course.
Moving away from recipes to indulge your taste buds, let’s discuss some food based traditions!
- Ducking or dooking for apples in a barrel or in a basin of water. Plunge your head into the water (usually cold!) and try to grab an apple between your teeth.
- Peel an apple and let the peel fall to the ground. Superstition says that it will show the initial letter of your future partner’s name.
- A girl is to eat an apple in front of a mirror at the approach of midnight whilst combing her hair. She will see her future husband looking over her right shoulder when the clock strikes twelve.
- If you happen to live near a field of cabbages belonging to a friendly farmer you could try this!
- A blindfolded girl would walk out at night to pull a head of cabbage. The size and shape of the root would indicate the size and shape of her future spouse.
- A salt herring eaten before bed would guarantee that one’s future spouse would appear in a dream that night offering a cup of water to quench the thirst of the dreamer.
Samhain is a time-honoured celebration that bridges the gap between the bountiful warmth of summer and the introspective chill of winter. It’s a moment to reflect on the cycle of life, to honour ancestors and tradition, and to welcome the mysteries of the dark season ahead. Food plays a central role in these traditions, connecting us to the land, our heritage, and each other.
As you gather with friends and family, or celebrate solo, may these Samhain food traditions bring you comfort, connection, and a deep sense of the rich tapestry of life. Happy Samhain, and may your celebrations be filled with warmth, love, and the simple joy of good food.
If you’re interested in exploring some Halloween recipes, check out our Halloween Recipe blog here.
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