If you’re as ancient as I am you’ll remember what special day today is. You’ll also have many wonderful, fun memories of how, when we were children, we used to celebrate the fifth day of November.
Today is Guy Fawkes Day/Night aka “Bonfire Night” aka “Fireworks Night”. For better effect, the celebrations, of course, were held at night.
In the weeks leading up to this red-letter day in November (there are a few special days in November), for us kids the excitement grew. Our fervour knew no bounds. Our enthusiasm reached fever point as the day dawned. We could hardly wait until the sun went down. Was it the longest day of the year, or did it just appear to be so? Our patience was tested to its limits.
School lessons dragged on and on, boring us to death. More important things needed our attention! At the final bell we rushed out of the classroom; the race was on to get home as fast as our legs could carry us. Bonfire-building and making a Guy were on the agenda. Poor Guy! I don’t know why he always had a smile on his dial. Doomed, his hours were numbered!
My brother Graham, being a couple of years older, was, on any normal day, fleeter of foot than me, but somehow on the afternoon of Guy Fawkes’ Night it was a tie as, neck and neck, breathlessly we sped home.
For many reasons I’m glad I was a kid growing up in the Fifties. Being able to enjoy Cracker Nights is one of the major reason.
These days Guy Fawkes’ Night is just a far distant fond memory; an old tradition that’s disappeared into obscurity; deleted from our calendars in the late 1970s by those who felt it no longer had a place in our “modern culture”.
Once we’d spent our saved pocket money at the Gympie Show in May it then became time for us to knuckle down again. Our attention once more was directed towards the serious job of earning and saving a new stash of pocket money. We had from May to November to do so. Empty soft drink and milk bottles were collected and returned to the shops in exchange for pennies, threepences and sixpences; sometimes a shilling even - all dependent upon how many bottles we’d collected. After school or on Saturday mornings, bundles of newspapers were taken to the fish and chip shops and to the butchers. The early days of recycling…we had it down pat in the Fifties. “Recycling” isn’t a new thing. It’s not the “Wonder Word of the Noughties”!
Soon after sundown on the special day our bonfire was lit. The countdown had begun for Guy Fawkes’ fiery demise. The stakes were high. The heat was on. Guy’s fate was sealed.
Our front yard transformed. It became alive with noise and light. Throw-Downs exploded on our concrete garden path; the garden path that bore evidence of where we smashed open the hard shells of Queensland nuts (known more commonly in nowadays as “Macadamia nuts).
Tom Thumbs, the tiniest crackers, were either set off singularly or all at once on the string that strung them together. The latter was the most fun when it came to Tom Thumbs. The larger version, the Big Tom Thumbs (very original), were more than double in size. They went off with a louder bang and louder cries of excitement issued from us.
Catherine Wheels, nailed to fence posts, when lit spun in blazing bursts of enthusiasm. Sky Rockets gave the stars a run for their money. Their exuberant multi-coloured ostentatious eruptions showered above while we oohed and aahed below. Fountains and Roman Candles dazzled while we feasted on treats Mum spent the afternoon preparing.
Like centurions some householders solemnly and determinedly stood guard at their letterboxes. Guy Fawkes’ Night was a prankster’s delight.
Those were the days, my friend; we had a cracker of a time….
Cracker Spuds: Grill 6 pancetta rashers until crisp; drain; crumble into small pieces. Rub skin of 6 medium kumara with oil; place on baking tray; bake in 200C oven 1hr; turn halfway through. Remove from oven; cool 15-60mins; cut kumaras in half lengthways; carefully spoon out flesh into bowl; put skins on baking tray; preheat grill to high. Mash flesh; stir in 4tbs sour cream/crème fraîche, 3 finely chopped shallots and 125g grated cheddar. Spoon into skins; sprinkle pancetta and more grated cheese on tops; place under grill, 2-3mins.
Banging Bangers: Preheat oven 180C. Place 450g quality fat pork sausage (or chipolatas) in lightly oiled heavy baking tray. Combine 3tbs hoisin sauce and 3tbs honey; pour over sausages; coat well. Bake, 45mins, turn and baste.
Steak Sparklers: Cut sirloin steak into 1-inch squares; do similar with green and yellow capsicums. Combine 2tbs red wine vinegar, 2tbs soy and 1 crushed garlic clove. Load wooden skewers, alternately with steak, capsicum, button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, begin with the meat. Marinate the kebabs overnight. Cook kebabs on the barbie.
Fireworks Fudge Cake: Preheat oven 180C. Line square, 20cm tin. Combine 200g plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, 1/2tsp bicarb soda, 75g cocoa and 1-1/2tsp cinnamon in bowl. Finely process 100g salted peanuts and/or cashews; add 3tbs tahini, ¼ to 1/2tsp chilli flakes and 225g dark brown sugar; mix well. Melt 75g unsalted butter and 100g dark chocolate in saucepan; add to nuts along with 2 large eggs; beat until smooth. Spoon into another bowl; stir in 175ml cold milk; sift in dry ingredients; beat until smooth; pour into tin; bake about 1hr. When cold, ice with lime water icing - 300g icing sugar and juice of 1 lime.
Chocolate Crackles: Mix 4c rice bubbles, 1c icing sugar, 1c desiccated coconut, 5tbs cocoa powder and 250g melted Copha together; spoon mixture into patty cake papers; refrigerate until set; bog in.
Sparkling Sparkler Crackles: Combine 4c rice bubbles, 1c lightly-toasted desiccated coconut, 1/2c lightly-toasted pistachio nuts, 1/2c dried cranberries, 1/2c chopped dried figs and 1/4c chopped glace, fresh or dried cherries in bowl. Melt 1.5c white chocolate buttons over pot of hot water; add 80ml cream and 1tbs glucose syrup; mix into melted chocolate. Pour over dry ingredients; gently mix; scoop into patty cases. Chill until set; decorate with a drizzle of chocolate, if desired, and chopped cherries.
Chocolate-Caramel Rocket Cracker Slice: Grease and line 20x30cm lamington pan with baking paper; allow the long sides to overhang. Sift 1/2c cocoa powder and 1-1/2c icing sugar in bowl. Add 5c rice bubbles and 1/3rd cup coarsely chopped roasted, salted peanuts; toss to combine. Add 150g melted Copha; stir to combine. Spoon into prepared pan; use back of spoon to press evenly. Chill hour or so until firm. Grab 2x380g cans of caramel (or make your own); combine caramel filling with 2/3rd cup smooth peanut paste in medium saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, 5mins or until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat; spread evenly over prepared base; chill 2 hours to set. Melt 150g milk or dark chocolate; pour over caramel mixture; spread to coat; chill 1 hour or until set. Cut into squares to serve.