Follow the Firework Code
- Only buy fireworks market BS 7114 – from reputable dealers
- Keep fireworks in a closed box
- Follow the instructions on each firework
- Light all fireworks at arms length, using a taper
- Stand well back
- Never go back to a lit firework
- Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
- Always supervise children around fireworks
- Never give sparklers to a child under five, and always wear gloves
- Keep pets indoors
- Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
- Don’t set off noisy fireworks late at night, and never after 11 pm
Also, be extra careful where you situate your bonfire and firework display so that drivers’ visibility isn’t obscured by smoke.
UK Bonfire Night Traditions
Even though it is not a UK national holiday, bonfire night is a deep-seated tradition and bonfires have been burning on November 5th for four hundred years. They mark the foiling of the gunpowder plot under the Houses of Parliament in 1605, led by Guy Fawkes and other catholic conspirators. They were attempting to blow up protestant king James I. Londoners lit bonfires as soon as they knew their king was safe from the plotters and the tradition has carried on to this day.
The practice of placing an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top of the bonfire started soon afterwards, and fireworks were quickly added to the celebrations as a reminder of the gunpowder hidden in the tunnels under parliament.
Famous Bonfire Night Festivities
Cardiff has ‘Sparks in the Park’; London has the Lord Mayor’s firework display; Leeds Castle normally have a themed show. This year it’s called ‘Go Wild’ inspired by animals from all over the world.
The bonfire night tradition also became popular in the British colonies and bonfires are still lit in New Zealand and Newfoundland in Canada.
Revellers used to poke sausages on sticks into the bonfire and push roast potatoes on top of the coals. That’s now banned at big public events – because of health and safety worries - but bangers and mash is still traditionally eaten.
And as kids, we couldn’t resist our mum’s home-made toffee apples on sticks (the trick was to try and nibble the toffee to get to the apple without it falling off the stick).
Then there was the rich, treacly sweetness of bonfire toffee – so chewy it made your jaw ache – to say nothing of pulling out a few loose baby teeth.
For grown-ups (and kids with more sophisticated taste buds), there was Yorkshire Parkin – essentially the Northern English form of gingerbread.
Made using oats, my mum’s Yorkshire Parkin was dark, gingery-hot – and utterly scrumptious spread with a bit of butter!
I never ever saw her use a recipe book for any of the above, but everything tasted delicious. I don’t have her confidence to go it alone – so here are the recipes I use.
oil, for greasing
450g dark brown sugar
125ml hot water
¼ tsp cream of tartar
115g black treacle
115g golden syrup
It's best to make this recipe with a sugar thermometer as it is very important that you take it to the right temperature for it to set to a hard toffee.
Please take great care...
Molten sugar will scald if it touches the skin, take extra care when pouring the hot sugar mixture into your tray.
The easiest way to clean your saucepan and thermometer is as follows: Immediately after pouring the toffee into your tray – fill the empty saucepan with warm water and leaving the thermometer inside the pan – place the pan on the hob and bring to the boil - this loosens the sugar. Put away the boiling water and wash as usual.
Line the base and sides of a baking tin (approx. 8” x 12”) with non-stick parchment and then grease it really well.
Place the sugar and hot water in a heavy bottomed pan and gently heat through until the sugar is dissolved – without stirring the mixture. You can tilt the pan instead if you need to move it around.
Weigh out the remaining ingredients and put them into a well-greased jug as this makes it much easier to pour.
When all the sugar is dissolved in the hot water, simply pour the contents of the jug into it and pop in the sugar thermometer. Use the thermometer to give it a quick swirl but do not mix it too much.
Bring to the boil and continue boiling until you reach 270/140C (or ‘soft crack’) on your thermometer.
Be patient, this can take up to 30 minutes – but don’t be tempted to leave the pan unattended as it can change quickly.
As soon as it reaches the right temperature, very carefully tip it into your tin and leave it to cool.
Once cool you can remove it from the tin and break with a toffee hammer or rolling pin.
This toffee stores well in an airtight tin or makes lovely gifts when wrapped in cellophane bags.
8 crisp apples (like Granny Smiths)
4 tbsp golden syrup
400g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vinegar
To help remove the waxy coating that apples have – and to enable the caramel to stick, you must first place the apples in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Then dry them off with kitchen paper and remove the stalks.
Holding the apples firmly, push a wooden lolly stick (or wooden skewer) into the stalk end.
Place the apples on a sheet of baking parchment as near as possible to your hob.
Over a medium heat - cook the sugar with 100ml water in a thick-bottomed pan for 5 mins until the sugar dissolves, then gently stir in the vinegar and the golden syrup.
Place your sugar thermometer in the pan and boil to 140C or 'hard crack' stage. If you don’t have a thermometer you can test the toffee by pouring a little into a bowl of cold water. It should harden instantly and, when removed, be brittle and easy to break. If the toffee is still a little squishy, continue to boil for a few minutes, but do not leave it untended!
Working quickly and carefully, take each apple and dip it into the mixture, coating in the hot toffee. Let any excess drip away before placing on your baking parchment to harden.
If your toffee mixture starts to thicken you can gently heat it to soften again before dipping the next apple.
Leave the toffee apples to cool completely before eating.
2oz / 55g black treacle/molasses
7oz / 200g golden syrup/ corn syrup
4 oz/110g soft, dark brown sugar
5oz/ 120g medium oatmeal
8 oz/220g soft butter
7 oz/ 200g self-raising flour
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp baking powder
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
Heat the oven to 275°F/140°C/gas 1
Grease an 8" x 8"/ 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.
In a large heavy-based saucepan melt together the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup over a gentle heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil, you simply need to melt these together.
In a large mixing bowl stir together all the dry ingredients.
Gradually add the melted butter mixture stirring to coat all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Gradually, beat in the eggs a few tablespoons at a time.
Finally add the milk and again stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 1½ hours until firm and set and a dark golden brown.
Remove the parkin from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
Once cool store the Parkin in an airtight tin for a minimum of 3 days (if you can resist eating it), as this means it becomes even more moist and sticky and the flavours develop beautifully.
Parkin will keep up to two weeks in an airtight container.
(All images taken from Lands' End Pinterest)