People often associate witches with Halloween, but the holiday they celebrate isn’t about costumes and candy. Samhain (pronounced sow-een) is the Celtic and Pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of winter. Held on the night of October 31st—when it’s believed that the veil between the world of the living and the dead is thin—it's an ideal time to contact and remember loved ones who have passed. Many of the traditions involve delicious harvest foods, like our two faves below.
For Wiccans and some other Pagans, Samhain is also the beginning of the New Year, so this hearty Irish dish is often served with trinkets hidden inside, predicting what’s in store for whoever finds one in their serving (e.g. a ring means you’ll be a bride, a thimble symbolizes spinsterhood, a coin denotes wealth). Be sure to set a plate at an empty seat or outside your front door as an offering for the dead.
4 cups cabbage, cored and shredded
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup whole milk or light cream
2 leeks (or substitute 10 green onions), cleaned well and chopped
4 large potatoes, boiled until tender and skinned
1/2 cup butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil cabbage in lightly salted water until tender, strain and set aside. Sauté garlic in oil until slightly browned, add kale and a little salt and pepper. Move it around over medium heat for about a minute then splash in about two tablespoons of water and stir kale as it steams until water is gone and greens are softened.
2. Bring milk or cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add leeks or onions and cook until soft.
3. While potatoes are hot, add salt and pepper to taste and mash them up. Add the potatoes to the milk and leek mixture. Beat in the cooked kale and cabbage until green and fluffy. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
4. To serve, scoop the potato mixture and make a well in the center, filling it with melted butter. To eat, dip each bite of colcannon into the butter.
Rosemary is a symbol of remembrance, so this is the perfect cookie for this holiday. You can shape them like circles or into people if you like, and as you eat them, tell stories of loved ones who have passed. Remember to leave a plate for the visiting spirits, one of the traditions that is said to have evolved into trick-or-treating.
11/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
11/2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary, more for garnish
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, almond extract, and rosemary until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
3. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture, a 1/2 cup at a time until combined.
4. Beat until dough forms, refrigerate for three hours, and divide in two.
5. Roll out one portion to 3/16 of an inch on a floured surface. Use a glass to cut circles or cookie cutters for people shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting with second portion.
6. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes. Serve the cookies on two plates: one for the living and one for the dead. Garnish with sprigs of rosemary.
By Callie Watts
Photographed by Laurel Morley Butterfield
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2017 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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