Saturday, 4 January 2014

Menu Plan for an Imbolc Feast

Imbolc is a time for celebrating the reawakening of the earth after winter's slumber. It is a time of potentialities and the foods which we eat to celebrate the Sabbat reflect this.

Foods which would be appropriate are those foods which would have been stored in the autumn to get you through those lean winter months. Most root vegetables and squashes are included here. Other appropriate foods would include seeds and all dairy products.

Seasonal foods in the UK include beetroot, celeriac, jerusalum artichoke, maincrop potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, goose, venison, crab, mussels, and scallops.

Starters for an Imbolc Feast

Start your Imbolc feast with plates of wholegrain seeded bread and freshly made butter. For a nice touch, knead a spoonful or two of honey into the butter. This would go very nicely with a seeded bread.

I've never made my own butter, but this recipe looks so easy I'm going to try it myself for our Imbolc celebration.

Sunflower seed wholemeal bread

This simple recipe works well with any type of flour. I suggest a combination of half wholemeal and half white bread flour for the best texture.

  • Serves: Makes 2 large loaves
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:

  • 1 liter water
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • palmful salt
  • handful sugar
  • 1 dried yeast sachet
  • wholemeal Bread flour
  • large handful shelled sunflower seeds
  1. Combine all ingredients except the flour and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.
  2. Add enough flour to absorb the liquid and make a pliable dough.
  3. Knead well, adding more flour as needed.
  4. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  5. Punch down and knead again while adding the sunflower seeds gradually.
  6. Form into loaves or rolls as desired.
  7. Cover with a clean towel and leave to rise again until doubled in size.
  8. To make a lighter loaf when using wholemeal flour, you can only let it raise once and add the sunflower seeds while kneaded it the first time through.
  9. Bake at 375F/Gas mark 6-7 until bread is browned and makes a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. About 30 minutes. 

Main Courses for Imbolc

Winter meats in season at this time include poultry, pork (including ham and sausages), rabbit, and venison.
Roast pork
Shellfish such as crab, mussels, and scallops are also in season. You could cook up a lovely roast dinner with all the trimmings.

You might enjoy venison casserole or baked chicken with sausages at your Imbolc feast. For a lighter option, you could make crab cakes or seared scallops with leeks and lemon chilli butter


Venison Casserole with Chestnuts

This hearty dish can be made the day before and cooked in a very low oven for several hours.

Venison and chestnut stew
I got this recipe from my mother-in-law. When I make it, I like to do it the day before if possible and will allow it to stew at a very low temperature in the oven (gas mark 1/275F) for several hours. I just have to remember to check that the fluid levels don't get too low so that it doesn't dry out. 

  • Serves: 4 - 6
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp plain flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound venison diced (or substitute 1 pound braising steak diced)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large onions finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 10 fluid ounces ruby port
  • 18 fluid ounces beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4 ounces chestnuts 
  1. Heat oil in a frying pan.
  2. Season flour with salt, pepper and cinnamon. Dust venison pieces with the flour and fry off a few pieces at time until well browned. Transfer to a large casserole dish.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to frying pan and cook for 5 - 10 minutes.
  4. Add remaining flour to the pan and stir, add the port and bring to a boil. Pour over the venison in the casserole, add the beef stock and remaining herbs and sugar.
  5. Place a tight fitting lid on top and cook over a gentle heat for at least 1 hour. Or, place in the oven on a low heat for at least 1 hour.
  6. After this, remove the lid, season to taste, and stir well. Add the chestnuts, replace the lid and cook, gently, for a further hour.
  7. Braising steak can be substituted - just increase the cooking time by 45 minutes.
  8. Serve with thick slices of bread, cooked rice, or potatoes.

Swede, or rutabaga

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:

  • 1 large swede
  • salt
  • pinch nutmeg (optional)
  • butter
  • milk
  1. Peel and cut the swede into 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Cover with water and add a large pinch of salt.
  3. Boil at a rolling boil for about 15 minutes, until a fork passes easily through a cube.
  4. Drain, add a dollop of butter and a small amount of milk.
  5. Mash.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. (Optional) add a sprinkling of grated nutmeg

Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic

favourite vegetable in our family is purple sprouting broccoli. This gorgeous relative of the standard head
of broccoli (calabrese) you're used to seeing can be eaten leaves, stem, and all. I only wish the purple colour in the heads would stick around with cooking.
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:

  • 300g purple sprouting broccoli
  • 75g smoked streaky bacon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 dried chilli, chopped finely

  1. Blanch 300g of PSB for five minutes in plenty of boiling salted water. While it is cooking fry about 75g of smoked streaky bacon (sliced into lardons) in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until almost brown. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another 2 minutes. Then add the PSB and braise with the bacon mixture for another 5 minutes.
  2. Season this dish carefully because of the use of salty bacon and chilli.
This recipe was originally found at Riverford Organic

Finish your Feast with a Hearty Pudding

Finish up the Imbolc feast with one of these milk based puddings. Imbolc translates into either "In the womb" or "Ewe's milk" depending on which source you look at. Either way, this Sabbat refers to the time when sheep are coming close to the lambing season and their udders are filling with milk. We can honour this by eating milk-based foods.

Bread and Butter Pudding

bread pudding
Bread and butter pudding

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:

  • 60 gm softened butter
  • 12 slices firm white bread
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 675 ml milk
  • 70 gm sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 medium eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas3. Grease 20cm square glass ovenproof serving dish. Spread butter on bread slices. Arrange 4 slices of bread in dish in one layer, overlapping slightly; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Repeast, making 2 more layers.
  2. Using a whire whisk or fork, mix the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Pour mixture over bread slices. Let it stand 10 minutes.
  3. Bake 55 - 60 minutes, until knife inserted in center of pudding comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.
  4. Serve warm or refrigerate to serve cold later.
  5. Serve with warm custard.

Serve Soft Cheese at Imbolc

If you're not fond of sweet desserts, you could serve a selection of cheeses with savoury biscuits.

 Sheep (or ewe's) milk cheeses would be especially appropriate.

What Will You Be Serving at Your Imbolc Feast?