Jul 20 2013
Lammas, held on 1 August each year, is the festival of the first of the harvest and therefore would have been a time of great rejoicing. Whole communities, Men, Women and Children together, would have gathered to harvest the crops and to celebrate afterwards. Lammas has also been called ‘loaf-mass’ which is a reminder of just how important the first grain and its bread were.
Lammas is also the festival of Lugh, the Sun God, and of the Sacrificial King who is still represented by the gingerbread man. The Lammas load might be shaped as a sheaf of wheat, the Sun or even a man to represent any of the Lammas themes.
The colours of this festival are golds, yellows and oranges for the God and red for the robes of the bountiful Mother which the Goddess wears
As we know, the Loaf would have been central to this feast, and Rabbit a traditional meat, and not just for this festival, but for the whole season, as Rabbits were driven from the fields by the harvesters and no free source of food would have been wasted.
Rabbit is only just starting to make a reappearance in our Shops and it has to be said for some, there is still a stigma and unease attached to eating this meat. Rabbit has quite a strong flavour, and unless very young, can be a bit tough, therefore, it’s best stewed or braised.
Also traditional for this festival would have been meat pies and pasties; really anything that could be taken into the fields for the feat. Whilst Cornish Pasties do not derive from this festival, they are an excellent way of celebrating it. These really are best home-made, certainly for the stuffing ingredients. Ready made pastry it has to be said, is the way forward for us though, in our day and age!
Traditionally this meal would be finished with something sweet, usually involving a sweet crust pastry, and filled with nuts and fruits of the season. Apples, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Cherries, Damsons, Elderberries, Gooseberries, Greengages, Mulberries (if you can find them), Pears, Plums, Raspberries and Strawberries are in season at this time and great in salads, pies, pastries, and most of these fruits mix well with meats to as a variation for this time of the year
A good strong red wine is the drink with which to honour the Goddess and the God
Cider is also a traditional drink at this festival, and as we know, good Ciders with their golden colour and Apple flavours can really resemble the smells and tastes of the first harvest.
Real Ales are also appropriate. These days you can find many new varieties which are stronger in both taste and smell than the ‘canned‘ beer of recent times. Look out for fruit beers too, as these are also closer to the traditional drink of our agricultural past
Decide upon the loaf tin size that you are going to use, and adapt a recipe to fit. This ensures you end up with a loaf that is baked in a tin that fits inside of your oven, and a loaf that is not then in two parts on your table!
Why Not Try
Soaking the meat in lightly salted water for a couple of hours will help to make it more palatable
There are a range of different designs for this bread that can be used, which include a plait or twist, a sheaf of corn or a figure for Lammas which could be the Spiral. A holly leaf is great for Yule and an Oak Leaf or the Sun for Litha
Try cooking pieces of Rabbit with potato and root vegetables in an ale sauce, or cook it very slowly with prunes and cherries, adding a dash of brandy just before serving.
Try using Rabbit as a substitute to the traditional Cornish-Style Pasty recipe below
Simple Milk Bread
Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and leave until frothy. Mix the flour and salt and rub in the fat. Add the yeast liquid and mix to a soft dough. Knead thoroughly on a floured board until smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave in a warm place (around 23 degrees centigrade) until doubled in size. Then knead again and leave to rise a second time. Your dough can then be divided into rolls or shaped in any way you choose. Place on a greased baking sheet and allow to rise again for approximately another 20 minutes. Paint with a little milk or beaten egg and bake in the oven at 220 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness or your shaped loaf
12oz Finely cut steak
4oz Peeled and diced potato
1 finely chopped onion
A pinch of salt
12oz Shortcrust Pastry – ready made is ideal!
Mix the steak, potato and onion well. Season really well with the salt and pepper, and blend together. Take the pastry and divide it into four. Roll out into rounds, about 8 inches in diameter. Divide your meat mixture between the flour rounds and the fold the pasty in half over them. Flute the edges together with your fingers to make a really strong seal, either at the side or the top. Bake in the oven at 220 degrees for 15 minutes to brown and then turn down the oven to about 170 degrees for approximately an hour. If the pasties start to get too brown, cover them with tinfoil, for the last 15 minutes or so of cooking
There are many variations that work for Pasties, for example, replace some of the potato with carrot or swede, and finely cut lamb is a great alternative to stead and so on.
An excellent Vegetarian version can be made using potato, onion, carrot, broccoli, sweetcorn and some coarsely grated cheese. Or try stilton, leek and pinenuts or mixed mushrooms with tomato and chilli
You’ll need to reduce the last part of the cooking time to about 45 minutes.