Happy all soul’s day! If you’re like me, everyday liturgical living is usually far beyond you; but it’s easy to do it right today. Say this:
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Done! You did the thing. It’s a great practice to pray this every day, not just today. You could add it to grace before meals. Takes two seconds, frightens guests, and pays into that bank of grace. If you help souls get out of purgatory, you can bet that they’ll help you when it’s your turn.
And now for food! If you do have a yen to serve a liturgically themed dinner, a fairly easy meal is eggs in purgatory and soul cakes.
The Egg in Purgatory are very similar to shakshuka, popular in the Middle East.
Here’s how to make it (and you can easily skip the sausage and keep it vegetarian):
Eggs in purgatory
- 1 lb spicy loose Italian sausage
- 30 oz diced tomatoes
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 8 eggs
- parmesan cheese
- 1 thinly sliced onion
- 2 thinly sliced bell peppers
- dash chili oil
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste, if you like it firmer
- coarsely chopped parsley for garnish
In a wide, shallow pan, brown up the sausage and garlic (and pepper flakes if using).
If you're using onions or peppers, add them and cook until slightly soft.
Add the diced tomatoes with juice. Cover and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add the tomato paste if you want it firmer.
Make eight shallow indentations in the sauce and carefully break an egg into each one.
Cover the pan loosely and let it poach for six or seven minutes, until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are as solid as you want them to be.
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese toward the end, and serve immediately in scoops or wedges. Garnish with parsley if you like.
And now for the soul cakes. They’re not fancy to look at, but they’re very tender and cozy, especially if you eat them warm.
Here’s a dressier version Clara made one year:
and here’s a batch I made with cookie cutters, depicting souls before being prayed for (skulls, sad, raisins, boo) and after being prayed for (wings, apricots, hooray)
I honestly don’t have the mental energy to plow through the history of soul cakes and see if they’re actually Christian or Gaelic pagan or what. I do know you’re pronouncing “samhain” wrong. It’s actually pronounced /bəˈloʊni/ and I cannot be persuaded otherwise.
We like these dense, fragrant little cakey buns because they help us step down gently from candy bingeing. They are sweet, but also pleasantly spicy and old-fashioned tasting. You can add currents or raisins or nuts or whatever you want. There are many versions, some calling for yeast, but these are very simple.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 cup butter, chilled
- 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
- 4-6 Tbsp milk
- powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
- raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.
Preheat the oven to 350
Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.
Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.
In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.
Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.
Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm
Clara says that medieval bakers would test the heat of the oven by sticking their hands in and saying the Our Father, and whatever phrase they got to when they couldn’t stand it anymore is how hot it was. I may start writing recipes that way: Preheat the oven to “our trespasses.”
Clara taught herself to sew and made this dress for Halloween as part of an ensemble, and she wore it to make soul cakes a few years ago, partly because we may be a little behind on laundry, but partly just for nice.
Highly recommended to have a Clara in the house. I should add that to my recipes, too.
P.S. If your family doesn’t like this food, tell them to offer it up for the souls in purgatory, so there.
P.P.S. This year we are also having pomegranates, because . . . underworld, Persephone, I don’t know. They were on sale!