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Hazel-Nut Biscuits

Halloween (31 October) is still widely celebrated in Scotland but many traditional rhymes have disappeared only to be recorded in books such as F Marion McNeill's splendid work 'Halloween - Its origin rites and ceremonies in the Scottish tradition' published in 1970. She gives examples of traditional rhymes used in the past :-
' As soon as it is dark, small, fantastically clad figures wearing grotesque masks, emerge from their homes, carrying turnip lanterns or kail-runt torches; and, forming into little groups or processions, they pass through the village street singing one of their traditional rhymes:-
                                            Halloween! A nicht o' tine!
                                                A can'le in a custock!
or perhaps
                                            Heigh Ho for Halloween,
                                            When the fairies a' are seen,
                                            Some black and some green,
                                            Heigh Ho for Halloween!
The more mischievous spirits would sing, beating on the shutter with a kail-runt and then running off:-
                        The nicht is Halloween and the morn's Hallowday,
                        Gin ye want a true love, it's time ye were away!
                                Tally on the window-brod,
                                        Tally on the green,
                                Tally on the window-brod,
                                        The nicht's Halloween! '
Last year we looked at the part played by apples in Halloween celebrations but nuts were very important too as F Marion McNeill recalls :-
' Nut-gathering, too, has always been a popular ploy. The present writer recollects visiting, many years ago, a hazel grove beside a wishing-well in the Isle of Skye, where the children used to gather nuts just before Halloween. An old Highland lady recollects the annual nut-gathering in which she used to take part during her childhood. The children would set out with baskets, bags and even aprons sewn at the sides to make capacious pockets. They would walk a mile uphill to the nut-wood - the topmost growth of the natural woods that clothed the precipitous sides of the great ravine at the entrance to Glenstockdale.'
And the writer points out the importance attached to the hazel-nut by our distant fore-bears :-
' To the elder Celts, the hazel - " the magic tree that wizards loves" - was the source and symbol of wisdom, whilst the apple was the talisman that admitted a favoured mortal to the Otherworld and gave him the power to foretell the future.'
Hopefully this week's recipe for Hazel-Nut Biscuits will give you an abundance of wisdom!
Hazel-Nut Biscuits
Ingredients : 8 oz (225 g) sifted plain flour; 8 oz (225 g) ground hazel nuts; 12 oz (350 g) castor sugar; 3 oz ( 75 g) butter; 1 egg; 1 egg yolk; 1 teaspoon water.
Melt the butter and let it cool. Crack the nuts, remove the outer shell but do not skin. Cut in half and force through a nut mill. Add to the egg and sugar and mix well. Stir in the flour and finally the cooled butter. Roll or pat the dough into a sheet 3/4 inch thick. With a round or oval cutter, cut into biscuits. Make a tiny slit on the top of each, and paint the surface with a mixture of egg-yolk and water. Bake from 12 to 15 minutes at 300 deg F, 150 deg C; or gas mark 2. There should be from 18 to 24 biscuits. Enjoy this Halloween treat.

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