We’re all set for Halloween, squash, pumpkins and gourds of every size, shape and colour are piled precariously on the cookery school table tops, window ledges, in baskets and boxes, they look so beautiful. It has become a bit of a tradition now for children from the local schools to come to the farm to harvest the squash and pumpkin every Autumn. They have the best fun and are intrigued by the names, Hubbard, Turks Turban, Little Gem, Delicata, Hokkaido, Crown Prince, Kobocha, Cocozelle, Jack be Little, Red Kuri… Some are the size of a child’s fist, others so enormous that is takes two sturdy lads to carry them.
Everyone loves carving the pumpkins into scary faces for Halloween, the festival that apparently originated in Ireland over three thousand years ago when the pagan festival of Samhain marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new year, the natural transition from lighter Summer to the darker Winter. At this time of the year it was believed that the division between this world and the other world was at its most fragile, allowing spirits to pass though. So as in the Mexican tradition of the ‘Day of the Dead ‘the spirits of the ancestors were invited back home and evil spirits were warded off. Bonfires, food, costumes and masks were all part of the festivities.
After the famine, the Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America where it is now one of the major holidays of the year. Similarly, here in Ireland where it is fast becoming as big as Christmas. For several weeks now children have been whipped into a lather of excitement by all the Halloween temptations on TV and in the shops and the anticipation of dressing up as ghouls and witches to do the rounds of their neighbourhood for the annual ‘trick or treat’.
You may be amused to hear that we were inadvertently removed from the ‘must visit’ list a number of years ago when word spread among the ‘trick or treaters’ that Ballymaloe Cookery School was no good because you only got fruit and nuts.
The fact that they were home-grown apples and fresh hazelnuts, cobnuts and walnuts from the nut garden did not remotely impress the scary little dotes who were hoping for proper sugar laden treats. So I think we’ve been black-listed!!
The spider web cup-cakes did actually impress as did the ‘spooky puca’ meringues but they were scarcely worth the effort of schlepping up the long avenue for.
Here are a few more scary Halloween treats for you to have fun making with your children and their friends. YouTube (I checked the spelling) is a brilliant source of ideas….
Devilled Spider Eggs
4 free-range eggs
3-4 tablespoons Homemade Mayonnaise (see below)
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
black olives, sliced or nigella seeds, enough for 16 or more scary eyes
long fresh chives
shredded lettuce or baby spinach leaves
For the egg mayonnaise, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water. (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked). When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways and sieve the yolks, mix the sieved yolk with mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper to taste. Fill into a piping bag and pipe into the whites.
Bend the chives for spider legs, four on each side. Use nigella seeds or slices of black olives for scary eyes.
Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce or baby spinach.
makes 250ml (9fl oz) approx.
2 egg yolks, preferably free range
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.
Halloween Chocolate Pops
225g (8oz) dark chocolate (we use Valrhona 52%), chopped
whole hazelnuts and almonds, toasted
whole pistachio nuts
Chocolate Pop moulds
Put the chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water (the base of the bowl should not touch the water). When the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and leave until the chocolate melts.
Spoon into the moulds. Insert a lollipop stick into each one.
Tap the work top to smooth over the top.
Decorate each chocolate pop with freeze-dried raspberries, nuts, dried fruit or pipe white chocolate on to the set chocolate to make scary faces.
Allow to set. Unmould.
Makes about 9 x 50g cookies
110g (4ozs) butter
50g (2oz) brown sugar
60g (2½ oz) castor sugar
1 eggs preferably free range
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
175g (6oz) plain white flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
60g (2½ oz) chocolate chips
50g (2oz) chopped nuts – hazelnuts – optional
Bloody butter cream:
60g (2½ oz) soft butter
150g (5oz) icing sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
6-8 drops natural red colouring
white mini marshmallows
For the fangs:
3 – 4 almonds, peeled and slivered lengthways
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Cream the butter add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg bit by bit, then the vanilla extract. Mix the dry ingredients together and fold them in. Lastly, add the chocolate chips and the chopped nuts.
Divide into 50g (2oz) pieces onto baking sheets. Remember to allow lots of room for spreading. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, depending on size. Cool for a few minutes on the tray and then transfer to wire racks.
Meanwhile cream the soft butter and the sieved icing sugar, a few drops of natural vanilla extract and enough red colouring to make a blood red butter cream.
Cut the chocolate chip cookies in half, spread each semi- circle with a layer of blood red butter cream.
Arrange a layer of mini white marshmallows on one half. Top with the other, then insert the almond fangs on both sides allowing 4 mini marshmallows in the centre between the fangs. Fun for the Halloween Feast…..
Scary Strawberry Ghosts
Another super simple recipe to make with the kids for their Halloween altar.
20 large strawberries
100g white chocolate
100g dark chocolate
Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a tray.
Put the white chocolate into a small pyrex bowl over a saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil and turn off the heat immediately (the water should not touch the base of the bowl) Allow to sit until the chocolate melts.
Catch each strawberry by the calyx and dip in the melted chocolate until the fruit is almost fully submerged. Allow to develop a drip at the base, then lay each on its side on the parchment paper.
Meanwhile melt some dark chocolate also. Fill into a parchment piping bag and decorate each strawberry with eyes and a smile or a frown – Can be a happy, sad, or scary face, all part of the fun…..
Good to know, a toothpick dipped in the dark chocolate also works well.
Stephanie Alexander’s Spiced Pumpkin Cake
This pumpkin cake has a special place in my heart. The teachers and students at Collingwood College in Melbourne baked the cake from pumpkins they grew in the school gardens as a special treat for me, all part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au
Decorate with spooky spiders and ghouls
Serves 20 approximately
350 g (12 oz) pumpkin (skinned and de seeded)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
180 g (6¼ oz) light soft brown sugar or dark soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 ml (5 fl oz) olive oil
250 g (9 oz) self raising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
250 g (9 oz) icing sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Fresh thyme sprigs, (to serve)
2 x 1lb tin
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Chop the pumpkin into 2 cm pieces. Place in a bowl with olive oil and cinnamon; give a good toss making sure all pieces are coated. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool, then blitz with a food stick blender or in a magimix.
Line the loaf pan with baking paper.
In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick and combined. Pour in the olive oil and combine. Stir through the pureed pumpkin. Sieve over the flour and spices, stir together until all incorporated.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile make the icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a medium bowl, gradually add the lemon juice until you have a thick runny consistency. Pour over the cake and decorate with fresh thyme sprigs.
Ballymaloe Halloween Barmbrack
This is a more modern version of barmbrack, now commonly called a ‘tea brack’ because the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight to plump it up. Even though it is a very rich bread, in Ireland it is traditionally served sliced and buttered.
Yields about 12 slices (eat the crusts, too!)
110g (4oz) sultanas
110g (4oz) raisins
110g (4oz) currants
50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered
300ml (10fl oz) hot tea
1 organic egg, whisked
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
50g (2oz) homemade candied peel
ring, stick, pea, piece of cloth, all wrapped up in greaseproof paper
450g (1lb) loaf tin – 12.5 x 20cm (5 x 8in) OR 3 small loaf tins 15 x 7.5cm (6 x 3in)
Put the dried fruit and cherries into a bowl. Cover with hot tea and leave to plump up overnight.
Next day, line the loaf tin with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin. Tuck the various charms into the loaf.
Cook in for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Brush with a little ‘bun wash’
Keeps very well in an airtight tin.
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
Heat the water and sugar in a tiny saucepan, boil for two minutes, allow to cool.