Wow, Halloween is back with a vengeance this year. Now that
restrictions have eased, much of that pent up excitement can be channelled into
Halloween celebrations and rowdy trick or treating.
I’ve come full circle, from memories of childhood Halloweens with neighbours recounting ghost spooky stories, scaring the living daylights out of us children with ‘true stories’ of banshees waiting in graveyards and haunted houses to resentment of corporate marketing and the commercialisation of Halloween on a par with Christmas.
But, I’ve decided to lighten up and enter into the spooky spirit with the enthusiastic help of my grandchildren. Who can resist the excitement of the little dotes who have been decorating their houses and planning their costumes for weeks, no longer having to suppress the glee, so I too have embrace the whacky bandwagon…while quietly doing my utmost to suggest riffs on delicious recipes with a spooky Halloween slant, so embrace your inner ghoul and let’s have a wild Halloween party.
Get the kids involved in decorating the house outrageously and the cooking too â€“ so there is something for everyone coming up.
Pumpkin carving is definitely a must do, it keeps everyone happily amused for hours and the flesh can be used for a pumpkin soup. The giant pumpkins are principally grown for size. They are bred to have thin walls for easy carving. They are fun to carve but tend to have pale watery flesh with little flavour. One can use it for soup but you’ll need to use a really tasty stock and lots of herbs and spices to add flavour. Better still, choose a smaller pumpkin with deep orange flesh.
Pumpkin and squash seeds are edible so don’t bin the seeds.
Pumpkin seeds are a fantastic source of protein, magnesium, copper,
iron and zinc. The hulls tend to be
tough so do your best to shell them first which can be quite a
mission but I prefer to roast and crunch.
On a more sombre note, if you have lost loved ones this year, perhaps you might like to create an offenda, a family altar with lots of photos, nostalgic items and keepsakes to remember them by. Gather around and remember them joyfully, tell stories and eat some of their favourite foods as they do in Mexico on The Day of the Dead.
Green Slime with Nachos
Makes 16 approx. depending on size
Serve 3-4 as a starter garnished with a red chilli or serve as a dip.
16 warm tortillas, 2 1/2 inch (6cm) approx.
450g (1lb) podded fresh or frozen peas
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
1/2 fresh chilli, finely chopped (seeds removed)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, approx. and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the peas in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Refresh under cold water and drain. Whizz the olive oil with the lime juice, coriander and chilli in a food processor, blend for 1 minute. Add the peas, cumin, coriander, parsley and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and blend until smooth and slimy. Taste, correct the seasoning, put into a bowl and cover until needed.
Serve with tortilla chips or nachos.
Witches Brew with Wiggly Worms
Sounds scary but tastes deliciousâ€¦
25g (1oz) lean bacon
15g (1/2oz) butter
2 medium spring onions, chopped
1.2 litres (2 pints) light homemade chicken stock or water
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
700g (1 1/2lb) podded peas, fresh or frozen
outside leaves of a head of lettuce, shredded
a sprig of mint
2 tablespoons thick cream
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
50g (2oz) of streaky bacon lardons
freshly chopped mint
Heat the chicken stock.
Cut the bacon into fine shreds. Melt the butter and sweat the bacon for about 5 minutes, add the spring onion and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the hot chicken stock or water. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil with the lid off, add the peas, lettuce and sprig of mint, cook for 3-4 minutes approximately or until the vegetables are just tender. Fry the lardons in olive oil over a medium heat until they plump up and look like crisp worms.
Remove the mint, liquidise and add a little cream to taste. Serve hot scattered with â€˜the wormsâ€™.
Be really careful not to overcook this soup
or you will lose the fresh taste and brightgreen colour. Add
a little extra stock if the witches brew is too thick.
Rory Oâ€™Connellâ€™s Pumpkin Soup with Herb Oil and Crisped Pumpkin Seeds
We have a lot of pumpkin soups, Rory Oâ€™Connellâ€™s recipe is the latest one in our repertoire.
Be careful when peeling the pumpkin as the skin can be tough and cause your knife to slip, so make sure your knife is always pointing away from you when you are preparing the vegetable.
50g (2oz) butter or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
450g (1lb) pumpkin, weighed after peeling, and cut into small dice, approx. 2cm (3/4 inch)
225g (8oz) onions, peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.2 liters (2 pints) chicken stock or 800ml (1 3/4 pints approx.) for a thicker soup
225ml (8fl oz) creamy milk (optional)
4 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds toasted on a dry pan until crisp
Herb Oil (see recipe)
Melt the butter or heat the oil in a saucepan. Allow the butter to foam or the oil to get quite hot. Add the pumpkin, onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and coat the vegetables in the fat. Cover with a butter wrapper or greaseproof paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Sweat the vegetables on a very low heat. After 15 minutes the vegetables should be starting to collapse at the edges. Now add the stock. Replace the lid and simmer for approx. 20 minutes or until the vegetables are completely soft.
PurÃ©e the soup in a liquidizer or with a handheld blender. Taste and correct seasoning and if the consistency is a little thick, thin out with some creamy milk or more stock.
Serve in hot bowls with a drizzle of herb oil and a scattering of toasted pumpkin seeds on each serving.
This oil is also delicious on simple grilled lamb, beef, pork or fish and will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 tablespoons of chopped herbs; parsley, chives, marjoram, sage or rosemary.
(Use just one of the herbs or a combination of what is available to you)
zest of 1/4 of a lemon
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the oil, chopped herbs, lemon zest, chilli and garlic and season with sea salt and black pepper.
Roast Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are super delicious and bouncing with nutrients. Roast with salt or sugar and add them to breakfast cereals, breads, salads, or simply nibble to your heartâ€™s content. Alternatively, dry the seeds and save for next yearâ€™s crop.
Split the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and wash off the fibres.
Bring the pumpkin seeds to the boil in a saucepan of salted water (1 teaspoon for every 1.2 litres (2 pints) of water. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 120ÂºC/250ÂºF/Gas Mark 1â„2.
Drain the seeds, dry, toss in a tiny amount of oil, 1/2 – 1 teaspoon is enough for 1 pumpkin. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, toss again.
Spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Dry roast for 30â€“35 minutes, then check after 30 minutes, they should be nice and crunchy.
Cool and store in an airtight jar, they will keep up to three months at
room temperature and longer in the fridge. They can also be tossed in a
mixture of spices, such as cumin and coriander, or a mixture of sugar and
cinnamon or ginger before roasting.
Halloween Meringue Pumpkins and Spooky Ghosts
For the meringue:
120g (scant 4 1/2oz) egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
180g (6 1/4oz) caster sugar
orange, green, red and black gel food dyes (or use your favourite colours)
edible glue (or a paste made of icing sugar and water)
edible eyes and sprinkles
Add the egg white into a bowl of a food-processor. Mix on a high speed until you have soft peaks, whisk in the cream of tartar, then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking for about 30 seconds to a minute after each addition. It is important to add the sugar very slowly so that it all dissolves.
When all the sugar has incorporated (the mixture should feel smooth between your fingers), divide the meringue between different bowls depending on how many colours you want to make. Stir the gel food dye into each bowl until evenly distributed.
For the pumpkins, slip a piping nozzle with lots of open teeth into your piping bag before spooning in orange-coloured meringue. When you pipe, it will look like the ridges on a pumpkin. Pipe a small amount of green meringue for the stalk (just snip the end of a piping bag for this). For the ghosts, fill a piping bag with white meringue (you can use other colours, too), cut a medium tip and pipe meringue kisses. You can also use your fingers to pinch the sides to create little arms, or pipe on little arms. For the tall ghosts with a rippled effect, alternate between squeezing and stopping squeezing your piping bag while working your way upwards. Play about with other shapes and effects.
Bake for 45-60 minutes at 120ËšC (100ËšC Fan)/250ËšF/Gas Mark 1/2 for meringues that are gooey in the centre. For completely crisp and dry meringues, bake for 1 1/2 hours and then switch off the oven and leave the oven door closed for a few hours and allow to cool.
To decorate, use red gel food dye for blood (you can thin this with a little water)
and black gel food dye for other details. Use edible glue to stick on edible
eyes and sprinkles (e.g. bones).
Witches Black Cat Cake
We also do a scary spider web on top of this cake â€“ have fun experimentingâ€¦.
Makes 36 bites/19 squares/12 slices
225g (8oz) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g (2oz) cocoa
350g (12oz) sugar
110g (4oz) softened butter
225ml (8fl oz) sour milk or buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 organic eggs
300g (10oz) icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa
2 teaspoons melted butter
35ml (1 1/3fl oz) coffee
cocoa for dusting
300ml (10fl oz softly whipped cream)
Line a 22.5cm (9 inch) square tin or
3 x 17.5cm (6 3/4 inch) sandwich tins with parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 180ËšC/350Â°F/Gas Mark 4
Sieve the dry ingredients together into the bowl of a food mixer. Add the soft butter, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Beat for two minutes. Add the eggs one by one. Beat for a further 2 minutes. Fill into the prepared tin or tins. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the chocolate icing.
Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa together. Beat in the butter and moisten with coffee to a spreading consistency.
Ice the top and sides of the cake or sandwich the two rounds together with the icing. Decorate the top of the cake with a scary cat face using white chocolate icing.
Cut into squares or slices and serve with softly whipped cream.
Vampire Lemonade with Vampire Teeth Ice Cubes
Store the stock syrup in the fridge until needed. This quantity is enough for several batches of lemonade.
4 ruby grapefruit
350ml (12fl oz) approx. stock syrup made with 350g (12oz) sugar and 600ml (1 pint) of water. Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.
1.4 litres (2 1/2 pint) approx. sparkling or still water
Vampire teeth ice cubes (freeze halved almonds in ice cubes with a drop of edible red food colouring).
Juice the fruit and mix with the stock syrup, add water to taste. Add ice, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm and serve.