Halloween – yet another jolly occasion and excuse to eat loads of delicious food, have friends around, dress up madly and generally end up feeling a little blue and possibly hung-over.
Halloween has become a fun festival, always celebrated on October 31st, and has its roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saints Day, which could be considered religious on either side of the spectrum, both Christian and Pagan. However, it has become far more secular and acknowledged as major ‘celebration day’ in the United States and Canada. The UK, Ireland and Scotland are now taking up the cause in an impressive way and the day that is lucky enough to host this occasion is now firmly on the social calendar. This is as it should be, being Celtic after all…
The ghoulishness comes from strangely enough, the Christian side of the camp as ‘The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed’ becomes The Day of the Dead.
As mentioned food plays a huge part in this occasion and has its ‘traditional’ favourites. Pumpkins feature heavily and the pumpkin itself is used to make scary lanterns with skeletal faces cut into them. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, roasted pumpkin seeds and candy pumpkins are but some of the more popular foods eaten at this time of the year. Apples feature on the menu as they are in season, and are used to make toffee apples or candy apples, not only a favourite for the kids but for the whole family. Novelty sweets also feature in the shape of skulls, bats, worms – anything bloody or outlandish would fit the bill!
Games using apples are popular, mainly in the US, such as dunking or apple bobbing, in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and the participants must use their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. A variant of dunking involves kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings; these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity that inevitably leads to a very sticky face.
In these days of healthy eating and gourmet diet delivery meals, it is as well to consider what may be a healthy alternative to all the groan-making foods. Here are some recipes that are sure to please the Halloweeners in the UK, if not across the pond.
Hearty pumpkin curry – Photograph by Alpha
Pumpkin Curry with Chickpeas
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 3 tbsp Thai yellow curry paste
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 3 large stalks lemongrass, bashed with the back of a knife
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 tbsp mustard seed
- 1 small pumpkin (about 1kg)
- 250ml vegetable stock
- 400ml can reduced-fat coconut milk
- 400g can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
- 2 limes
- Large handful mint leaves
- Naan bread, to serve
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan, then gently sweat the onions on very low heat until transparent, not brown.
- Add the curry paste (which can be quite fierce) with the, lemongrass, cardamom and mustard seed and sauté gently for 3 – 5 mins until fragrant.
- Cut the pumpkin into bite size cubes and add to the pan and coat in the paste, then pour in the stock and coconut milk.
- Bring everything to a gentle simmer, add the chickpeas, and then cook for about 15 mins until the pumpkin is tender.
- Squeeze the juice of one lime into the curry, and then cut the other lime into wedges to serve alongside.
- Just before serving, tear over mint leaves, then bring to the table with the lime wedges and warm naan breads.
A great dish for the veggies, and the chickpeas add the necessary protein.
Another great thing to have at this time of year, with a healthier angle than toffee apples and almost as much fun, is the old fashioned tried and tested baked cinnamon apples with raisins and honey. They are eaten as a dessert rather than on a stick but will nevertheless please the crowd.
Some delicious-looking apples baking in the oven – Photograph by Starsammy
Baked Cinnamon Apples with Raisins & Honey
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 80g honey
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 60g raisins
- 60g raw almonds
- 110g chopped dates
- 6 apples
- Core the apples – leave skins on.
- Mix other ingredients all together to form a fruity nut sticky paste.
- Stuff sticky mix down the hole in the apple.
- Stand the apples on baking sheet.
- Put in medium oven and bake for approximately 30 mins or till you see the apples lose their firmness and feel soft to the touch (wrap your hand in a tea towel before touching the apple)
Serve hot with thick Greek yoghurt and a generous health-giving sprinkle of chopped pecans. Guaranteed to get even Casper out of mothballs!
What are some of your favourite gourmet diet delivery-style treats at this time of year? Got any tips on tasty things to make with all those cheap pumpkins now that Halloween is over? Let us know!