Thursday, 28 October 2010


There I was thinking that this week would be a continuation of the pear saga but instead it turned out to be all about pumpkins and Halloween.

We had a Halloween Treasure Hunt evening planned with friends for Wednesday evening so when the girls started Monday with "I'm bored..." I decided we might as well get the Halloween lanterns carved. My eldest proved last year to be an excellent pumpkin carver so I gave her the honor of carving our single home-grown pumpkin (and to think we grew 19 pumpkins last year!). We had a few monster marrows too so I helped my youngest carve one of these as a Halloween alien head.

An hour later we had a splendid scary alien and a spooky ghost pumpkin. We had also generated a big bowlful of pumpkin flesh. Steve's all time favourite cake just happens to be pumpkin ginger tea bread so half the flesh was destined for a loaf of that... all the tastier for not having it for a year.

Pumpkin and Ginger Tea Bread

175g melted butter
140g clear honey
1 egg, beaten
250g fresh pumpkin
100g light muscovado sugar
350g self-raising flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and line a 2lb load tin. Mix together the butter, honey, egg and pumpkin. Add the muscovado sugar, flour and ginger and stir until well combined. Pour into the tin then sprinkle over the Demerara sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes until risen and golden. Leave in the tin to cool for 10-15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

The remaining flesh was steamed, ready to make pumpkin pancakes. This has long been a favourite breakfast recipe of my girls and I feel all the more virtuous about feeding them pancakes for breakfast since watching last week's episode of River Cottage Everyday which advocated pancakes for breakfast. They take a bit of effort to make but they can be frozen and reheated from frozen with about 1 minute in the microwave so they are even suitable for a weekday morning breakfast. Better still served with a squirt of cream from a canister!

Pumpkin pancakes (makes 16-18)

250g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed spice
55g light brown sugar
3 eggs
284 ml carton buttermilk
175 g pumpkin puree
4 teaspoon sunflower oil
A few sultanas (optional)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, raising agents and spice. In another bowl, mix together the sugar, egg, milk, pumpkin and oil. Make a well in the centre of the flour and gradually mix in the wet ingredients until a batter forms. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add 60ml (2 tablepoons or 1/4 cup) of batter at a time. Cook until the base is set then flip and cook until the second side has set and browned. If you wish, you can scatter a few sultanas into the batter as you cook it. Either serve hot or cool on a wire rack and freeze for use later.

We had a buffet tea planned for dinner after the treasure hunt so I spent Wednesday morning in the kitchen cooking some buffet food such as cocktail sausages and sausage rolls but the great thing about Halloween is the opportunity to get creative and invent spooky food. We made a batch of the chocolate fairy cakes in Halloween themed paper cases then I mixed up some butter icing and dyed it green with a bit of food colouring. The girls then had great fun sticking sweets on top to make monster faces.

Halloween Monster Cakes (Makes 6)

3 oz (85g) self-raising flour
2 oz (55g) butter at room temperature
2 oz (55g) light brown sugar
1/2 oz (15g) cocoa powder
1 large egg
1½ oz (40g) butter
2 oz (55g) icing sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract
Food colouring

Preheat oven to 190°C. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk with an electric whisk for 1 minute. Place a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into petit four cases on a baking tray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack. Cream together the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and food colouring to make the icing. Spread the icing onto the top of each cake then decorate with sweets to make monster faces.

I also experimented with a mixture of melted marshmallows and rice crispie cereal which I moulded into balls and stuck on cocktail sticks to make "brains on sticks". Not only did this make me chuckle but they tasted great too!

Brains on Sticks

1 oz (25g) butter
2 oz (55g) pink & white marshmallows
3 oz (75g) Rice cereal

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir continuously until melted. Remove from the heat and add the rice cereal. Stir until well mixed then leave to cool for a few minutes until it can be handled. Whilst still warm, mould into small balls and poke in a cocktail stick. Chill to set before serving.

Then for a few savoury bits I used Halloween cookie cutters to cut out gravestone pieces of cheese and pumpkin sandwiches - or should that be sand-witches? And to garnish the plate, I cut a few fang shaped pieces of cucumber. But the bit the girls loved making most were the "Mummy Mini Pizzas". These proved to be very tasty too.

Mummy Mini Pizzas (makes about 15)

1 pack of pizza base mix
Pizza or pasta tomato sauce
3 "Cheese Strips"

Preheat oven to 200°C. gas 6 and grease a large baking tray. Make up the pizza base according to the pack instructions and roll out the dough. Cut the base into small circles using a large circular biscuit cutter. Spread tomato sauce onto each one. Use the large end of a icing nozzle to cut out circular pieces of ham to make eyes. Use the small end of the icing nozzle to cut out tiny circular pieces of mushroom to make pupils. Break the "Cheese Strips" into its smallest strips and use these to lay across the pizzas for the mummy's bandages. Cook for 10 minutes and serve hot.

I think making the food was almost as much fun as the treasure hunt itself!

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