Spooky Specialties for Halloween
Halloween enthusiasts, gather round the campfire! (Or the stove, if that’s what you have.) A chill has set in the air: it’s that time of the year once more when the night feels like it has its store of secrets once more. It’s time to dim the lights, swap stories with family or friends, and embrace a night of frightful fun!
A time for darkness
While the term “All Hallow’s Eve” stems from the Christian tradition that marks the last night of October as a night to remember the saints and all of those who passed away, the celebration’s rich history stretches further back to the time of the Celts of Britain and Ireland some 2000 years ago.
Within the Celtic agricultural calendar, the beginning of winter and therefore the cessation of farming would fall to what would be today’s first November days. As the fields were lifeless for the meantime, there is much superstition on the association between human death and long dark winters.  Thus they believed that on this night, called Samhain, doors to other supernatural realms opened and allowed the spirits, benign and malevolent, to return to the earth. Bonfires were set ablaze to chase away ill-meaning sprites, and it also was symbolically important, as it took the place of the sun’s light and warmth to combat winter. But just in case the spirits were already among them, participants would wear masks and costumes so the spirits (who expressed liking for humans by taking them away) would be thwarted.
Unlike the overtly negative tones that was later associated to this day, the Druid priests took this opportunity to “commune” with the spirits and tell fortunes so that the village folk could properly prepare for what was ahead. They also welcomed the short visit of the spirits of their ancestors and other beneficial beings, so hearths were lit and food would be set out as a hospitable gesture. As this would coincide with the end of the fall harvest, the year’s abundance would be shared with them. Should a household be so careless as to forget this, some ill fortune would befall due out of a spirit’s spite. 
The connection with visiting souls and food was later adopted into Christian practices. Much later, children disguised as these supernatural beings would pass by other households to pray for that family’s departed members’ heavenly repose in return for cakes or food, coin, or drink. This turned out to be an entertaining hit as children were also asked to do other “tricks” besides praying for souls, like singing or reciting poetry, before they were given “treats.” Thus, giving rise to the singular activity of Halloween, Trick-or-Treat.
Going back to the rich rituals that started it all, this celebration relayed remembrance, a sense of community, and a mindfulness of the cycles of life. Food was part of the festivities: expressing the community’s values and nourishing body and soul.
No tricks, only treats
These days, Halloween has been reduced to activities concerning costume parties and, for Trick-or-Treaters, candy—lots and lots of candy. Too much, in fact, that Halloween sugar highs should be a legitimate concern for parents.
By actually preparing Halloween dinner and munchies, one can bring back not just the thoughtfulness of this celebration by bringing people together but also help against an overindulgence of sugar. Filling up kids with dinner before a party or going to Trick-or-Treat would make them less likely to gorge on candy. And if you’re staying home, have family or close friends over for a feast, followed by a night of horrors (with movies and stories, of course) to make the night more meaningful.
Purée of Pumpkin Guts
If ever you decided to make a Jack-o-Lantern décor from fresh pumpkin or squash, you’d end up with plenty of the sweet orange flesh on the side. Rather than discard this, make a warm, creamy soup that is full of Vitamin A and the flavour of fall. Ginger complements the sweetness of the pumpkin, and unlike many recipes, this uses yogurt to keep it creamy but wonderfully light. Prop the lantern on the table, serve the soup, and say it was made from that very lantern’s insides.
Pumpkin Ginger Soup
3 lb. of Pumpkin flesh, deseeded and chopped into chunks
1 ½ Tbsp Borges Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
1 tsp Salt
2 Onions, chopped
6 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp Ginger, freshly grated
¼ cup Plain Greek yogurt
3 cups Chicken or Vegetable stock
3 Sage leaves, chopped
6 Thyme sprigs
1/8 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
In a roasting pan or sheet, toss the chopped pumpkin, olive oil with ¼ tsp salt, pepper and sprigs of thyme. Arrange in one layer and roast until very tender, about 60-65 mins. Remove the tough skins.
Place the butter in a heated stockpot then sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger until softened, then add the pumpkin flesh, sage, stock, and remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and add the nutmeg and yogurt, then blend again. Taste and season again, if necessary. Serve immediately.
Fresh and Meaty… Mummies?
Thankfully, these mummies baked inside swathes of puff pastry don’t smell like musty museum relics. The crust is crisp and buttery while preserving the juiciness of the sausages inside. Use any sausage flavour that you prefer, but cook them thoroughly before wrapping them up.
Store-bought Frozen puff pastry
Sausages (preferably pork)
Borges Extra Light Olive Oil, for roasting and baking
Borges Pitted Black Olives, finely diced for the eyes
Defrost the store-bought puff pastry. Prepare a roasting pan with a coating of oil and lay down sausages in a single layer then roast until cooked, basing the time on package instructions or until juices run clear when a sausage is poked. Set aside to cool briefly.
Roll out the defrosted puff pastry and cut into 1 inch wide strips lengthwise. Roll strips around the sausages from bottom to top, leaving a gap for the mummy’s eyes later. Line and oil a clean baking tray with parchment paper and light olive oil then bake until golden brown. Pipe on two eyeballs with mayonnaise and use small diced black olives for the eyes. Serve with ketchup.
Nothing gives you the heebie-jeebies as much as four pairs of spindly, hairy legs suddenly scuttling across your path. Something about spiders and their menacing movements is so instinctively terrifying that even most horror-hardened adults bolt from their seats. And for Halloween dinner, using olives for spiders are an easy way to add a spooky factor to any savoury dish. It’s also a good way to involve kids in food preparations.
Easy Spider Pizza
1 package fully-baked Mini Pizza Crusts
1 jar readymade Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella cheese slices
Drain the brine of the black olives and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut several olives into halves for the bodies. For the legs, halve the olives then slice crosswise into half-moons. Set legs and bodies aside for assembly later. Using a ghost-shaped cookie cutter, cut out ghost shapes from the cheese slices then set aside.
Preheat the oven to 230°C. Spoon the pizza sauce over the crust and place a few cheese “ghosts” on the sauce. Bake the pizzas for 8 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Over the warm pizza, take the olive halves and arrange pairs of legs around the body to resemble a spider.
Ghosts in the Dark
Tis the season for darkness—that is, when chocolate is concerned! Chocolate is always a satisfying way to end a meal, and it’s even more irresistible as cupcakes that fit in the palm of your hand. Dressing up the cupcakes to fit the theme as little ghosts is not hard at all, with the help of readymade buttercream and chocolate chip eyes. And while some sweet treats are overly laden with fats, using grapeseed oil is trans-fat free so it’s not so scary, health-wise.
3/4 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 cup Unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3/4 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Salt
2 Eggs, large
1/2 cup White sugar
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/3 cup Borges Grapeseed Oil
2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 cup Buttermilk
Topping: Pre-packaged Vanilla Buttercream Icing; Mini Chocolate Chips
You can prepare the cupcake base a day ahead. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, oil, and vanilla. Pour over the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix in half of the buttermilk, then whisk briefly before adding the other half of the buttermilk. Mix until just combined, and do not over-mix.
Preheat your oven to 177°C. Meanwhile, line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. This recipe makes around 14 cakes. Pour the batter into the lined containers only up to half. Bake for 18-21 minutes. Let cool completely before decorating.
To make the ghostly décor, use a piping bag to pipe the buttercream in a fat spiral on the cupcakes. Use the mini chocolate chips as the eyes.
There’s more to Halloween beyond the candy and the costumes. It’s a day to remember the departed and to relish the presence of the living when things are uncertain or when days just blur into one another. It’s high time we go back to those earlier ideas through spending time and sharing quality food with those we love. The exciting aspects of fright and horror just make everything memorable. With that, have a happy Halloween!