How does the food artisan get the most out of the Halloween season?
In days of yore, it was bags of fruit and nuts collected by enthusiastically dressed up children, proudly exhibiting handmade costumes. In modern times, sweet treats and ready-made costumes tend to dominate, but the tradition remains as vibrant as ever and the perfect autumnal event to signal the onset of winter. For the lover of fine food in the season of Samhain, it’s all about getting back in touch with mother earth and the bountiful harvest, as we face into darker evenings, colder weather and the prospect of nights by the fire.
Once some spangles of spooky significance have been placed conspicuously around the house and confectionary abounds for any little ones you might have about the place, thoughts can pivot towards adult provender.
CHOCOLATE IS A MUST
The number of Irish producers of amazing artisan chocolate has exploded in recent years. At Halloween, we particularly like chocolate flavoured with autumnal toppings such as beetroot or hazelnuts roasted in warming spices. Wexford based chocolatiers-par-excellence, Bean and Goose have been playing with these flavours to bring the perfect accompaniment to a night by the fire.
Rhoda Cocoa in Wicklow offer bars of delectable decadence, to put a smile of contentment upon the face of even the ghastliest ghoul. Good quality chocolate carefully tempered and scattered with crunchy nuts, juicy fruit and heavenly honeycomb are the perfect way to unwind from a spot of dunking for apples in the garden. The salt peanuts and honeycomb variant (we think) will have you in seventh heaven.
If a tipple is on the agenda, a clear nod to our pagan heritage is the mead produced by the Kinsale Mead Company. We particularly loved the summer berries variety, but in terms of taste profiles, there is something for most palates. Drink it as you would a good wine. Wooden goblets are of course optional.
Alternatively, we have been experimenting with autumnal spiced sangria. Not too dissimilar to a mulled wine, except using white wine as the base and flavoured with seasonal spices and fruits of your choice. Try figs, pomegranates, persimmons or sliced apples and pears combined with cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves and sliced fresh ginger. For an added kick add a splash of apple brandy and warm gently.
BUT WHAT OF MORE SUBSTANTIAL MEALS?
Halloween or Samhain, the Irish pagan festival upon which Halloween is based, traditionally marked the transition from the ‘lighter’ part of the year into the approaching darkness of winter. As the evenings are colder and darkness arrives earlier in the evening, our tummies appreciate more hearty fare.
The traditional mash with kale, beloved of Irish mammies can still draw a recollective smile. Be generous with the butter and add a good pinch of freshly ground or crushed black pepper (and salt to taste), in order to whip this childhood memory into a retro classic. Serve it with a slow roasted organic venison from Ballinwillin farm in Cork for a tasty meal that the adults (and kids) will love. If venison proves tricky to get hold of, good quality Irish beef chuck or brisket can work just as well.
AS ALWAYS, DON'T FORGET THE KIDS!
Halloween is definitely a time for celebrating with the kids. The traditional toffee apple is always a winner at foodeezzHQ. We prefer a runnier caramel made from coconut milk, unsalted butter and brown sugar. Once made, dip apple slices into the caramel sauce and then sprinkle with toppings of your choice – chopped nuts or desiccated coconut for example.
Another winner for those with children who love to ‘help’ with the baking are basic cupcakes which are then decorated to reflect the season. Spiders legs from liquorice, ghosts from marshmallows, pumpkins from orange piped icing. Let your imagination run wild, or if you are brave enough give the kids a free reign!