Is everyone ready for a night of ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night?
Halloween has snowballed in popularity in recent years and though there’s an assumption that it’s an ‘American import’, it’s actually thought to date back to the ancient Celtic pagan festival of Sahmain or ‘summer’s End’, which was a community celebration, held on November 1st to mark the annual harvest and the start of a New Year. It was a time of festivities and bonfires and the people of the time believed that the spirits of the dead were active.
Over time, elements of Sahmain merged with observance of the Christian feast day of All Saints or ‘All Hallows’ giving rise to the term of Hallow E’en for the night before the festivities . Children and the poor would go from house to house ‘souling’ to beg for small soul cakes in return for saying a prayer for the dead. Quite a ringer for modern day trick or treating!
Emigrants to the new world of America took these age old traditions with them and over time, it evolved into the much loved modern day celebration, which has come full circle back to the UK and is a perfect excuse to get together and party with family and friends.
Of course, all good parties need a celebration cake and we’ve found this fabulous idea from the Vegetarian Society for a creepy Black Widow cake. You’ve just got time to bake it before tomorrow night!
Serves 8-12 slices
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 45 minutes
For the cake:
100g soft eating liquorice pieces
250ml vegetable oil
165g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
50g walnut pieces, ground
2 tbsp gram flour mixed with 4 tbsp water
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
Few drops vanilla extract
For the icing:
60g icing sugar
½ tsp food colouring (optional)
1 tbsp water
Black icing pen
1 piece of soft eating liquorice
1. Preheat oven to 180C/ Gas Mark 4. Chop the liquorice into small pieces and put in a small pan with 175ml water. Boil for about 5 minutes until the liquorice is starting to go soft and mushy. Remove from the heat and pour in the vegetable oil, stirring well.
2. Put the remaining cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir in the liquorice mixture.
3. Put in a small (18cm) lined cake tin and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of the middle of the cake clean.
4. Leave in the cake tin to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Mix together the icing sugar, food colouring (if using) and water, then spread over the cooled cake with a palette knife, gently and evenly. Using the black icing pen draw a web pattern on top of the icing. Then make a spider out of the spare piece of liquorice!
Recipe © The Vegetarian Society 2012. Visit www.vegsoc.org for more recipes and information.
Whenever we travel to a new place, we’re always keen to try out a few local food treats if we can, so on a recent trip to New York we decided to hook up with a local company running Food on Foot tours to get a little off the beaten track.
Food on Foot run a whole range of different food tours and ours took in the East Village with a three hour walk that gave us a flavour of neighbourhood food away from the tourist hotspots. Meeting under the entrance for Grand Central Terminal (it’s not a station – we’d done that tour the day before!) our group of about 30 from nations around the world slowly came together and we set off on for the subway in pursuit of tour leader Corey. He reckons he’s the only foodie tour leader brave enough to take a large group on the subway – thankfully we didn’t let him down and the whole group made it to the right stop without mishap.
Corey’s strap-line is that he’s a ‘real New Yorker taking you out for real New York food.’ His tours aren’t about gourmet tastings, but about getting to the heart of real New York street food.
Clearly, we’re not going to reveal his route and stops as that would spoil the tour- part of the fun is in not knowing where you’ll go and what you’ll try. We did six stops though, sampling both savoury and sweet treats at small local establishments that we’d never have otherwise found, let alone tried. At each stop, Corey told us about the food they specialised in and why he’d included it, then gave a recommendation for what to try. In between, he sprinkled in a few interesting facts and snippets about New York’s history and culture; giving us little insights that weren’t in the guide books. It was turning into a great little tour.
New York is famous for its New York style pizza, which apparently originated back in the early 1900’s, but Corey reckons that really good New York style pizza is now getting hard to find, so he wanted to make sure we tasted some on this trip. We’re not big pizza lovers – we eat it occasionally, but can definitely live without it – so we admit to being a little bit tepid about this stop. We have to say though that the slice we went for was fabulous – most definitely the best pizza we have ever tasted.
At the final sweet stop, we plumped for a ‘New York Italian’ ice cream which was the perfect end to the tour and a thoroughly enjoyable three hours. It was a good six hours before we could eat anything else!
While there’s always a certain thrill involved in finding a wonderful new restaurant, there are also other fantastic ways to enjoy great food during the summer season. During the summer, with the weather warming up and the sun staying up longer, many people like to attend outdoor events which allow us to enjoy a picnic or barbecue.
Of course, sometimes these events are already established, and you are able to just go and enjoy the food, drink and company. However, sometimes, it’s nice to put your own al fresco fare together too. It’s easy enough to pop into Marks and Spencer for a few nice bottles of summer wine and a few fresh ingredients to organize your own picnic or barbecue – so we’ve collected a few recipe ideas for you to consider.
Here are 5 particularly fitting ideas for outdoor cooking, summer weather, and good company.
1. Portobello Burgers
If you’re going to be hosting an outdoor dinner event and cooking with a barbecue grill, you’ll have plenty of options. But for a nice summery twist a portobello burger is a great option. Hearty meals are always appreciated, but lighter options can go down a treat in warmer weather and a portobello mushroom with a little chopped garlic and a drizzle of olive oil makes a great tasty burger and is easy to manage for a large group.
2. Grilled Tacos
Tacos are some of the easiest food options for large groups, and are absolutely perfect for outdoor summer dining. Simply barbecue your choice of meat or fish and provide enough interesting toppings to allow your guests to make up their own tacos. In particular a few light citrus sauces and toppings such as shredded lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes are likely to be popular.
Another incredibly simple but delicious option for summer dining is a grilled kebab. One of the great things about serving up kebabs is that they work beautifully for both vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Serve up skewers with peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and tomatoes, and/or chunks of meat on them, and you’ll have plenty of easy, delicious food to please your guests. Have a few few sauce options and some warm pitta on hand and the meal is sorted!
4. Lettuce Wraps
If you want to serve up food and leave assembly entirely to your guests, lettuce wraps can be perfect. An array of cooked meats, tofu, chopped vegetables, spices and sauces – and in some cases, even nuts – will provide just about any toppings your guests could want. Lettuce wraps are a bit of work, which many people appreciate during communal, outdoor dining experiences, as it can be great fun and heightens the social atmosphere.
5. Salads With Fruit
Finally, for the simplest option of all, offer up a well-conceived salad with fresh summer fruit and vegetables. There’s scope to make it as exciting as you like by adding a good range of ingredients from meat or fish, to cooked grains such as tabbouleh or quinoa or even a few fresh berries or some chopped citrus to give the salad a unique and summery feel.