Of course it’s the season of the witch! Welcome to my musings about seasonal treats and ideas for a healthy and fabulous Halloween menu.
What is Halloween for you?
Trick or treat, pumpkins, apples, eerie home and garden decorations, costumes and makeup, entertaining guests?
All of that, or some of that, or something in between?
To me, minimalistic Halloween spirit in food and decorations (plus a party!) are more than enough. So I suggest, let’s start Funtober with a post about Halloween food being…
If you think about food on Halloween, there are three sorts of foods that look good on a themed dinner table:
1. The seasonal food – vegetables (pumpkins, gourds, and squashes; turnips/kohlrabi, fennel, black salsifies), fruits (plums, apples, grapes, pears) and wild mushrooms that all just invite you to create comforting, savoury menus of uberhealthy veggie goodness;
2. The “scary” food – party treats that look from cutesy spooky to outright disgusting;
3. The candy treats – candy for trick-or-treaters, though this is rather rare in Europe, or delish giveaways for party guests. The latter can be savoury.
True story: last Halloween I was picking up an order in a studio of Berlin designers Issever Bahri, as the doorbell rang. I could hear two kids mumble “Trick or treat…” in a somewhat shy manner, but as the designer said she had no candy for them, one voice instantly got cheeky: “Then what about some cash?” Berliner Schnauze – practice makes perfect! But let’s not digress.
TWO FACES OF HALLOWEEN FOOD
Today I’m in the mood for dissecting…
…mwahaha, for dissecting the principles of making food look scary, that is. I want to veganise and “green up” everything in order to make all that edible fun healthy, balanced beauty food (the healthier you are, the better you look, amirite?).
To get started, a few fabulous finding from Le Web.
While sites such as marthastewart.com offer gazillions of fancy Halloween recipes along with decoration tips and free printables that are rather funny looking than deeply disturbing (and need veganising yet), Celeste of Honk if you’re vegan has gathered lovely sweet vegan treats for all ages. She’s really put together one Top 10 collection of amazing, mouth-watering treats for your guests: vegan butterfingers! Banana mummies! Vegan caramellised apples! Pumpkin cupcakes! Please this way to discover the deets.
Or, if you can’t get enough vegan baking recipes, check out Stina’s blog VeganPassion – I’m so baking these crazy fabulous chocolate and pumpkin bread with liquid chocolate filling.
To send a chill down your spine: Evil Mad Scientist, one of my fave procrastination pitfalls, have shown in their 2011 Halloween masterclass these totally sick looking “Specimen Jars”: 100% edible sweet and savoury stuff that in fact is 99% vegan (you could skip the non-vegan part without losing any of the sick look because it’s the plants that look beyond scary) – discover the horrid pictures and the how-to here. Green factor of this tutorial? Let me see: glass jars; plant-based; no colourings; sugar alternatives… Gets 10 green foul ghoul brains out of 10!
MY NO-HORRORS SEASONAL MENU FOR SCAREDY-CATS
Pumpkin soup is the first thing on a Halloween menu, right? Well: blarg. My personal pet peeve.
Every time I shiver in anticipation to enjoy a warming, comforting, silky and golden pumpkin soup, I am served a bowl of a mean looking mush that smells and tastes pre-digested. Always. Yikessss.
So I never attempt to cook pumpkin soup myself. Instead, I peruse this lovely seasonal vegetable packed with vitamins to make either:
1. Spicy pumpkin wedges or
2. Pumpkin risotto.
Pumpkin wedges are best served with other seasonal vegetables (fennel; beets; bell paprika; sweet potatoes; red onions etc.), roasted in the oven. It makes a colourful platter and doesn’t need much attention: wash, cut, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt (fancy pants alternative: roll ’em in curry spice or in tajine spice – nomnom), roast until golden.
You can enjoy your veg wedges platter with a dip or an oil of your choice – or toss warm roasted veg wedges with a bit of fresh corn salad, another seasonal highlight, and top with oil and vinegar. Simple and delicious.
A pumpkin risotto is bit more attentive-seeking.
Who am I fooling? Prepare to spend bloody 40 minutes chained to the stove!
You start with stir-frying red onion, pumpkin cubes and a hint of garlic, add your risotto rice and spices of your choice – and proceed as you do with risotto (stir-frying the veg/rice mix first, then adding veg broth one cup at a time and stirring, stirring, stirring). I like to add one TSP of coconut cream in the end and to top the risotto with roasted pumpkin seeds and sweet pine nuts when ready.
NB for non-vegans and cheese-addicts, my tip for a healthier and somewhat animal-friendlier Parmeggiano alternative: grated organic goat parmeggiano – from pasture-raised animals.
Oh, have I forgot the starters?
This is my fave bruschetta recipe – I grab the long summer’s last apricots and make them into a quick, sugar-free, spicy, vitamin-loaden chutney to make gluten-free sourbread bruschetta. Such a treat! And note, it’s conveniently orange 😉
My other fave autumnal comfort food, despite not being orange at all, is seasonal and so tasty you’ll be left asking yourself just this one question – why didn’t anybody tell me – as a kid – that kohlrabi/turnips taste that damn good!?
Precook turnips for about 20 minutes until they’re soft, carve the middle (attention: HOT), chop it with other vegs (onion, paprika) and mix it with pre-cooked wild rice and spices. The trick here is to provide the right amount of spicy flavours (wicked chopped chilies) and creamy and savoury notes (tahin paste) for the filling. Top with almond crust and bake at 210°C until the crust is golden brown.
Squashes are great for stuffing them, too.
Here, a button squash is filled with herbes de Provence/ ratatouille style zucchini, topped with almond crust, and served with vegan mashed potatoes (add a mix of coconut oil and rice milk instead of milk and butter) that, in turn, are topped with fried mushrooms. Nomnomnom.
Even more seasonal goodness hides in my vegan “bœuf-stroganoff” style recipe. EveRy deeecent Russian faaamily have theiR own, hoooned, tiiime-tested Bliny, Borstchchtchschsczczcz… and Bœuf Stroganoff recipe. Obviously.
Now, this one is mine alone – but it tastes like childhood, just minus the distinct smell of beef cooked to death, sorry for the bad pun.
Here, black salsifiers and mushrooms (with sautéd red onions, garlic, fresh rosemary and a bit vegan red wine) make believe they’ve never tasted better.
Back to orange-y goodness.
Chanterelles are the first sign of autumn, and this year they’ve marked my level-up in gluten-free, vegan cooking. A homemade white pizza with chanterelles, scallions, red onions is a delicious no-brainer and truly one more “Vegan Goodness Achievement Unlocked” award for me. The white spread is of course vegan sour cream.
Wwwwwwait. No-brainer? 10 of 10 zombie points! 😀
And for desserts?
Another autumnal favourite: plums.
Plums love spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. And with a red, thick plum sauce… Oh, it’s the scaredy-cats menu. Beg your pardon.
In the moment, plums are my fave addition to morning porridge. They taste heavenly together with soy-based apple yogurt and a grains mix with canihua (uberhealthy seeds that taste slightly like chocolate).
If you are interested in specific recipes en detail rather than just in basic suggestions as above, please point it out in the comments 🙂
WICKED THOUGHT FOR FOOD
It’s not very healthy to mess with food colourings, and too messy to cook up plant-based colours from beetroot or carrots ot berries.
My first weapon of choce for weird looks on dinner plates are exotic salt crystals.
Available in natural colours from blue and red to black, they really can help you create nice, “laboratory”-looking decorations. For example, you could decorate the rims of glasses carrying savoury snacks with naturally black or blue salt.
Himalayan salt available in large crystals won’t add any pink colour to the meal, but looks otherworldly in small specimen jars, labelled something like “petrifyed unicorn poo”.
Mundane things are perceived differently if put in a new “frame” and labelled something weird – use green tea and wasabi-infused mayo for witch-related food.
Vanilla and rosemary look creepy, soaking in green (and fabulously healthy) Uchiyama tea. Especially in candlelight.
Or take nutmegs, for example, looking innocent in their jar…