It's always tricky to know what to serve up to guests at Halloween – apart from giving them something warming and comforting, it also needs to be a bit of fun. Over the years I've given you lots of ideas for hearty pumpkin and squash recipes, so this year I thought I would devote my column to 'black' food that you can serve to your friends and neighbours – in between dishing out the sweets to the children.
Cuttlefish and pumpkin soup
Cuttlefish ink is the obvious ingredient to darken up a spooky Halloween supper; you won't need the black lipstick after you've eaten this one.
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
100ml white wine
1.2ltrs fish stock
250g cleaned cuttlefish, cut into 1cm chunks (tentacles as well)
700-800g yellow fleshed pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into rough 2cm chunks
5 (40g) sachets of cuttlefish or squid ink
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes, without colouring, until soft. Gradually stir or whisk in the white wine and fish stock to avoid lumps forming.
Bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the cuttlefish, pumpkin and squid ink and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Re-season if necessary and serve.
Black and black
You need a black drink to go with your black supper. The British drinks and liqueur market is on the rise at the moment and recently I was pleasantly surprised to be given a bottle of Sedlescombe organic blackberry liqueur from East Sussex (englishorganicwine.co.uk) by a couple of my guests at the kitchen table demo in Charmouth last month. Another great product is Jo Hilditch's British Cassis (britishcassis.co.uk).
So here are two ways to make a Halloween black and black. The first is to mix 1 part of either of the above with 5-6 parts Guinness or stout, or even Hix oyster ale. If you want to create a drink with a bit more of a Halloween kick you could mix equal quantities of Julian Temperley's Kingston black apple aperitif with the British cassis or blackberry liqueur (ciderbrandy.co.uk).
Black pudding baked potato
Try to buy the soft Spanish- or French-style black pudding for this dish as it's easy to mould it on top of the potato. If you can't get hold of it, then soften normal, good-quality black pudding with a little hot water or stock.
2 large baking potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200-250g French- or Spanish-style soft black pudding
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Wash the potatoes, place on a baking tray and bake them for about 1-1½ hours, or until soft. Leave them to cool a little, then cut off about a quarter of the top of each potato and scoop the flesh out into a bowl.
Mash as chunky or as smooth as you wish, then mix with the butter and season to taste. Return the potato skins to the oven for about 10 minutes to crisp them up.
Return the potato to the skins and spoon on the black pudding, mounding it up and moulding it with a spoon. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes to heat through the black pudding; serve.
Baby back ribs in Guinness HP
I came across this Guinness HP sauce down at Jamie Oliver's Feastival on Alex James's farm a few weeks ago. We put it to good use in the early hours with some tiny spare ribs that we found in the fridge; they went down a treat.
3-4 slabs of baby pork back ribs
For the marinade
200g Guinness HP sauce
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
60g root ginger, peeled and finely grated
½tbsp ground cumin
Smear the ribs with all the ingredients for the marinade in a stainless-steel or non-reactive bowl.
Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 24 hours (the longer the better).
Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Transfer the marinated ribs to a baking or roasting tin and cook for 30 minutes, basting as they are cooking.
Turn the oven down to 160C/gas mark 3, cover the tray with foil and continue cooking and basting for another hour, then remove the foil and cook, basting again, for a further 30-45 minutes.
Remove the ribs from the oven and serve whole or cut into sections with a simple green salad, coleslaw or baked sweet potatoes.