I'm not a great one for celebrating Halloween – although obviously I love the variety of pumpkins and squashes that you find in the shops and supermarkets in the weeks preceding the festivities. Halloween is of course more geared towards children, who love donning fancy dress and carving out pumpkins – but where does that leave the grown-ups? Stuck at home, usually, answering the door to trick-or-treating kids ... So that's why this week I'm providing you with some warming Halloween recipes that you could share with your neighbours – in between dishing out bags of sweets.
This is a traditional recipe unearthed by Nick Strangeway, the cocktail supremo at my new restaurant. It's a warming long drink combining ale with apple purée and spices. It also features in a verse from Robert Herrick's Twelfth Night (c1648).
Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lamb's wool
Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make a wassail a swinger
Makes 4 small glasses
1 bottle of Hix IPA or light ale or bitter
For the sugar syrup
200g granulated sugar
4 allspice berries
The peelings from the grated root ginger, below
2cm of a cinnamon stick
For the apple purée
500g bramley apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
A good pinch of grated nutmeg
tbsp finely grated root ginger
120g Demerara sugar
First, make the sugar syrup. Put all of the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes; remove from the heat and cool. Then place all the ingredients for the apple purée in a thick-bottomed saucepan and cook on a low heat with a lid on for 6-7 minutes, stirring every so often until the apples have disintegrated. Remove from the heat; blend in a food processor until smooth.
To serve, strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve, gently heat the beer and whisk in the syrup and apple purée to taste; serve in a pewter or silver tankard.
My pastry chef at the Albemarle restaurant at Brown's Hotel in Mayfair adapted this parkin recipe last year to give it more of the feel of a gingery sticky toffee pudding.
100g self-raising flour
2tsp ground ginger
A good pinch of mixed spice
A pinch of salt
30g pinhead oatmeal
175g dark brown sugar
100g golden syrup
60g black treacle
1 large egg, beaten
For the ginger toffee sauce
200ml double cream
200g dark brown sugar
tsp ground ginger
Pre-heat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Sift the flour, spices and salt into a bowl. Stir in the oatmeal and sugar and make a well in the centre.
Meanwhile, melt the butter, golden syrup and treacle over a low heat, whisking to emulsify, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Mix into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon, then beat the milk and egg together and stir into the mixture until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a greased, preferably non-stick loaf tin, or you can use individual pudding basins, and bake for 45-50 minutes (half that time for individuals), leaving the mixture slightly soft to the touch. Leave to cool for 30 minutes or so before turning out.
For the toffee sauce: put all of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to ensure the butter and sugar has melted. Simmer on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat. Slice the parkin into 4 pieces horizontally, spoon some of the sauce on to each slice and reassemble back into the cake tin. Re-heat in the oven for about 5-6 minutes then turn out on to a warmed serving dish for the large one or individual plates for the small versions.
Spoon over the rest of the sauce and serve with clotted cream.
Haggis baked potatoes
This dish came about when I was wondering what I could put into a jacket potato to make it more interesting and I opened the freezer and spotted a haggis. Haggis may not be everyone's cup of tea, but really, it's no worse than eating a sausage – and what's more, it's delicious!
2 large baking potatoes
400-500g best quality haggis, chopped up a little
2-3tbsp of fresh white breadcrumbs
A couple of good knobs of butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Bake the potatoes for about an hour or until tender, then remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Cut the top off the potatoes and scoop out the potato and mix in a bowl with the haggis and butter. Refill the skins, discarding the top bit that you have already cut off. Mix the breadcrumbs and butter together and scatter over the potatoes. Return to the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
Mutton and maple pea stew
For a simple stew like this, I think mutton has the best flavour. Maple peas or carlings are not that common, though you tend to find them in the north of England. If you can't find any, you can substitute chickpeas instead.
1kg neck fillet of mutton, cut into rough 2cm pieces
Plain flour for dusting
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
Vegetable oil for frying
A small sprig of rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.5 litres chicken or lamb stock (can be made with good-quality stock cubes)
80g maple peas, soaked in cold water overnight
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp chopped parsley
Season the pieces of mutton and dust generously with about a tablespoon or so of flour. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the pieces of mutton and onions, without colouring them too much, for 3-4 minutes. Add the rosemary and stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1-2 hours until the mutton is soft and tender. This may take a little longer, or it may be quicker, as it's difficult to put a cooking time on braising cuts. You may need to add a little stock or water during cooking if the stew is getting dry.
While the mutton is cooking, place the maple peas in a pan, cover with water, add a couple of teaspoons of salt and the bicarbonate of soda, bring to the boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender, then drain. Add to the mutton and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes; then add the parsley and serve.