It's that time of year again. Grotesque masks, pranks, harmless (probably?) trick or treating, all to celebrate a pagan festival. I don't like it.
I always thought that knocking on the front door in scary outfits came from the other side of the pond, and have gone on record as saying it should have stayed there!
Halloween (or All Hallows Eve) is believed to have originated from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain, which marked the beginning of winter. The Celtic new year starts on November 1, and they believed that evil spirits came with these long dark nights, and were most likely to be seen on the night before as the barrier between the "season of the sun" and winter was at it's weakest.
The Celts celebrated with feasts and dancing around bonfires, which were to scare these spirits away - the original Hallowe'en party. The 'jack-o-lantern', these days made from a hollowed out pumpkin, were named after a miserly man called Jack, who according to an Irish legend, could not go to heaven, because of his meanness, nor hell, because he had played jokes on the devil! Instead, he had to walk the earth with a lantern, until Judgment Day.
Now, not wishing to appear a party pooper, I realize that this provides an excuse to have events such as bonfire parties, so it would be entirely appropriate to do a recipe using the flesh of the pumpkin, to make a suitable meal to go with the party.
Just don't invite me!
Pumpkin and sage risotto
Ingredients (serves 8)
* 2 medium sized onions, finely chopped
**1 ltr chicken or vegetable stock
**20 sage leaves, roughly chopped
**500g pumpkin flesh, cut into small dice
**3 tbsp olive oil
**400g Arborio rice
**Fresh parmesan to grate over
1) Cook the onion gently in the oil for a few minutes, without browning.
2) Add the sage, and stir well.
3) Add the rice and cook gently over a low heat to cover all the grains with the oil.
4) Add a quarter of the hot stock, and stir continuously for 5 minutes, until the stock is absorbed.
5) Add the pumpkin, and half the remaining stock, and stir until absorbed. Continue by adding the remaining stock, a little at a time. You may not need all the stock, or you may need more, but this could just be hot water. The rice should have a creamy texture when ready, but still have a little crunch.
6) Stir in the butter and season to taste, then serve with the cheese grated over the top. You could also garnish this with some crispy, deep fried sage leaves.