Halloween, known for its spooky traditions, takes place in several countries on October 31 annually. People mostly get together and plan fun activities and events to scare one another, including trick or treating. Though the festival does not form part of India’s main festivals, it is gaining popularity in recent times. Many Indian cafes and restaurants are holding special parties to honour the global tradition of Halloween, but some places have taken a step further and gave an Indian twist to the whole spooky affair.

Keeping in line with the ‘spooky’ theme many eateries are also rolling out desi dishes such as pumpkin halwa. Yes, it’s trum that many people cringe merely at the thought of eating pumpkin. But one can give it a tasty twist in a hassle free way, say experts. Matt Preston, who judges MasterChef Australia, which is aired in India on Star World and Star World HD, experts from salebhai.com and chevon.in, list down some food ideas for the Halloween party.

Here are some easy recipes that can be prepared if you’re planning a Halloween party.

Pumpkin soup with a twist

1 kg pumpkin, cut into 3 cm thick wedges, deseeded
1 onion, peeled, cut into wedges
1 granny smith apple, cored, cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves
60ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Half teaspoon nutmeg
1.5 l – 2 l chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch sage leaves
50g bacon batons
50g pepitas
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Place pumpkin, onion, apple and garlic into a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over cinnamon, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and grate over nutmeg. Toss vegetables to coat.
Bake vegetables in oven for about 30 minutes or until cooked and softened.
Remove tray from oven and set aside to cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, remove skin from pumpkin and squeeze garlic from its skin, then transfer vegetables to a large saucepan.
Add stock to pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Remove pan from heat, then using a stick blender, puree until smooth, adding more stock if necessary. Season to taste. Alternatively, you can use a blender. For a very smooth soup, strain mixture through a fine sieve.
To serve, heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves and cook until crispy, then remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Add bacon and cook until light golden, then add pepitas, and cook for a further minute. Add sugar and stir until melted and caramel is sticking to bacon and pepitas.
Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with pepita mixture and crispy sage leaves. Season to taste.

Pumpkin and goat cheese risotto

500 g mixed mushrooms (shiitake, chestnut, field, button, porcini, slippery jack, pine, king brown, as you like)
5 cups vegetable stock (to make your own see recipe in the panel or use salt-reduced store- bought)
110g butter
Olive oil
1 medium-size brown onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 cups carnaroli or vialone nano rice
1/2 cup white wine
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and cracked black pepper
50g hazelnuts, skin removed
Zest of one orange
Bunch of parsley

Trim the mushrooms and wipe them clean if necessary. Keep any clean trimmings. Warm the stock in a large saucepan but do not bring it to the boil. Throw in any mushroom trimmings.
Place a large heavy-bottom pan on the heat and melt 30g of butter with a slug of olive oil. Cook onion gently in this pan. Soften, but and this is important do not let it colour.
In a separate pan, put the cut mushrooms with a little butter. Braise these mushrooms gently over a medium heat to soften slightly and go golden. Do not overcook or let the mushrooms lose too much liquid so they boil. Cook the mushrooms in batches if necessary.
Turn up the heat and add the white wine to the rice. Bubble this away until the rice and onion mix looks slippery rather than wet.
Add four cups of the stock and stir through the rice. Pop a lid on the pot and turn down the heat. Leave for 12 minutes to simmer away. Don’t touch it.
After 12 minutes, check the rice. To do this, crush a grain of rice with your thumb on the back of a wooden spoon. If it squidges outwards leaving a little white star at its centre then it needs to cook longer, add 1/4 cup of stock and stir until absorbed. Use the squidge test again and continue adding more stock if needed. If you see three tiny white stars, then the rice is ready.
Spoon in some of the butter and some of the parmesan and vigorously stir the rice with the sort of enthusiasm you might use if paddling away from the lip of a tall waterfall.

Some other handy tips and recipes that can be tried on Halloween are:

* Fruit pulp candy: Indian-made fruit pulp candies can offer a healthy and tasty alternatives to high-sugar and low nutritional value candies available in the market. Often available in gluten-free forms and using tasty fruits such as jamun, guava, strawberry, mango, and even wood apple, flavoured fruit pulp candy can be a delight for children.

* Turkish sheekh kabab roll: Pan fry thawed Turkish sheekh kabab with some oil till slightly brown and keep it aside. Take hot dog roll/bun cut it lengthwise place some shredded iceburg lettuce, tomato-onion slices and pan fried sheekh kabab. Squeeze some mint mayonnaise (Mint leaves + green chilli + cumin powder + salt + mayonnaise + grind) and serve as is or by cutting into two.

* Italian cocktail sausage puff: Take Italian cocktail sausages thaw it in refrigerator and roll whole sausage in ready puff pastry sheet. Bake it in oven at 425 degree F until puffed with light golden colour. Remove and serve with tarter sauce.

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