food

Silvana Franco's Italian-inspired Halloween recipes

food, silvana franco's italian-inspired halloween recipes

Autumn is a season worth celebrating, with British produce such as pumpkins, squash and orchard fruits at their peak – Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

Despite my children now being in their teens, the excitement and planning that go into the double celebrations of Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night show no signs of waning. And looking up and down our road this week, it seems we’re not alone. With each passing year, the Hallowe’en decorations and back-garden firework parties in our neighbourhood are noticeably ramping up, and I am in full support.

There’s currently a life-sized, stripy-legged witch, complete with black cat and broomstick, stuck in the cherry tree at the top of the street, and the stone Dobermann in a driveway a few doors along is wearing a cape and fangs.

These recipes have been put together with partying in mind. They can be adapted for all ages and are perfect for preparing in advance. They don’t require any cutlery but can be sipped from cups or eaten from napkins, and enjoyed in the kitchen, on the street or beside a bonfire.

Autumn is a season worth celebrating, with British produce such as pumpkins, squash and orchard fruits at their peak. A time for chutney- and jam-making and heartwarming stews, pies and crumbles. Bake or poach some pears and match them with silky chocolate sauce, or try dipping apples on sticks in toffee, melted marshmallow or chocolate with added sprinkles. And don’t forget to try Mark Hix’s wonderful squash recipes, all of them ideal for taking along to a party.

I like to serve mulled cider at the festivities, gently warming it with a little sugar and a few whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon and star anise. It can be pepped up further with a splash of Calvados and some pomegranate seeds, or adapted into an apple-juice version for younger party-goers.

My Bloody Mary soup is great for serving in cups, and it helps warm your hands. It’s a very simple recipe that mostly hinges on the quality of the tomatoes, so it’s worth using your favourite brand of canned ones here. Some cheaper varieties can be a bit acidic. If you’ve still got some sweet late-summer tomatoes, do use them, but sieve the soup after blending so

the texture is smooth and velvety.

If you’re sharing with children, leave out the chilli and vodka, and try stirring a spoonful of cream or soft cheese into each serving for a classic cream of tomato soup.

The appearance of the rolls overleaf is reminiscent of Catherine wheels, the spiral filling made with a fiery mixture of ’nduja and roasted peppers to ensure your party goes off with a bang. To simplify the process a little, I’ve used canned pumpkin purée in the dough – it is easy to find in larger supermarkets and has a very smooth texture. If you’ve got time, you might choose to roast some wedges of pumpkin or a halved squash until very tender, then blend and sieve to make a really smooth purée.

Adding the pumpkin to the dough not only gives it an amazing colour but makes it wonderfully soft and springy. The same dough can also be used to make fabulous cinnamon rolls. Use 125g softened butter, 150g dark muscovado sugar, a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon and a grating of nutmeg for the filling. And don’t forget the cream-cheese frosting.

Ossi dei morti are crunchy Italian biscuits traditionally eaten on All Hallows’ Eve. Translated as ‘bones of the dead’, they’re fairly similar to the classic cantuccini biscotti but roughly rolled into old-bone-like shapes. Perfect for serving at the end of a party with little glasses of blood-red amaro or cherry liqueur.

Mini Bloody Mary soups 

This soup is ideal for making ahead of time. When you’re ready to serve, reheat gently, stir in the vodka and invite guests to add their own seasonings, to taste.

food, silvana franco's italian-inspired halloween recipes

This soup can be made in advance – Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

Timings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves

Eight

Ingredients

For the soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped, plus extra to serve (optional)
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes (I use Mutti polpa)
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • 80-100ml vodka

To serve

  • Tabasco
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • cream sherry
  • celery salt
  • 1 small lemon

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the celery, garlic and chilli for five minutes, until beginning to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes and stock and some salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer very gently for 30 minutes, or up to an hour, if you have time. Check the celery is very tender, then blend until completely smooth. At this point, you can leave the soup to cool ready for reheating later.
  3. When ready to serve, gently warm the soup through and stir in the vodka. Ladle into small bowls or cups before seasoning with Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, cream sherry, celery salt, lemon wedges and a little more chilli, if you like.

Pumpkin and ’nduja rolls

These savoury rolls take their inspiration from cinnamon buns. Rolled with a spicy, cheesy filling, they’re great for serving alongside the tomato soup. If you have a jar of aivar (or ajvar) in the cupboard, you can use it in place of the roasted peppers. For a child-friendly version, swap the ’nduja for sun-dried-tomato paste or red pesto.

food, silvana franco's italian-inspired halloween recipes

Swap the ’nduja for sun-dried-tomato paste or red pesto if feeding children – Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

Timings

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus proving time

Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Makes

12

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g strong plain flour
  • 1 x 7g sachet dried easy-bake yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 200g pumpkin purée
  • 50g salted butter, melted
  • 100ml milk, just warmed
  • 1 egg
  • olive oil, for greasing

For the filling

  • 100g salted butter, softened
  • 75g ’nduja
  • 100g roasted red peppers from a jar, drained and very finely chopped
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated

Method

  1. Place the flours in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and add the yeast, sugar and half a teaspoon of salt, then stir together. Add the pumpkin, butter, milk and egg. Knead for five minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft.
  2. Shape the dough into a ball, rub all over with a little olive oil, then return to the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until doubled in size.
  3. To make the filling, beat together the butter and ’nduja, then add the roasted peppers and cheddar, mixing until well combined.
  4. Line a 25 x 35cm baking tin with a sheet of baking paper. You’ll also need to clear plenty of space on your work surface for rolling out.
  5. Roll the dough out to a large rectangle, roughly 40 x 60cm; it should be easy to roll but brush a little oil on to the work surface if the dough starts to stick. Spread the filling over the dough in an even layer. Starting at a shorter edge, tightly roll it up into a cylinder. Trim the ends and divide the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces. Place the rolls in the tin, arranging them evenly so there’s space between them. Cover lightly and leave to prove in a warm place for 45 minutes, until risen.
  6. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. For a soft roll, cover with a tea towel and leave to cool to room temperature, or for a crustier top, leave to cool uncovered.

Ossi dei morti

A very simple mixture, these are fun to make, whether irregular or a classic bone shape. They can be made several days in advance and stored in an airtight container.

food, silvana franco's italian-inspired halloween recipes

These biscuits are great served alongside a small glass of amaro or cherry liqueur – Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

Timings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Makes

12-14

Ingredients

  • 75g whole unskinned almonds
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp amaretto or 1 tsp almond essence
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  • red amaro or cherry liqueur, to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Place the almonds on a shallow baking tray and roast lightly for 5-8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stir the flour, sugar and baking powder together with a pinch of salt.
  3. Beat the egg together with the amaretto or almond essence and lemon juice.
  4. Turn the oven down to 160C/140C fan/gas mark 3. Chop the almonds quite finely or pulse them in a small food processor, if you prefer. Stir into the flour mixture, then add the egg and stir together to make a firm but slightly sticky dough.
  5. Dust your hands with icing sugar and roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into rough 1cm-wide sausage shapes – you can make the ends a bit wider so the biscuits look bone-like if you fancy. Place on parchment-lined or non-stick baking sheets, leaving a little space for spreading.
  6. Dust generously with icing sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, until pale golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, before serving with a blood-red drink of your choice.

Silvana Franco is a food writer who specialises in creating stress-free, contemporary recipes. Follow her on Instagram, @silvana.franco.food

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