Happy Halloween! I love festive occasions, any excuse for a bit of fun and a party. Halloween was one of my favourites as a child. We were always on mid term break and so had ample time to fashion costumes, from, *cough*, the most humble of substances. Witches costume from a refuse sack? No problem! I blame Bosco (all you Irish readers can nod your head).
Pumpkins were never something we could get our hands on in the wilds of Waterford, so we use to raid the local sugar beet fields and fashion jack-o-lanterns out of them. I wish I could communicate using words the foul stench of burning sugar beet, but we persevered and carried them from house to house. There was a big band of siblings, cousins and neighbours that would march for a mile or so, stopping at the sporadic houses, singing in 3 parts everything we knew – stuff from TV (yes, Bosco), school, church, you name it. We didn’t want monkey nuts, we despised them, just money or sweets please, thank you very much. It’s a wonder they answered the door to the refuse sack clad, sugar beet wielding, singing children on a dark and cold Halloween night!
So, what did we eat? Sweets, lots of them. I’ve kept up that tradition here today, I’ve eaten way too many jelly snakes and percy pigs, but it had to be done. There was also apple bobbing, and putting a grape on top of a pile of flour and nudging the flour without knocking the grape… and lots more I can’t remember now. Certainly not pumpkin anyway, but as an adult, I eat alot of it this time of year and today is one of those days.
So, criteria for a halloween dish? Preferably pumpkin-y, should be spicy, and orange would be good (pumpkin helps!). I am not at home tonight so settled on a halloween lunch of pumpkin and celeriac soup with chilli which I made last night for today.
Pumpkin & Celeriac are a great match. Both really good for you too, pumpkins are full of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, calcium and fiber and celeriac is rich in vitamin C, phosphorus & potassium. Their texture in soups is wonderful, so smooth. Chilli is great with pumpkin, it livens the flavour and adds that spice we want. Any pumpkin or squash will work, preferably an orange fleshed one, butternut squash, onion squash or pumpkin are great. I add red split lentils to thicken the soup and to provide some protein, garlic and onions as a base, and some good light stock, vegetable or chicken are great. This is a really quick soup and takes care of itself as most soups do. I am a bit greedy when it comes to soup and am like a pig at the trough swilling bowl after bowl, so, it’s difficult to estimate portion sizes but I would think that this would serve 6 normal people.
400g pumpkin, peeled & diced
400g celeriac, peeled & diced
100g split red lentils
1 fat clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1.5l stock (vegetable for the veggies & chicken or vegetable for everyone else)
1 or 2 dried chillis – I used 2 and it was spicy but juts right for me, use your own judgement
Sauté the onions in some olive oil for a few minutes until translucent but not brown.
Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so.
Add the pumpkin and celeriac and stir over a high heat for a few minutes to infuse the flavours.
Add the stock and lentils and cook for a half hour or so until the lentils, pumpkin and celeriac are cooked.
Blend to your desired texture. I like this one smooth. Season with S&P and it’s ready to go.
I like to garnish this with toasted chilli pumpkin seeds and, if you have some, creme fraiche or lactose free/vegan equivalent are lovely too. Other recommended additions are coriander, it works really well in this soup.