Trick or (Tr)Eat: Halloween-Themed Cooking Demo with Great Food at Leeds

Written by Erza Killian

With Halloween just around the corner, I think it’s the perfect time for me to brush up my ‘treat’ skills and I don’t mean the regular candy, chocolate type thing, but the more serious kinds of treat. I love cooking and baking and sometimes invite people over for lunch or dinner so when I saw that Leeds University’s Global Community is hosting another Eat Global session with the wonderful chefs from Great Food at Leeds, I decided to come and join them for another round of the event. I visited their previous event last month (which Erinna has wonderfully blogged about) and really enjoyed it (I mean, who doesn’t like free food, right?). However, today’s session was quite special because the theme was Halloween, so I was curious about what exactly is Halloween-themed cooking and food?

I arrived at 2 pm and saw that the stage area at the Refectory was already set up for the cooking demo and they had several carved pumpkins on the table. They also had a tub of water with apples floating in it which makes me wonder what food are they making? (spoiler alert: the apples are not part of the dish!). After a while, the area was filled with (hungry?) students, eager to learn about the art of Halloween cooking, so the two chefs, Simon and Chris, introduced themselves and explained what they will be making today. Apparently, since it’s Halloween cooking, they will be making a three-course pumpkin-based dish and since I’ve never cooked pumpkin before, I’m quite excited about the dishes.

Simon started by showing us how to peel pumpkin and prepare it for the dishes. Pumpkin itself is a very versatile ingredient, which can be prepared into sweet or savoury dishes and served as an appetizer, main course or dessert. He then proceeds to cook the first dish: pumpkin, chili and coconut soup which is a very simple soup made from pumpkin, onion, garlic, chilies and coconut milk. He started by sautéing the garlic, onion, chilies and then adding pumpkin, vegetable stock, and letting it cook until tender. One good tip from Simon is to avoid using water for the mixture, since you need as much flavor as you can get so vegetable stock is the best option. Another tip is to keep pumpkin seeds within the mixture since it adds extra flavor to the soup. Once the mixture is soft, you puree the mixture with a blender and add coconut milk and other spices if you like. After making the soup, he then invited us to taste the soup (eaten with pumpkin bread) which is really tasty, although since I love spices, I’d probably add more chilies in the soup.

The second dish is the main course: pumpkin, sage and spinach arancini balls made from pumpkin, risotto rice, shredded spinach, sage and parmesan cheese, rolled in bread crumbs. Yum! I have to admit that this is my favourite dish of the day since it has the perfect combination of sweet and salty, with the perfect blend of vegetable and spice. Simon and Chris started by cutting the pumpkins into chunks and roasting it in the oven until cooked, before setting it aside. After that, they slowly cook onions, garlic, cumin and rice until it reaches a porridge-like consistency before adding sage, parmesan cheese and (blanched) shredded spinach into the porridge. Once it’s cooked, spread it in a tray and allow the mixture to cool down completely. When it’s cold enough, roll the porridge mixture into a ball, filling it with the pumpkin and rolling it in breadcrumbs before deep frying it. I ate two of these risotto balls, but still feels like I didn’t get enough (RIP diet ☹). We ate the arancini balls with pumpkin chutney at the side which makes it even more delicious. Pumpkin chutney is made from pumpkin, spiced up with onion, chili, garlic, brown sugar and vinegar. Delish! Simon also suggested to add other ingredients like wild mushrooms in the arancini mixture to add more flavours.

Before cooking and serving the last dish, Simon asked us to play a Halloween game called apple bobbing (which is what the apple is for). The idea is to pick an apple from the tub of water using only your mouth and teeth, so you can imagine it will involve a full-face water dipping inside the bucket. The tradition of apple bobbing dates back to Romans occupation of Britain, where apples symbolises friendship and abundance. However, I must warn you that it is not as easy as it sounds. One girl failed to catch the apple, but in all fairness, I think it’s mainly because she kept laughing inside the bucket, making the apples slide from her mouth every time. It was a good game, though.

The last dish is my guilty pleasure of the day: the pumpkin brownie. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the soft, chewy and chocolatey texture of regular brownies, but this one is special because it comes with a hint of pumpkin flavour. Yum! The process is similar with making regular brownies, but with an added swirl of pumpkin puree on top of the mixture. Since we obviously can not wait for the mixture to be oven-baked, Simon and Chris decided to just skip this process and gave us the best part: the readily made pumpkin brownie! I devoured two pieces and even took an extra one for my friend since there were still several pieces left. Honestly, I would’ve eaten more of the foods if I weren’t too busy live tweeting the event as well. But seriously, the people from Great Food at Leeds are very considerate of our ‘student appetite’ and always ensure that everyone returns home with a happy tummy.

Judging by the look on everyone’s faces yesterday, I can tell that we were all happy (and full!) and are all looking forward to Eat Global’s next cooking event on the 22nd of November, which is all about Vegetarian and Vegan cooking. Also, you can suggest the dish you’d like them to cook and honestly, I’m dying to see again some classic Yorkshire or British recipes like Sunday roast, Yorkshire pudding or scones. How about you? What food would you like to see in the next cooking session? If you do have some ideas in mind, then pop in into the next session and tell them about it. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to accommodate it.

And finally, for all the chef-wannabes out there, here’s the complete recipe of all the dishes I’ve sampled yesterday, guaranteed to make all your ‘trick or treating’ a happy-tummy experience. Happy Halloween, everyone!

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Recipes:

Pumpkin, Chilli and Coconut Soup

50ml olive oil

500g peeled, and roughly chopped pumpkin

1 large onion, peeled and diced

2 crushed garlic cloves

1 red chilli

2 pints vegetable stock

1 tin coconut milk

Salt and pepper

  1. In a deep pan heat the olive oil and add the pumpkin, onion, garlic, chilli and cook until soft
  2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil until the pumpkin is soft
  3. Puree the mixture with a blender until smooth and fold in the coconut milk
  4. Check the seasoning and add a little more salt or pepper if needed
  5. Serve with pumpkin bread

 

Pumpkin Chutney

3 tablespoons olive oil

200g diced pumpkin

200g diced red onion

1 red chilli

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons brown sugar

85ml balsamic vinegar

  1. In a small pan heat the olive oil
  2. Add the pumpkin and the red onions, and then the finely chopped chilli and garlic
  3. Cook until soft and then stir in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar
  4. Allow to boil until nearly dry and check the pumpkin is cooked right through, then turn the heat off and allow to stand for 5 minute
  5. Place in a jar and keep in the fridge

 

Pumpkin, Sage and Spinach Arancini Balls

(Makes 12 balls)

 

400g diced pumpkin

50ml olive oil

150g diced onion

1 tsp cumin

1 garlic clove

200g Arborio, risotto rice

1 litre vegetable stock

50g chopped sage

50g grated parmesan

250g panko breadcrumbs

200g shredded spinach

Salt and pepper

  1. Peel the pumpkin, deseed and cut into very small chunks (being careful not to cut yourself)
  2. Place on a roasting tray with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper and roast until cooked through, then keep to one side
  3. In a deep pan heat the olive oil and then over a low heat slowly cook the finely diced onion, the cumin, crushed garlic clove, and the rice
  4. Gradually start to add the hot vegetable stock, and cook slowly stirring continuously until a porridge like consistency is obtained
  5. Fold in the chopped sage and the parmesan cheese and the spinach and check the seasoning (adding more salt and pepper if needed)
  6. Spread the mixture out onto a tray and allow to cool completely
  7. Once cooled, roll into balls and then roll the balls through the panko breadcrumbs and chilli
  8. Deep fry the balls in hot oil at 180 degrees until crisp and golden
  9. Serve with pumpkin chutney

 

Pumpkin Brownie

250g pumpkin

200g dark chocolate

250g unsalted butter

80g cocoa powder

65g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

360g caster sugar

4 eggs

  1. Peel, deseed and dice the pumpkin, cook in salted water until soft, drain and blend to a smooth puree and chill
  2. In a bowl melt together the butter and chocolate
  3. In a separate bowl sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and sugar
  4. Add the chocolate to the flour mixture and beat in the eggs
  5. Spread onto a shallow tray and swirl in the pumpkin puree on top into the chocolate mixture
  6. Bake for 40 minutes on 180 degrees, allow to chill and serve

Author

Erza Killian
I am Erza, a PhD student at the School of Politics and International Studies, (POLIS). Before coming to Leeds, I did a Master degree at University of Queensland (Australia) and a bachelor...
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