I’m a bit bah humbug about Halloween. I don’t really get it: the naff sweaty rash inducing costumes in Sainsbury’s, the competitive pumpkin carving on Instagram, the intimidating hoodies in Scream masks who make off with your entire tub of Celebrations when you tell them, no, you are not getting your claws on my cash. And isn’t it odd that we drum into our kids that they must NEVER talk to, let alone accept sweets off strangers, except, that is, on the last day of October when it is absolutely fine so long as there is a carved gourd on the doorstep, and oh, by the way, feel free to use blackmail if you have to?
No, not for me. I think my cynicism is borne out of the fact that I am fundamentally a scaredy cat (OK and maybe a bit of a snob). Fear is not a sensation I enjoy. I’m afraid of the dark, of spiders, of dolls and clowns (even before they started wielding chainsaws). The trailer alone for The Walking Dead is enough to give me nightmares for a week. And also, for a pig like me, Halloween doesn’t involve nearly enough food – and no, bobbing apples and Haribos don’t count.
Bonfire night, on the other hand, is a different story. I. LOVE. IT. This evening isn’t about cowering behind curtains, it’s about getting outside under smoky skies and oohing and aahing alongside total strangers. It’s about dressing down rather than dressing up. It’s about simple, warming food shared with family and friends. It’s about bangers and beans and booze. Nothing scary or sinister about that *conveniently sidesteps issue of burning Catholic effigies*.
We have hosted a bonfire night party for family for more than 20 years, as we live close to a fantastic free annual public firework display. I have unapologetically made the same food each and every year: sausages, jacket potatoes and what has come to be known as beany thing – a vast vat of smoky hot mixed beans. This recipe will feed about 14 so halve it if you want less (although it freezes well). It’s also great served with wholegrain rice as a main meal with a dollop of sour cream, or on sourdough toast, topped with grilled chorizo and a poached egg.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, diced
- 1 red and 1 green pepper, diced
- 2-3 red chillies, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 3 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 500g tomato passata
- 1 can chickpeas
- 2 cans mixed beans
- 2 cans baked beans
- generous splash of worcester sauce (vegetarian if you want)
- small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
- salt, pepper and extra chilli flakes to taste
- In a large casserole or pan, heat the oil then add all the veg including the chilli but not the garlic and gently sweat for about 15 minutes until soft.
- Add the garlic and cook for one minute, then add all the spices except 1 tsp of cumin, and cook for a further minute.
- Add the passata then fill the carton or jar half full with water, swill and add to the pot. Bring to the boil, then simmer the mixture gently for about 15 minutes or until the carrots are soft.
- Rinse the chickpeas and mixed beans and add to the pot with the baked beans and the worcester sauce, plus the extra teaspoon of ground cumin. Simmer for a further 5-10 minutes.
- Taste and add pepper, and salt if necessary (the baked beans may have provided enough). You may want to add a pinch of chilli flakes or a splash of tabasco if it needs more of a kick. Stir in the fresh coriander before serving.