If you go back far enough, Hallowe'en has the same pagan roots as bonfire night, dating to a time when our ancestors marked the arrival of dark winter nights with a festival of food and drink, as well as playing games and tricks to prove they weren't afraid of whatever creepy crawlies might be lurking in the darkness.
So when it comes to a Hallowe'en menu, the food should be of the warm and nourishing variety - think soup, sausages, and jacket potatoes. For a sit-down meal, dishes like shepherd's pie and baked apple with custard should be the order of the day. If you're making your own Jack o'lanterns, use the contents to make spicy pumpkin soup or sweet pumpkin pie.
If you prefer to leave making soup to the experts, Danby's Foodservice has just launched its winter range of soups under the Real Soup Co brand, available through 3663.
Along with established favourites such as leek & potato and carrot & coriander, new varieties include French onion, honeyed parsnip and rosemary, spicy bean and chorizo, Thai chicken, pea & ham with Black Sheep ale, and smoked haddock chowder.
There is a full marketing package available to support the range, including soup kettles, chalkboards, laminated posters and branded soup cups.
Frankfurters - or since its Hallowe'en, why not call them "frankenfurters" - are an ideal snack to offer customers looking for something warm and filling to sustain them before setting off "trick or treating", or to welcome them back after a busy evening spent alarming pensioners and demanding sweets with menaces.
Herta beechwood smoked "frankenfurters" are made with 86 per cent pork and can be cooked on a barbecue or grill plate in a matter of minutes. To speed things up further, they can be cooked in a steamer pan and held in a bain-marie, before placing in a bun and serving with onions, ketchup and mustard.
Herta Frankfurters are available through leading wholesalers and cash and carries including 3663, Brakes, CRG and Booker cash and carry.
For a more substantial meal using Herta frankfurters, try the following recipe:
Halloween Hot Pot
- 350g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
- 450g onions, cut into wedges
- 30ml oil
- 20 x 90g Herta frankfurters
- 1.1l prepared Maggi Demi Glace
- 300ml red wine
- 30ml wholegrain mustard
- two x 440g cans mixed beans, rinsed and drained
- two bay leaves
1 Cook the bacon and onions in the oil until the onions have caramelised and the bacon is crispy. Add all remaining ingredients.
2 Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the frankfurters are piping hot right through.
3 Serve with jacket potatoes.
A good cheese board is also a great feature for either a Hallowe'en buffet or to round off a meal. A recent survey found that more than six out of 10 of us prefer to eat traditional British cheeses, rather than those from other parts of Europe.
There is something of a regional revival under way, and Joseph Heler's Original Reserve classic English cheeses are produced at the company's family-owned dairy in Cheshire. These offer the original taste and texture of Cheshire, Red Leicester and Double Gloucester varieties.
The range adds colour and brings a balance of taste and texture to a cheese platter. The Cheshire has tanginess and the Red Leicester is slightly nutty while the Double Gloucester has a smooth, well-rounded creamy taste and texture.
"Consumers are starting to take a greater interest in buying foods that are true to their origins and we believe our regional cheeses are just that," says Jonathan Cope, commercial manager at Joseph Heler Cheese.
Speciality mashed potato continues to grow in popularity. For a home-made taste experience with the convenience needed to meet customer expectations, Lamb Weston has developed the Mama's Mash range.
Made with the best potatoes, and cooked and mashed to the ideal consistency and adding a delicate touch of spices, the range is easy to portion, and can be prepared with milk, butter or spices.
The range comes in four varieties - homestyle, which is blended with a touch of spice; sea salt & cracked black pepper; sour cream & chive; and redskin roasted garlic, a supreme quality mash that offers a very distinctive and different menu item.
Coffee is ideal for a cold winter night, and using the Nescafé Cape Colombie and Alta Rica blends, publicans can create a range of ghoulish cocktails.
Cap Colombie Coffin
- 30ml vanilla syrup
- 1/2 shot of whisky (or other alcohol of your choice)
- 10 to 15ml Nescafé Cap Colombie
- 200ml boiling water
- 45ml double cream, whipped
- chocolate sauce to decorate
1 Place the vanilla syrup, whisky and Nescafé Cap Colombie in the bottom of a large mug. Pour over the boiling water and stir.
2 Spoon the cream gently over the top and using a spoon or squeezy bottle, make a coffin shape on the cream with the chocolate sauce.
Alta Rica Hell Raiser
- 45ml double cream
- 45ml maple syrup
- 200ml boiling water
- 15ml Nescafé Alta Rica
- splash of whisky
- chocolate shavings to decorate
1 Whip together the double cream and 15ml maple syrup. Pour the boiling water over the Nescafé Alta Rica. Add a dash of whisky and the remaining maple syrup and stir.
2 Top with the maple cream and chocolate shavings. Alternatively top with the whipped cream and swirl over the maple syrup.
Mochi Horror Show
- 10ml Nescafé Alta Rica
- 45ml hot water
- one shot Crème de Cacao
Dissolve Nescafé Alta Rica in hot water. Pour into a cocktail shaker with the liqueur and shake well. Serve over ice.