Thursday, 30 October 2008

Bean and Pumpkin Casserole (egg free, dairy free, gluten free, vegan)

It was when I looked around at the mayhem in the room and calculated the remaining hours of tidying up, that it happened. The last strands of my good humour finally succumbed to the tension and twisted away with an almost audible twang.

That’s it’ I announced through frazzled hair and an aching back,
‘we are no longer celebrating Halloween!’

The cry of outrage was audible across the Channel, and caused gentle ripples in the environs of Portsmouth. They were so indignant they actually lost the power of coherent speech for a second, and then the torrent of vitriol poured forth.

‘Why? That is SOO unfair! No way! Why not?’ I met their torrent with a dam of firm resolve,
‘Because…it’s FAR too much work, what with all this extra cooking, and…and… - I was struggling a bit now - AND, it’s not even a British festival! Yes, that’s it! I’m sure it’s American, and therefore, I don’t have to celebrate it’.

There was silence.

The little pedant who lives on my shoulder was tapping my neck,

‘Errr, excuse me, but I think you’ll find that the roots of this particular festival originated in Ireland, Druidic in origin I believe, and with a strong celtic overtone. Thus making it far more 'British' if you will than…’

‘Be quiet!’ I barked, and the children looked confused. Then without missing a beat, ‘Come on now, bedtime!’ I trilled in that sing-song schizophrenic way that Mothers do so well.

The fallout from my announcement continued for a good few days. When their Father arrived for the weekend they clambered all over him, fighting for ear space, all of them telling him that ‘Mummy says we can’t celebrate Halloween anymore’. Father raised an eyebrow and looked quizzically in my direction. I bared my lips in return and the subject was shelved.

As Christmas and Easter arrived and were celebrated in lavish style, all memories of the maternal Halloween fatwa appeared to have dissipated. Long lazy days of summer dulled the senses, and I seemed to be off the hook.

And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those pesky meddling educators. What do they think they are playing at with their ‘Spooky Halloween Mobile’ that my boy carried home so proudly last week? And it’s not just them, who are these people throwing Halloween parties? At least three careworn Mothers have told me in the last two weeks, ‘..and I’ve got to take them to a Halloween party this evening, three costumes! Where am I going to find the time?’
So as half term started I had my anti-Halloween arguments at the ready and was polishing up my strident, do-not-contradict-me, tone. Bizarrely, apart from some vague queries about why we weren’t going Trick or Treating, (in rural Normandy? Why don’t I march up to the neighbours, take their shotgun, place it in my mouth and offer to pull the trigger for them? Have these children not realised how much we don‘t fit in here?), there was very little of that smutty Halloween talk.

And do you know what has happened? In the face of no Halloween pressure, I suddenly have a hankering to decorate some empty glass yoghurt pots with ghosts and pumpkin faces. I am bemoaning my face paints that I left in Paris, and I’m wondering where I could buy a black sheet to make some witch costumes. The landscape is exquisitely Halloween-coloured; orange leaves, stark black tree silhouettes and a bright white sun. The crispy piles of leaves, swirling wind and frosty mornings all seem to be egging me on; ‘go on! Make something of these late Autumn days, do something for Halloween!’

I tried not to listen, but in the end I couldn’t help myself. Halloween food, I decided, wasn’t really celebrating too much, and was really no bother. Besides, I have to cook tea for them anyway, so why not give it a Halloween theme?

The final straw was Jo telling me about her homemade baked beans. As we wandered around a supermarket she pointed out the kind of beans required and I snapped them up. With half a pumpkin already waiting in the fridge…well, there was bound to be some Halloween chemistry wasn't there?

I have resolutely resisted the urge to make costumes, trick or treat and paint faces, but I did dream up this casserole which I offered to them as a pre-Halloween treat. I thought the gay Halloween title might make the children instantly fall in love with my wholesome concoction. Well, half my children liked it, one tolerated it and the fourth asked for extra water so she could wash the filthy taste from her mouth. She didn’t quite use those words, but her face told the tale.

I don’t think I have the heart to serve it to them tomorrow evening, I may just cave in entirely and make Halloween Biscuit Cakes instead. It’s the sign of a good Mother isn’t it? Being able to backtrack completely with your head held high, pretending that you never said all that stuff?

Happy Halloween to you all x

Halloween Bean & Pumpkin Casserole (Serves 4 adults with hearty appetites)
May I give you a top tip, right off the bat? Put your ginger in the freezer right away. When it comes to grating it, it will be so much easier. Can I also make a confession? This does require soaking the beans overnight. I can’t believe I’ve come up with such a labour-intensive recipe, but I blame Jo. She said it’s really simple to cook the beans, and in fact she’s right. However, if you can find these beans in a tin and can live with your conscience, then please, go ahead and use them.

200g Lingot/haricot beans
8 small potatoes
Approximately 200g pumpkin (up to you really)
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
3 celery sticks
A large pinch of dried mixed herbs (trashy, but very handy)
1 stock cube
500g passata
150-200ml red wine
1-3 litres of water
1 cm cube of fresh ginger
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • Soak the beans overnight in cold water
  • The next morning, as you stumble blearily into the kitchen, drain the beans, put them into a large saucepan with plenty of water, and bring them to the boil
  • Make your coffee, and feel the caffeine course through your veins giving meaning and hope to the day
  • Let the beans boil for approximately 40 minutes, making sure that they don’t boil dry. Check them from time to time and when they are tender, remove from the heat and drain. Set aside, for up to 6 hours (more if you put them in the fridge)
  • If you are cooking this all in one go, then heat the oven to 150° Celsius. If you want to start this in the morning, then cook it for dinner in the evening, it needs to be cooked for 45-90 minutes
  • When you’re ready, chop the onions, garlic and celery and fry them gently in olive oil, adding the pinch of dried mixed herbs as you go. Ideally use a metal casserole dish to fry them in, then you can then add the rest of the stuff and pop it straight into the oven. If you don’t have a metal one, fry the onions, garlic and celery in a frying pan
  • Wash and slice, but don't peel, the potatoes - I like slices about 50mm thick - add them to the onion, garlic and celery mix and stir. Add the beans and stir, all the while gently frying
  • Transfer everything to your casserole dish
  • Dissolve the stock cube in about ½ litre of boiling water and add it to the onion, garlic, celery and potatoes
  • Add the 500g passata, and the red wine, and about another litre of stock. You may want to add more stock, or a bit less, it depends on how you like it really
  • Grate the ginger into the mix, add the balsamic vinegar, stir again, cover the dish and place it in the oven
  • I haven’t forgotten about the pumpkin, but I do hate soggy pumpkin, so I like to add it about 20 minutes before the end. So remove the rind of the pumpkin, and cut it into cubes
  • Now off you go and potter, feed the chickens, put your feet up, or whatever it is you do with your time, and all the while your casserole will be quietly bubbling away, that’s good isn’t it?
  • After 25 mins or so, check how it’s doing, add a bit more water if you think it needs it and check how the potatoes are doing. If they still seem really hard, then don’t add the pumpkin yet, you want to add the pumpkin when the potatoes are about half cooked
  • So, when the potatoes are about half cooked, add the pumpkin, stir and cover Disappear for another 20 minutes or so, and tra la laa! Your casserole should be done, serve it up to children dressed as ghosts
  • Can be served with gluten-free bread or with rice if you desire, enjoy.

© Pig in the Kitchen, 2008


Grit said...

hearty stews are my love and comfort and despite la famille grit being fed up with them, literally, i shall carry on making them regardless!

and i agree. i hate the american import of halloween and have similarly tried banning it here in favour of samhain. fat lot of good it's done. i may as well speak into the void.

Kitty said...

I love a good stew. A real staple for me in the winter months.

Those pumpkin cake biscuits look totally fab - might have to try those.

We carved a pumpkin today - it keeps them happy and I kind of enjoy it too.


Potty Mummy said...

It looks good - but as a committed carnivore can I add sausage? Chorizo? B---lack pudding? No? Oh well.

(Good to have you back, Pig).

GoneBackSouth said...

I used to be brilliant at preparing for Halloween until I got a proper job and now I'm rubbish. My son looked at me in panic today and said "We HAVE to get a PUMPKIN!" Hope there are some left tomorrow ...

Guineapigmum said...

I'm almost certain that Halloween isn't an American import, it's a Scottish export that the Americans have trashed and then sent back. Here in Scotland all the kids go guising, and have done for centuries as far as I can make out.

I like the sound of this stew, although I know for an indisputable fact that the children won't. I might make it anyway. I ight edit it a la PM with some sausage.

And I am sooo relieved you're back, PitK. I really was worrying about you, you know. It made me realise my bloggy friends, who I've never met, have become aprt of my life. Good thing or bad thing? Most people just think I'm plain weird.

Marianne said...

Ah ha, you're back. So glad you are blogging again.

Irene said...

Because of my gastric band, I really can't eat any of your deicious food, but I come here for the stories, they are just as good.

Kitschen Pink said...

It's an excuse for a party and some silliness! Who cares where it comes from if we can have a laugh! We did hysterical stuff with loo roll this afternoon! Sadly our food was not up to your wonderful casserole, although I might have a go with the scoopings which are now languishing in the back of thefridge! We just ate curly worms in bats blood.... t.x

Vegetation said...

That looks delicious! One of the few things I love about Australia is that we don't traditionally celebrate Halloween. I'm watching it trickle in slowly now. The first trick or treaters banged on our door about 6 years ago and now the schools have started making Halloween themed artwork. We've yet to have the kids invited to a Halloween party, but I think in the next 2 years it may be likely (my husband and I keep touting out the "We don't celebrate Halloween here" statements. They're starting to wear thin with the kids though :P)

Iota said...

Good to have you back. This casserole would make me very happy. I am a casserole girl.

Elsie Button said...

i don't blame you, but am glad two of the kids liked the casserole, and that they got biscuits!

I had no idea about this whole halloween celebration thingy and that it was such big business. my 9 year old sister came to stay from london over halloween and i was very soon made heavily aware that i must pull my finger out and mark the occasion. i quickly whipped up some pumpkin soup, hung a few orange and black balloons up and a toy bat and offered to take her trick or treating, to the one house which is within walking distance from our house. she excitedly told me that she still has bags full of treats left over from previous years trick or treating and so the pressure was on. We got dressed up and went and knocked on the neighbours door. 'Trick or Treat' we shouted, at the teenage son who opened the door, and who was the only one at home. He looked a bit perplexed, scratched his head and said 'hang on i think i have a wine gum left over somewhere round here. He disappeared and came back with the wine gum (the only saving grace was that it was a black one) handed it to my sister and then politely shut the door. ONE WINE GUM! i thought this was very funny. sorry for the ramble. lovely to see you back blogging yay! xx

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reluctantmemsahib said...

Did we celebrate Halloween when we were kids? Wasn't it just Easter and Christmas and birthdays? Is it because our kids are more enlightened or is it because they are immersed in a Hallmarked commercial world?

Everytime I pop in and take a bite out of your site i am reminded of how utterly delicious it is. I always leave feeling hungry and wishing i could nip round for lunch!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Yup. I'm with you on the halloween front, now that we live amngst Americans, (in Albania!) & my daughter goes to an American school, it is celebrated big time. I didn't know that about its Irish/celtic origins.
Casserole look sgreta, I'm very into bean sat the mo, cos they are so available here unlike a lot of stuff.

Alex in Beverley said...

Hi Pig - great to have you back, never knew how much i looked forward to reading your posts untill there wasn't more to read!

Brom said...

Sorry it's taken me a while to comment....

Stews, all kinds, are food to die for!

Halloween, well, we never 'celebrated' it as kids, It's not a British thing and to be honest IMHO does not need promoting. November the 5th is close and has significant historical connections... so that get's my vote.

lady macleod said...

A woman who cooks AND is funny? You are the one friend!

Naomi Devlin said...

I just read your tags at the bottom of the post, hee hee! They read like a story in themselves.

I think you've earnt the right to be spectacularly inconsistent. If you don't mention it, nobody else will be brave enough to anyway.

I personally do not indulge in Halloweenery at all. If I happen to make something green and scary for supper on the 31st, then so much the better (although how Fin would distinguish it from all the other green food that I place in front of him, I don't know).

I maintain that as a healer, Bhuddist and all round non believer in scaring yourself and others I have a right not to halloween (a little used verb).

I also object to the commercialisation of these festivals - in my day we had a bit of blue food colouring in a glass of milk, put a sheet over our heads and drifted up and down the street making ghost noises and bumping into things.


x x x

Mya said...

Woooooooohhhh! Wooooh! Ooooooeeeeeeeeoooooooooohhhh....

Did I scare you? I did, didn't I? Say I did.

Belated happy Halloween, dear Pig.

What are you going to serve us up for Thanksgiving, then? You know, that well known festival of Druidic/Celtic origin?

Mya x

elizabethm said...

Welcome back, I missed you.
I am sternly anti Halloween as well and can humph and be a refusenik with the best of them. The one thing that makes me weaken is a pumpkin lantern. Now that there are no children at home I get away with doing nothing at all but I could be seduced into a lantern again and your stew, which sounds fab.

Anonymous said...

Oh Pig! I go away for a vacation of the blues, only turned my back for a minute, and you go smash up your rock chic look. Do you not think this a tad extreme? Stich to smashing up hotel rooms and guitars. On second thoughts, smash up the veggies instead.
We used to celebrate halloween here in to good ol south of England back in the 60's, but I seem to remember my father looking rather monsterous over the prospect of carving out swedes, not easy! We used to make little currant and seed cakes to share instead of all the sweets, and played apple bobbing games whilst the adults drank copious amounts of mulled cider. Once they had had too muc, which didn't take long, I used to sneak some:) Been hooked on cider ever since! Hope you are recovering well, as someone else said, cyber friends may never be met, but are still awfully needed:)
Luv Lunar

Cookin' Cowgirl said...

Oh yum!!

I'm having my first linky party on my blog and the theme is pumpkin. I'd like to invite you to come link up your favorite pumpkin recipe. The link is open until Wednesday at midnight, so please stop by and say hi.

~Cookin' Cowgirl