As Halloween draws closer it’s time for some spooktacular celebrations. When I was a young child instead of trick or treating I would mark the 31st October by dressing up at home, sitting on my kitchen worktop and carving pumpkins with my mum and my brother, we’d opt for the traditional spooky face design. In my late teens and early twenties, I would dress up for house parties and club nights with my outfits ranging from witches to dead cheerleaders and even a cat inspired by Mean Girls.
This year however I’m celebrating Halloween in a more creative way and spending time with my family. Over the last few years I’ve moved away from simplistic pumpkin carving designs, challenging myself to carve a spider, an owl and a cat. If you are looking for some spooktacular ideas on how to celebrate Halloween take a look at my suggestions…
Last year I was on the hunt for a pumpkin patch in Surrey and I discovered that Secretts Farm in Milford hold a pick your own pumpkin event for the week running up to Halloween. So on Sunday 28th (2018) I headed there with my parents and my brother and sister- in law, for a fun family Brown day out. It costs £1.50 for adults and 50p for children which includes a tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch, I’d highly recommend this event to people of all ages, it was so much fun I didn’t stop smiling the whole way round – there was such a happy and exciting atmosphere. So many places have Pumpkin Patches now that I’m sure you’ll be able to find one near you through the power of the internet!
In the main area at Secretts Farm, there are lots of entertaining games for young children including mini tractor rides and children’s mini golf and for the adults there is a corn blaster (which I want to try next year) A pumpkin inspired menu is served and freshly prepared including pumpkin curry, pumpkin cake and pumpkin soup using the pumpkins harvested from the farm.
We jumped on the tractor and ventured around the farm grounds, out into the fields to discover the pumpkin patch. Over 30,000 pumpkins were grown and harvested at Secretts this year, and as we had left it to the last day of the event the choice was subsequently lower, but nether the less picking your own pumpkin is so much more enjoyable than just buying one from the supermarket.
After we had all happily picked our pumpkins, we posed for some obligatory pumpkin patch photos. My brother wishes me and my sister-in law would leave our phones at home, but these will make fantastic images for the family calendars I make for Christmas presents, so he’ll thank me eventually! My dad even acted out the famous Hamlet speech ‘Alas poor Yorick I knew him…’ which was entertaining for sure.
After you select your pumpkin, and before you can jump back on the tractor back to the main area and the car park you need to pay (of course). They have devised a way of differentiating how much you pay depending on the size of the pumpkin, and which hole it fits into.
Then we headed home to start planning our Iceland holiday and to carve our pumpkin creations….
Check out my Instagram on 31st October…. when my final design will be revealed. In the meantime why not take a guess over on my Twitter Poll – but do remember I’ve carved not one but TWO!
Often after we’ve all finished carving our pumpkins we discard the filling and it goes to waste. But the vegetable of the season is highly versatile and can be used in many recipes. When I was at Secretts I picked up a few of their recipe ideas for some inspiration, which do you fancy making?
Dawn’s Asian style Pumpkin Soup
Serves six to eight
- 1.5kg pumpkin (peeled and chopped)
- 2 dessert spoons of sunflower or coconut oil
- salt and ground black pepper
- 1 large onion (peeled and roughly diced)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh or lazy ginger
- 1 lemon grass stalk bent in a few places
- 3 tbsp red Thai curry paste
- 400ml can Coconut milk
- 800ml vegetable stock
- juice of 1 lime
- Sugar to taste
- Fresh red chilli and coriander leaves
- Preheat the oven to 200c
- Toss the pumpkin in half the oil and season well
- Transfer to a large roasting tin and place in the oven for 40 minutes until golden and tender
- Heat the remaining and gently saute the onion, ginger and lemon grass for 8-10 minutes until softened
- Stir in the curry paste and stir-fry for a further minute or so
- Add the roasted pumpkin to the pan then stir in the coconut milk and vegetable stock
- Bring to the boil then reduce and simmer gently for 10 minutes
- Remove the lemon grass and discard
- Allow the soup to cool slightly and then blend until smooth
- Return the soup to the pan and heat through
- Season with lime juice and a little sugar to taste
- Serve garnished with chopped chilli, coconut chips and coriander
The main event
Dawn’s Pumpkin & Pepper Curry
Ready in 50 Mins – Serves Six
- 2 TBSP Vegetable Oil
- 2 Medium onions roughly chopped
- 1 Medium Pumpkin peeled, deseeded and cut into 1cm chunks
- 1 Red pepper & 1 green pepper – chopped
- 75GMS dried green lentils
- 1/2 Jar of Curry Paste
- 400GM Tin of Chopped tomatoes
- 2Tsp of Sugar
- Handful of fresh coriander
- Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until soft and golden
- Add the pumpkin and peppers and cook until softened and brown on the edges
- Stir in the curry paste. Add the tomatoes, sugar and lentils and stir well
- Simmer on a low heat for 30-40 minutes until liquid has reduced and vegetables are soft. Season well
- Serve on a bed of basmati rice and garnish with coriander
End on a high
Nicola’s Naughty Pumpkin cake
Serves eight to ten
- 250mls vegetable oil
- 3 eggs beaten
- 400g pumpkin puree
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 425 caster sugar
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- pinch of salt
- 4 tbs chopped nuts
- Preheat the oven to 180c
- Grease a 25cm cake tin
- Cream together the oil,eggs, pumpkin and vanilla extract
- Sift the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt together
- Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mix and stir until just combined
- If using add the chopped nuts
- Pour into cake tin and bake on centre shelf for one hour
- Test the middle of the cake with a skewer. If its clean the cake is cooked
- Allow to cool, then turn out and sprinkle with icing sugar
If you decide to make any of the above I would love to see your images so please do send them to me on social media.
Harry Potter Escape Game
If you are looking for a truly magical day out or the ideal present for a Harry Potter fan the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry escape game at Enigma Quests in London is fantastic. I went on Saturday 27th with my boyfriend, my mum and my brother and sister- in law. I don’t want to give you all spoilers because its a lot more fun, if you work the clues out for yourself when you go. Set within three seperate rooms with a variety of riddles, maths challenges and logical reasoning, this escape game is exceptionally well thought out. We worked very well together as a team each using our own strengths to; cast spells, solve formulas, resolve puzzles and brew potions to win in six subjects and pass from the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with ‘Outstanding’ grades – and twenty minutes to spare!
Potterheads, you will love the attention to detail and the small nods to the Harry Potter universe. But don’t be put off by the Harry Potter theme, even if you aren’t a fan of the boy who lived (my family and boyfriend don’t know a lot about Harry Potter and they still loved it) you will be able to work out the puzzles using logic and reasoning.
I think It’s safe to say I’ve had a spooktacular couple of days, but how will I be spending the actual evening of Halloween? Unfortunately I’m not brave enough and I value my sleep too much to watch a Horror film on my own. So I think I’ll be celebrating the 31st October all wrapped up warm in a onesie with a Hot chocolate and watching The Holiday…my favourite scene will always be Mr Napkin Head!
How are you celebrating Halloween? Let me know in the comments