It is a vibrant collection of both the traditional and more unusual foods that are cooked on festive occasions throughout the year. Be it Creole cooking in New Orleans where Mardi Gras is (still) celebrated in grand style to a warming feast at Halloween , and from Labour Day fare to Thanksgiving, the Americans know how to feast .
This is Martina’s description of Halloween festivities in America .
“All Hallows’ Eve, 31st October is the night witches fly on broomsticks across the moonlit sky, Jack-0-lanterns (hollowed-out pumpkins with grinning, demonic faces lit by candles) flicker mysteriously in dark windows and children all over America dress in spooky costumes and frightening masks. They go from house to house asking for ‘Trick or Treat’ – custom evolving from pagan Celtic fire festivals to frighten away evil spirits returning from the dead. These pagan rituals eventually became secularised, and developed into children’s games. They were probably brought to America by immigrants, particularly the Irish in the late 19th Century. A treat is asked for or a trick is played. Bags of sweets and cookies are quite acceptable and if not forthcoming the wicked witches’ curse will descend upon the house and its unfortunate occupants. The evening usually ends with ghost stories around the fire and mugs of hot pumpkin soup”. Pumpkins were introduced to the early settlers by Indian tribes and are traditionally made into pies and soups. This is a beautifully coloured soup.
1 large orange pumpkin, weighing 1kg, cut into chunks
1 medium onion,
finely chopped Small bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 celery leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1.6 litres of chicken stock
350ml single cream
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
225g croutons Salt and freshly ground pepper
Slice the top off the pumpkin to make a lid, scrape out the seeds and stringy bits and carefully scoop out 1kg of flesh for the soup. (Use a separate piece of pumpkin if you prefer.) Sauté the onion, spring onions, celery leaves and garlic in 50g of the butter until tender but not brown.
Add the pumpkin chunks and cook gently for 10 minutes. Add the stock and simmer, stirring until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and pureé in a food processor until smooth. Return to the pan, whisk in the cream and remaining butter and heat thoroughly without boiling. It should be satin smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Warm the hollowed-out pumpkin in a preheated oven, 180C/350F/gas 4, for 15 minutes. Pour in the hot soup, sprinkle with parsley and serve the croutons separately.