For anyone doing the sweet-sweep rounds next weekend, Halloween can feel more like trick and treat, rather than trick or treat. No sooner have our kids been plied with sweets than we try to trick them out of eating them. Or did Scrooge just come early to our house this year? Anyway, for 2021, I’m going to lean into making Halloween snacks instead: black lime gummy worms, pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies and something savoury to offset the night’s sugar excesses. All treats, no tricks.
Black lime gummy worms
These are really fun to make, either as worms or poured into differently shaped silicone moulds, if you have them (we got very into little bears, for instance). The black lime sugar dip is sweet, sour and bitter, and as much, if not more, for the adults on Halloween duty.
Prep 15 min
Cook 30 min
Set 30 min
1 tsp sunflower oil
24g powdered gelatine
350ml cold water
2 dried Iranian black limes (10g)
100g runny honey
2 large lemons, zested in strips, then juiced, to get 5 tbsp
1 x 135g pack strawberry jelly, broken into cubes
For the black lime sugar dip
1 small black Iranian lime, finely ground in a spice grinder or small food processor, to get ½ tsp
3 tbsp granulated sugar
Lightly grease an 18cm square cake tin with the oil and line the base with greaseproof paper. Put 100ml cold water into a small bowl, stir in the gelatine and leave to soak and bloom while you get on with the rest of the dish.
Roughly crush the two black limes between the palms of your hands, then put them in a medium saucepan with the remaining 250ml water, honey, lemon zest and juice. Set the pan over a medium-high heat, bring up to a simmer, and cook gently for 20 minutes, until the zest is candied and shiny and the liquid syrupy and dark amber. Take off the heat, strain into a medium bowl and press out as much liquid as possible out of the solids: you should end up with 100ml.
Return the liquid to the pan, add the jelly cubes, then return to the heat and stir to dissolve. Take off the heat, tip in the soaked gelatine mix and stir until completely dissolved. Pour into the lined tin (or silicone moulds), leave to sit for 10 minutes, until slightly cooled, then refrigerate for 30 minutes, until set.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the ground black lime with the sugar and set aside.
Once the jelly mix has set, run the tip of a sharp knife all round the edge, tip out on to a clean surface and cut into ½cm-thick lengths. You should now have 30 bouncy and slightly stretchy gummies. Serve with the black lime sugar dip on the side. (If you’re not serving them immediately, put the gummies on a rack, air-dry overnight, then store in airtight jars.)
Sev with fried peanuts and curry leaves
Sev is a savoury snack of crunchy little noodles made from chickpea flour paste that can be seasoned in all sorts of ways. This particular recipe comes from my colleague Chaya’s Mauritian mum, who used to make it in big batches on New Year’s Eve.
Prep 10 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 4 as a snack
200g gram (AKA chickpea) flour
1¼ tsp carom seeds (or fennel or anise seeds), roughly crushed in a mortar
½ tsp ground turmeric
Flaked sea salt
170ml cold water
1 tbsp olive oil
750ml sunflower oil
150g raw peanuts (ie, unsalted and unroasted)
40 (7g) fresh curry leaves (ie, from about 7 sprigs)
First make the batter. Sieve the gram flour into a large bowl, add the carom seeds, turmeric and two teaspoons of flaked salt, and mix to combine. Make a well in the centre, pour in the water and olive oil, and mix to a thick, creamy paste that falls off a spoon in heavy ribbons. Cover (we use reusable kitchen wrap) and set aside for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the sunflower oil in a large saute pan on a medium heat. Spoon half the batter into a piping bag and cut off 1mm from the pointy end. Once the oil is hot, pipe in long, thin noodles of the batter in a circular motion, keeping them apart so they don’t stick to each other: depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to fit in seven to nine noodles at a time. Fry for 30 seconds to one minute, until crisp when tapped with a spoon, then lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on an oven tray lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining batter, in three or four batches, until the piping bag is empty.
Refill the piping bag with the remaining batter mixture and cut off another 2mm from the thin end. Again working in manageable batches, pipe the wider noodles into the pan, fry for two to three minutes, until crisp, then transfer to the paper-lined tray and repeat until all of the batter is used up. Keep the pan on the heat, for frying the peanuts, and set aside the sev to cool.
Fry the peanuts in the hot oil for two and a half minutes, until lightly brown, then transfer to a bowl lined with kitchen towel, keeping the pan on the heat. Sprinkle the nuts with half a teaspoon of flaked salt while they are still hot, stir well and leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, fry half the curry leaves in the hot pan for a minute, until glossy and deeply green, then drain on paper towel and leave to cool while you fry the remaining curry leaves.
Once all the ingredients are cool, put them in a large bowl and mix gently, so the sev and curry leaves break up into smaller pieces. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Pumpkin spice snickerdoodles
Snickerdoodles are hard not to love at any time of the year: they’re slightly cakey in the centre, crisp at the edges, cracked on top and rolled in cinnamon sugar; they’re also great as the base for an ice-cream sandwich. Here, we’ve given them an autumnal, pumpkin spice twist. The cookies keep in a sealed jar for up to a week, and can also be baked straight from frozen, in which case add a minute to the baking time.
Prep 15 min
Rest 1 hr
Cook 50 min
For the pumpkin spice mix
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
50g demerara sugar
For the snickerdoodle dough
340g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cream of tartar 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 egg, lightly beaten
First make the pumpkin spice mix. Put the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl, spoon two teaspoons of the mix into a large bowl, add the flour, bicarb and cream of tartar, and set aside. Add the sugar to the remaining spice mix in the small bowl and set that aside, too.
Now for the dough. Put the butter, sugar and half a teaspoon of salt in the bowl of a free-standing mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Mix on a medium-high speed for 10 minutes, until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla and egg, and continue mixing on a medium-high speed for one minute, until everything is well incorporated. With the motor running, add the flour mixture in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Scrape the dough to the bottom of the bowl, making sure there are no bits stuck to the sides, then cover and refrigerate for an hour, until firm and rollable.
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Divide the dough into 40g pieces and roll into firm balls: you should end up with 22. One at a time, roll the balls in the spice and sugar mixture, to coat well (if it doesn’t stick, warm the balls slightly in your hands first). Lay the balls on a large oven tray lined with greaseproof paper, spacing them out well apart – they will spread a lot while baking, so leave at least 5cm between each ball, and if need be use two trays and/or bake them in batches.
Bake for nine minutes for a gooier cookie and up to 12 for a firmer one, then remove, transfer to a rack to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.