We love Halloween! And we’re moderately fond of Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal too. Here’s a couple of his recipes we’ve adapted into a Halloween feast, Spaghetti Carbonara and Panna Cotta.
Note: If you start now, and we mean RIGHT NOW, you can probably make these recipes in time for Halloween.
As some of you may have guessed from our perpetual referencing of Frightfest we really do love all things horror. That includes Halloween. So what better way to celebrate it than by stuffing our faces with some awesome food and then settling down to watch a scary movie.
We’ve adapted a couple of our favourite recipes from Heston Blumenthal at Home, giving them a more spooky theme (in a pretty cheesy way).
Heston’s Spaghetti Carbonara recipe has been a household staple for a while now, so the simplest way to Halloween-ize it is to do that old-as-the-hills witches hair black spaghetti business with it.
Dessert we’re even more proud of: the Vampire Panna Cotta. Or “Vampanna Cotta”, if you like.
Basically it’s just the Heston Blumenthal Chamomile Panna Cotta recipe we’ve made before. Normally you serve it with strawberries on the side, but we’re gonna give this dessert a bloody vampire twist by adapting Heston’s Fruit Coulis recipe.
We’ll make the coulis with strawberries, freeze it, and then set it in the centre of each panna cotta. Once defrosted strawberry “blood” should ooze out when you cut into the thing, which we hope will look as ghostly pale as a vampire.
Will it work, or will the real horror be our kitchen ordeal? Let’s find out…
Special Equipment: Pudding Basins, silicone muffin moulds
Special Ingredients: Spaghetti Nero, gelatine, fructose (optional)
Time: 2- 3 days
“Witches Hair” Spaghetti Carbonara
Step 1: Prep
The ingredient list for this isn’t long and we thankfully have most of the stuff in the house already. Onions and garlic are always to hand, streaky bacon and chillies we keep in the freezer.
Chop all this up with a bit of parsley which, if you’re lucky, you can grow in the garden (Lidl’s pots are more durable than regular supermarket ones).
Put a pan on a low heat and cook the onions and garlic. You’re not meant to colour them too much, although we do like some of that caramelised sweetness.
When they’re halfway done add the chilli and bacon and turn up the heat a notch. We normally make this with green chilli, but we figured the red would stand out better here. Keep it all to one side in the pan when everything is cooked to your liking.
Step 2: Pasta
Did you remember to swing by Carluccio’s at the Trafford Centre on your way home from work and pick up some of this Spaghetti Nero? If not you can buy it online here.
Measure everything so there’s 1 litre of water and ten grammes of salt for every 100g of spaghetti (if you can’t fit all four or five litres of water just use your largest pan). Boil for about ten minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
Step 3: Sauce
Heston’s Carbonara sauce recipe is super-simple. Just mix some egg yolks and parmesan together.
Give it a whisk until a paste forms…
… and then add some of the water from your pasta. Be careful! This water is gonna be boiling hot from the pan. If you dunk it straight in then that heat will literally scramble your egg yolks.
Your best bet is to get a dessert spoon of water at a time and drizzle it from a height. Do this slowly – the water will cool down as it falls and won’t spoil your sauce.
Step 4: Finishing
The raw egg element of this dish can be a bit unsettling. This next step is where we fix that.
Drain the spaghetti (lift it out of the starchy water if you can) and then, while it’s still piping hot, tip the lot into the sauce and toss it around with a pair of tongs. The heat from the spaghetti will cook the yolks.
If it’s still a bit loose you can stir the pan over a very low heat for half a minute or so. Mix in the bacon, chilli and onions and then stir through ¾ of the chopped parsley.
Season with black pepper, scatter over the remaining parsley and more grated parmesan and you’re ready to serve.
“Vampire” Panna Cotta
Remember when we said you needed to start early? That’s because this panna cotta fiasco requires a lot of freezing and defrosting to work properly.
Step 1: Strawberry Coulis
You’ll need to start by hulling and quartering 100g of strawberries and mixing them with 25g fructose.
After macerating for 15 minutes you can blitz them with a hand blender. Optional: sieve the coulis to guarantee your puree is completely smooth.
The coulis now needs to be frozen inside silicone moulds. We’re using these dinky blue muffin moulds we sometimes make chocolate fondants in. They need at least 4 hours in the freezer. Preferably the whole night. The good news is you can make then a week or so ahead.
Step 2: Panna Cotta Mix
Before you start this step clear a flat, level space in your freezer and put your panna cotta ramekins in there.
First, bring at least 350ml milk to a simmer with a couple of chamomile tea bags. You’ll only need 250ml, but the tea bags will absorb some of the milk so it’s best to have a little too much than not enough. Leave the milk and teabags to infuse together off the heat for 20 minutes
Meanwhile combine the cream and sugar. Then add 250ml of the infused milk. Bring all of this to a simmer then remove from the heat and add softened gelatine.
Since this is a vampire panna cotta recipe Twilight fans could add edible glitter at this stage for a Stephanie Meyer-esque sparkle. (But I grew up watching the greatest vampire film in the world, Fright Night, and I’ll stand for no such nonsense).
We sieved our mixture to ensure there were no shreds of un-melted gelatine. Heston tells you to now cook this custard over a bain marie but we’ve not been able to work out what difference it makes, so we skipped that step.
Step 3: First Set
This is the beginning of the tricky part. Remember those ramekins / pudding moulds we froze earlier? Well you need them completely cold to help with this next step. Pour a thin layer (about ½ a centimetre) of the panna cotta mix into each frozen mould, then place immediately back in the freezer until set (about 30 minutes to an hour).
Why? Well, you’ve only got one batch of panna cotta mix, and it won’t last forever. We need to set this first layer as quickly as possible so we can add the frozen strawberry coulis cores then cover them with the remaining chilled mix.
Step 4: Second Set
By the time the first layer has frozen the remaining panna cotta mixture should have reached room temperature. Do NOT try to chill it as this will cause the gelatine to set and you’ll have to start over again. However, the custard MUST be at room temperature for the next part. If the custard is even just lukewarm the heat will melt the frozen centres and ruin the effect.
Now unmould your frozen strawberry coulis cores and place them in the centre of each frozen ramekin. Pour over the remaining Panna Cotta custard until the frozen cores are covered.
These now need to be placed immediately into the freezer on a flat surface. Chilling in the fridge might sound fine, but if you did that your frozen core would defrost long before the panna cotta custard sets. You’d just end up with two layers of jellied cream and a liquid layer separating them. Trust us, you don’t want that.
You MUST place these into the freezer. They need at least 4 hours. As with the frozen cores, overnight is better.
Step 5: Unmoulding
Once the panna cottas are fully frozen and the cores are safely set they need to be brought back to a chilled temperature. To do this just take them out of the freezer and place them in the fridge. About half a day to 24 hours should do the trick. Still with us?
When the Panna Cottas have thawed and are still cold they should have a little bit of a wobble in the centre (this is due to the now-liquid coulis core being trapped on all sides by the set jellied cream).
To unmold just leave the ramekin in hot water for 1 – 2 minutes. Lift it out and put an upside down serving plate over the ramekin. Hold the plate and ramekin together and flip it over quickly, so the ramekin is upside down and the plate is the right way up. You should be able to lift the ramekin away to reveal the panna cotta. There may be a small amount of melted cream, which you can wipe away if you prefer.
And after all that work, serve to your guests and let them carve into their panna cottas and watch the strawberry “blood” flow out. We think this is a lot more awesome than any chocolate fondant we’ve ever made.
These two dishes paired really well together. And it was a great excuse to revisit a couple of favourite recipes we haven’t made in a while. Aside from the cost of the pasta they’re not horribly expensive to make either
The “witches hair” black spaghetti Carbonara didn’t look quite as horror-themed as we’d expected, but it’s really easy to make. Plus: cheese and onion, bacon and eggs, chilli and garlic – it’s an awesome combination of flavours.
We appreciated an easy recipe after all the palaver required to make the vampire panna cotta. The incessant freezing and defrosting makes it a two or three day endeavour.
We really like the effect though, so we think the effort is totally worth it. We might try making a non-Halloween-themed version with a raspberry core in a chocolate panna cotta.
And now you’ve got your perfect Halloween food you’ll need a Halloween film to enjoy afterwards.
If you can stomach found footage and subtitles let me suggest my all-time favourite horror movie, Noroi: The Curse. It’s from Japan and available to watch completely free on YouTube. Enjoy:
We’d also recommend: Sheitan and a l’interieur from France, Rec or Sleep Tight from Spain, All About Lily Chou Chou or Kairo from Japan and V/H/S 2, Home Sweet Home, The Innkeepers and The Woman from the USA.
Last Halloween we made Heston’s Pumpkin Soup recipe. So it seems all our Halloween recipes are based around vividly-coloured dishes.
Future ideas might include another attempt at the Beetroot Spelt risotto (but using more readily available Pearl Barley and none of that nasty acidulated butter), or Heston’s Gratin of Potatoes recipe made with those purple potatoes they sell at Sainsbury’s this time of year.
You never know, we might even copy the Gothic horror episode of Feasts and give the 72-hour rib of beef a go.
What would you serve for your perfect Halloween dinner? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.