Halloween is a celebration of light in the darkness of winter – here’s how to mark the coming of winter in style.
The days are getting shorter, night-time is drawing in and there’s a definite chill in the air. But making the most of Halloween means that we can look forward to all the winter has to offer.
People have been celebrating Halloween for thousands of years. The festival dates back to the Celtic commemoration of Samhain, when the ancient Celts celebrated the beginning of their new year on 1 November. The evening before that was known as All Hallows Eve, which is where the word Hallowe’en comes from – and these days it’s more often known as Halloween, without the abbreviation.
Treats would be given to appease ghosts and spirits, while people dressed in costumes so that those very same ghosts wouldn’t recognise them and spirit them off to the underworld! This was, after all, a time when people believed that on this one day of the year, spirits could travel freely between this world and the spirit world. Bonfires would also be lit, to make offerings to the gods and scare away evil spirits.
Across the world people still celebrate in many of the same ways, with costumes, trick or treating and the lighting of bonfires, fireworks and sparklers to bring light into the darkness.
It’s also a time to enjoy the bounty of nature and seasonal ingredients, adding these to recipes and serving them at bonfire parties and Halloween get-togethers.
Celebrating Halloween the Italian way
In Italy, the main seasonal holidays are All Saints’ Day (Ognissanti) on 1 November and All Souls’ Day on 2 November, when we remember loved ones who have passed away. But like many people around the world, we celebrate 31 October too.
Here in the north-eastern regions of Italy, we have our own special traditions.
In the province of Udine, in the town of Ampezzo, La Not Dalis Muars (The Night of the Pumpkins) is commemorated on 31 October to mark the ancient Celtic New Year. If you’re lucky enough to join in the spectacle, you’ll be treated to music, laughter and the delicious aroma of local dishes from food carts and stalls set up outside restaurants.
Elsewhere in the Lauco, Buttea and Uerpa districts, on 30 and 31 October, it’s a tradition to throw Cidules (fiery wooden wheels made from beech wood) from cliffs and high slopes – a practice with Celtic origins.
If that seems like a lot of trouble to go to, why not have a bonfire party and invite family and friends over to enjoy some seasonal specialities?
Seasonal foods and recipes to enjoy
Autumn and winter brings its own bounty of seasonal foods, including fennel, spinach, pumpkin, chestnuts, prunes and apples. And all of these can be enjoyed with Prosciutto di San Daniele.
One of the most simple and easy ways to eat seasonally in Autumn and Winter is to pair Prosciutto di San Daniele with figs and drizzle the figs with honey or, for an added twist, stuff the figs with a creamy soft cheese and serve with grilled winter vegetables.
Mushrooms are also plentiful and we like to enjoy a recipe created for Prosciutto di San Daniele by our friend, renowned English chef, Angela Hartnett – the combination of grilled sourdough bread rubbed with garlic and topped with lightly fried mushroom, cheese and prosciutto is a treat for the tastebuds.
Both truffles and figs are also in season which is why we love this recipe from our good friend, Chef Andrea Mantovani, of the celebrated restaurants Mele e Pere and Gotto Trattoria in London. He created this delicious recipe for us, featuring Prosciutti di San Daniele, figs, goat’s cheese and seasonal fresh black truffle.
Prosciutto di San Daniele with Black Figs, Goat’s Cheese & Fresh Truffle
500g Sliced Prosciutto di San Daniele
500g Puff pastry
10 large Black ripe figs
10cl Liquid honey
1 Egg yolk
15g Lemon thyme leaves
20g Fresh black truffle
10cl White truffle oil
200g Goat’s cheese
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
– Preheat the oven to 180 C
– Roll the puff pastry in a square shape, about 20 x 20cm, and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
– Prick the centre of the puff pastry with a fork
– Cut each fig in half and lay on the puff pastry, leaving 2cm free all around, brush the figs with the honey
– Crumble the goat’s cheese into small pieces and sprinkle on top of the figs
– Mix the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the edges of the tart
– Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
– Leave the tart to cool down for a few minutes, then sprinkle with lemon thyme leaves and fresh black truffle, drizzle with white truffle oil and drape thin slices of Prosciutto di San Daniele on top