HOCUS POCUS

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Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan.

I love everything about food – growing (although I don’t anymore!), reading about, planning, sourcing ingredients, cookware, cooking and feeding friends and family.  When someone mentions an event I immediately think about food!  So when Small Boy started banging on about Halloween my mind wandered to the kitchen. Needless to say, I was drawn to recipes which show elaborate carving of vegetables and presenting food which had been artistically presented as spooky eyes; ghouls; severed fingers etc.  Within half an hour I ditched that idea as that sort of food prep doesn’t float my boat and is way beyond my ability.  We were being joined by friends with their children so I decided on Worms and Eyeballs in Blood with Monster snot on the side.  AKA spaghetti and meatballs with broccoli and any other green I could pass off as snot to get small people to eat!

I had a plan to make my favourite roasted tomato sauce and pare with Nigella’s meatballs.  (Followers on Facebook can see the roasted tomato sauce recipe).  The week started well as the week before our Halloween gathering the Small People were on holiday from school and the Other Half was away working so the house was decorated with tacky halloween decorations(thank goodness for the pound shop and various pictures drawn and coloured by the Small People);  Pumpkins carved. Marvellous.  Then I blinked and it was Saturday Morning, there wasn’t a fresh tomato in the house or the makings for a meatball!   It was at this point I realised that a bit of Hocus Pocus was needed!

So the Other Half was dispatched to Aldi where trays of meatballs were purchased whilst I made a quick tomato sauce and whilst that was on made jelly (the Rowntrees type) in suitably spooky papercups with jelly worms nestled inside.  High class fare!!

QUICK TOMATO SAUCE

Put a heavy glug of olive oil into a heavy based pan – add two large cloves of garlic chopped – empty in two tins of chopped tomatoes (or whole if its what you have – I tend to chop them whilst they are in the pan with a scissors); a pinch of sugar; and freshly ground black pepper and salt are then added with a good squidge of tomato puree.  Mix well and let it blip away until it has thickened.  Taste and season to get the right balance of flavour. This is enough sauce for a generous potion for two adults.

So as we were going to be nine, I made a vat of sauce; threw the meatballs onto a baking tray and into the oven and after 20 minutes emptied them into the tomato sauce with the juices that had come out during cooking ready to be warmed through later whilst the pasta was cooking.  Prepped the broccoli and asparagus.  The kitchen table was covered with a suitably spooky halloween plastic table cloth; a mini carved pumpkin and tumbled with some high quality pound shop Halloween pulling crackers – ahem!  Crockery piled onto the end of the table with a stack of tumblers and cutlery dumped into heavy duty glasses, wine opened  – Panic over supper was ready, the table laid (of a fashion) all I had to do now was don my costume and go to the park and have fun with the kids.

I cannot pretend that this blog is about a recipe but more about a rambling that even though sometimes we have time to prepare and serve wonderful food – on occasion (well mostly) life gets in the way and there are short cuts to be found which means you don’t have to miss out.

This tomato sauce recipe is really good; quick; easy and cheap to make and keeps in the fridge for a few days – it can also double as the tomato sauce for a pizza base.  Feel free to add chilli or anchovies and capers; basil etc etc.  In fact it is so quick that when the Other Half reminded me that we had been joined by an extra person who was a Vegetarian ‘so don’t forget to hold some tomato sauce back before you add the meatballs’ –  OOPS!  I was able to knock up another with no sweat at all.  I know – check me out!

The Small People went Trick or Treating to our lovely neighbours who treated the children with copious amounts of sugar – but they still had to suffer a trick as they were brought back to share our Halloween fare and were subjected to four small people full of sugar and an evening of a Spooktacular Strictly Come Dancing!   So the initial nine became twelve and a gathering to remember.  I can truly say it was the happiest Halloween ever.