Moroccan spiced pumpkin tart

It’s that strange time of year when we all buy food we’d never normally consider eating. Then we cut it into pretty shapes and leave it on the doorstep to rot. What did the pumpkin do to deserve this?

Actually, I’d never turn one into a Halloween lantern, in much the same way as I wouldn’t make a wickerman out of asparagus. It’s a total waste of something you only see for a brief period every year. Besides, pumpkin tastes great, particularly when coupled with warm spices and sweet, hot flavours.

For this recipe you’ll need to keep the skin of the pumpkin intact, so unfortunately it’s no good for the stuff you scooped out of the middle of your lantern. It would probably work well with other squashes – I reckon butternut would be a good alternative.

I’ve used buttermilk instead of cream for the custard, to make it lighter. I don’t suppose they actually have heavy egg-based quiche things in Morocco, so this helps the dairy part stay out of the way of the real star of the show – the roasted pumpkin.
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Italian-style shakshuka

Shakshuka is a North African breakfast dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce. This is a kind of Italian-ish variation, with chunky vegetables added to make it halfway between the kind of sauce you’d pour over pasta and a ratatouille. Definitely a main meal rather than a breakfast.

It’s easy and convenient because it only uses one pan (you need a sauté pan or high-sided frying pan with a lid) and requires virtually no attention while it’s bubbling away. You can vary the ingredients as much as you like (try adding mushrooms or chillies) and any leftovers go well with pasta the next day.
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Crispy hand grenades (aka prawn spring rolls)

In the tradition of exciting Asian dishes like ‘gunpowder shrimp’ and ‘bang bang prawns’ I considered naming these combustible little devils ‘nuclear rolls’. Not because they’re particularly spicy but because of their propensity to explode without warning.

The combination of sweetcorn and boiling oil is particularly lethal – think napalm-coated popcorn. One minute it’s gently bubbling away, then you look at it the wrong way and boom! – your kitchen (and face) will be showered with tiny pieces of greasy shrapnel, burning hotter than a thousand suns.

It’s a messy business, for sure, hence my other potential name – ‘dirty bombs’. Maybe not so appetising, though.
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Huevos rancheros

I used to have this for breakfast at a hotel on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. The restaurant was supposedly owned by Justin Timberlake, and I guess he can afford to eat like this every day – at $30 a pop, it certainly wasn’t cheap. Or particularly healthy.

But it wasn’t my money, and I was working off the calories afterwards by trudging around a trade show for eight hours, taking photos of models in bikinis. It was a tough job.

Make it yourself and it’s a really inexpensive dish. I’ve listed ingredients for the components of this before – it’s basically fajitas / chimichangas in a slightly different guise, plus an egg. You need refried beans and some sort of vegetable chilli kind of thing, so this recipe will do. Or this one. You can customise it however you like – it’s always a winner.
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Raw beetroot and carrot salad

Uncooked beetroot doesn’t have to be as tough as old boots. Grated finely enough, I think it actually tastes a lot better than when it’s cooked – subtly sweet, fresh and very earthy, with a lovely crunchy/chewy texture.

It’s a perfect match for carrots and assorted nutty seeds. This recipe has a sweet and tangy dressing that sets it all off very nicely.

Top tip – grate the beetroot in the sink, unless you want your kitchen to look like a murder scene.
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