ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monster Mashcakes and other Halloween tips

So, it's fucking Halloween again. The cuntiest American import since Mayor McCheese.

(I'm not entirely sure, technically, if we did import him and his wide, bunny, face, but as cultural references go it feels right, so I'm sticking with it!)

The Good ol' US of Stateside has given us many good things (especially in the world of food and beer) but the manufactured sentiment around what they call 'holidays' certainly isn't one of them. Apart from maybe seasonal ales and the Treehouse of Horror episodes of the Simpsons. They're usually pretty good.

Monster Mashcakes
Now, I'm lucky enough to live in an apartment without a front door that faces the outside world, so I shall be spared the worst excesses, but I've heard from others that the 'trick or treat' phenomenon has reached hideous levels in recent years and over the next few nights your doorstep will be infested with local scrotes in Harold Shipman costumes armed with rotten eggs and pump-action water pistols.

Fuck off.

I know I'm probably sound sounding like a grumpy, grizzled old grandfather, and some of you will be thinking 'pfft, it's only once a year, let the kids have their fun', so you can fuck right off too.

Fucked off yet? Good.

A tricky issue

We didn't do that sort of thing when I was a boy, obviously - it was just something we saw American kids doing in Hollywood films. We considered ourselves above such colonial nonsense, and rightly so.

So, my advice to anyone facing the threat of trick-or-treaters is to get your own supply of rotten eggs and be ready to throw them as soon as you open the door. If you have sharp reflexes and get the timing right, you can release the egg between the words 'trick' and 'or', and before they have time to complete the phrase, you've already shut the blessed door in their faces.

(As an additional precaution, you'll need to avoid parking your car outside the house and don't leave your letterbox or windows open. They'll probably still egg your house, but then they would've done that anyway, and you've had the satisfaction of a pre-emptive strike.)

Boiling up pumpkin and potato
Alternatively, if you're in a more generous mood at this time of year, you could try this recipe - especially if you've just bought a pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern and don't know what to do with the insides.

Monster Mashcakes

These crispy, pumpkinny treats are an ideal starter or party dish for the Halloween season.

Pumpkin and tamarind are a stunning, but largely unknown combination - the tanginess really cuts through the sweetness of the pumpkin and it also moderates the richness of the butter and creme fraiche.

Ingredients - makes about eight

One medium pumpkin
Rooster potatoes, 4-5, peeled for boiling/mashing
Creme Fraiche, a generous dollop
White breadcrumbs
Tamarind paste/sauce
Sea salt
Black pepper
Oil for deep-ish frying e.g. groundnut


Dealing with a whole pumpkin can be tricky. You'll want to hack the top off, remove the seeds (which can be roasted for a snack) and then chisel away chunks of flesh and the stringy, pulpy bits.

Bring a big saucepan of salted water to the boil and throw in your chunks of potato, adding the pumpkin after 7-8 minutes.

Get ready to do the Mash!
After a further 12 minutes or so, the potatoes and pumpkin should be sufficiently parboiled, so drain the buggers thoroughly and mash them in the saucepan, adding butter, creme fraiche, salt, pepper and a dash of tamarind paste.

You want the potato and pumpkin to get nicely mixed up, so be aggressive with your mashing technique. Like Dr. Thrilldare.

Once the potato-pumpkin mix is nicely mashed and has a nice pale orange colour, you'll need to let it cool down to a lukewarm temperature.

When the mash has cooled and gone fairly solid, take a fistful and shape into a patty - you could probably be clever and use a shape cutter to make a little halloween monster if you really wanted to. Roll each patty in breadcrumbs, but it doesn't matter if they're not completely coated.

In another pan, heat your oil until it starts to splutter, and throw in your pumpkin patties, turning half way through. When they're brown and crispy, they're done- smaller ones will go crispier faster, so you can produce a range of shades and textures.

As a final touch, use a bit of tamarind paste and/or creme fraiche to try and paint little demonic faces on them before serving.

Serve with a splodge of tamarind sauce on the plate.

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