Monday 7 November 2011

Trick or cheat?

Some varieties of Pumpkin

In Brazil, where I grew up, Halloween wasn’t a popular event, but this American tradition is becoming a growing trend. Not everyone is happy with this. Lots of people in Brazil see Halloween as a threat to our own cultural tradition. To go against the imported trend, a group of people decided to create, in October 31st 2005, The Day of Saci Perere.

Saci Perere is a Brazilian folk character - a one legged mulato boy who smokes a pipe, and likes to play pranks on people (cooks especially) and to scare the animals. Despite his mischief, he wasn’t an evil person and whoever got to entrap him and grab his hat would have their wishes granted. One of his qualities was his knowledge of sacred herbs. He knew the secrets of medicinal plants, and therefore he was the guardian of the forests. Anyone who used the plants without his consent would be the target of his tricks.

Halloween is also growing in popularity in London. Although it has its roots in Celtic folklore, it was  never embraced by England as it was by the US. Nina is now seven years old and waits in expectation for 31st of October.  There is no way we can ignore the little “witches” and “wizards” gluing their little fingers to our doorbells. So, I have also bought into the whole thing. With a pumpkin hat (yes, that’s inflatable pumpkin head), I followed my little witch through the streets of our neighbourhood this year.

After coming back from the streets with her bucket filled with chocolates and sweets (which have already being negotiated with regards of how much she should really have), she had a shower, put her pyjamas on, and then I told her again the stories of Saci Perere. That was my personal tribute to the little one legged pest who used to scare the hell out of me, when I was a child.  Back to my Brazilian roots. 

October is time for Halloween and for pumpkins and there is a great selection this time of the year. The variety of pumpkin I like best is Crown Prince and I can't resist it when I see its arrival in the farmer's market.

Crown Prince pumpkin - my favourite

It's simply beautiful

Add sage, garlic, fresh red chilli, olive oil and season

Serve it with quinoa, feta cheese, rocket leaves and
lots of olive oil! Yum!

Quinoa salad with roasted chilli pumpkin

This is a great vegetarian alternative dish full of nutrients.


1 Crown Prince pumpkin, cut in wedges
7 tbsp olive oil
1-2 fresh chillies, sliced
Fresh sage leaves, bruised
250g quinoa
2 cups of chicken stock
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, plus extra to garnish (optional)
1 bulb of garlic,
1 tsp lemon juice
160g  feta cheese, broken into chunks
Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 200º C/400º F/,gas mark 6. Cut the pumpkin in wedges, drizzle with half the oil, chillies, sage leaves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 50 minutes or until tender.

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the quinoa and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain in a fine sieve and leave to dry. Put it in a large mixing bowl.

Add the spring onion, lemon juice, feta, salt and pepper, toss together gently, taking care not to mush up the feta. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve warmish, or at room temperature, with some of the roasted pumpkins, chilli, sage and garlic.

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Pumpkin (Curcubita pepo): is a great source of carotene, vitamin C, vitamins B1, B5, B3, B6, folic acid, potassium, and dietary fibre.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa): is a great source of protein – especially lysine, which is needed for tissue growth and repair. It is high in unsaturated fats – omega 3 – and low in carbohydrates. It contains high levels of magnesium (nature’s natural relaxant), calcium (essential for the function of the brain and nervous system, besides strengthening the skeleton), iron (production of red blood cells), copper and manganese (preserve the myelin sheath), and phosphorus (plays an essential role in how the body stores and uses energy). It is an excellent ingredient for people who suffer from migraines, diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Saci roasting a pumpkin - Brazilian culture going
against the imported trend of Halloween

Till next week!

1 comment

  1. Que bom recuperar as estórias do Saci! Eu sempre fui fã!
    Também adoro fatias de "pumpkin" assadas no forno.


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