As we navigate back to life post pandemic, I really feel there is a marvellous sense of gratitude amongst family and friends to yet again embrace the happiness in the simplest of occasions. The tinge of sadness still lingers when we think of life events experienced without the physical presence of some of our loved ones, but this overwhelming disappointment, in some ways, simply encapsulates just how important family and friends are in our everyday lives.

With this to mind, I’m sure there’s no coincidence in the surge of families countrywide celebrating events that may have only received a token mention in the past. Spending precious time with family and friends is not only something fun to do, but it also hugely benefits our mental health. Food is a wonderful way to bring family together; gathering around a kitchen table, breaking bread, chatting and making memories is good for the soul. The get-together need not be elaborate- a few biscuits and a pot of tea would suffice for any afternoon catch-up- but if an excuse is needed for a family feast, Halloween is there for the taking.

As a holiday, it’s rather unassuming, offering the opportunity to celebrate, without the perceived need for fuss that is often associated with the better celebrated holidays. At this time of year, large pots of steaming casseroles and saucepans of seasonal soups will satisfy a crowd, while also filling the tummies of little ones before they delve into their trick or treating haul. Children love to be involved in the preparation of food for the family table, but baking something a little different, which involves their imagination, is always met with great excitement.

Both recipes I’m sharing are relatively easy to make, and would serve quite nicely on a crisp autumn evening as the sweet course of your Halloween get-together.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin spice cookies

These are the perfect seasonal cookie to bake at this time of year. They are delicious without any topping, but to add a touch of Halloween they can be drizzled with a little chocolate to resemble a spider web.

Makes 12 large cookies

175g butter

115g light brown sugar

150g granulated sugar

1 free-range egg

1tsp vanilla extract

260g self-raising flour

2tsp cinnamon

1tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cloves

100g white chocolate, melted

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/ fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

2 In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together, until pale and creamy.

3 Lightly whisk the egg in a cup and add the vanilla extract. Slowly add this to the mixing bowl, whisking all the time.

4 Sieve the flour and spices into a bowl, and then gradually add to the mixing bowl, and mix until the dough comes together.

5 The dough will sit happily in the fridge for a couple of days or else can be popped in the freezer, at this stage. If using straightaway, using an ice-cream scoop, or large spoon, take a scoop of the dough. Roll it gently between your hands to form a ball and place on the baking tray, leaving plenty of room for the dough to expand as it bakes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

6 Bake for about 17 minutes, maybe a little more or less depending on the size of the cookie, or until golden.

7 Take from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for about five minutes, before transferring to a wire tray to cool fully.

8 Once cool, drizzle over the melted chocolate to resemble a spiderweb.

Graveyard mousse pots

This mousse recipe can be served either in individual small glasses, or in a large bowl. The mousse layer can be made a day ahead, but only add the crumbed biscuit layer just before serving, to save it becoming soft and sinking into the mousse.

Graveyard mousse pots. \ Nessa Robins

Makes eight

4 rectangular/oval-shaped biscuits

25g white chocolate, melted

400ml cream

200g milk chocolate, chopped

100g Oreos

1 Break each biscuit in half, to create eight “tombstones”. Place the melted white chocolate into a small plastic bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag. Carefully pipe RIP near the top of each biscuit half. Place the biscuit in the fridge for a few minutes, to allow the chocolate to set.

2 Place a small saucepan with a little water over a low heat. Place a heatproof bowl over the saucepan. Add 100ml of the cream and the milk chocolate to the bowl. As the cream is beginning to warm the chocolate will start to melt. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is fully melted and combined with the cream. Take from the heat and leave to one side to cool.

3 In a large bowl, whisk the remaining cream until soft peaks form.

4 Once the chocolate mixture is cooled, gently fold it into the cream.

5 Portion into the glasses and place in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

6 Remove the cream filling from the Oreos and crush the biscuits in a Ziplock bag using a rolling pin, or a food processor.

7 When ready to serve, top each mousse with a layer of Oreo crumb and top with the biscuit tombstones. CL

Read more

Nessa Robins' Halloween party recipes

Nessa Robins: healthier Halloween treats