It’s Halloween and a Beef Dhansak Curry

It’s Halloween and this celebration is not something I grew up with.  It was something we heard that they did in the US and from what we gleaned from the Chinese Whispers, children dressed up as witches or vampires and were rewarded for this by being given lollies from every house in the neighbourhood.  We were confused.

Then I had my own children and out of no where this American celebration had, without warning, arrived.  I was reluctant to say the least, thinking it to be a bizarre practise that had no relevance in our culture.

My little ‘trick or treater’

But never mind, it’s arrived and Alfie, motivated by scoring large amounts of free lollies in such abundance they would normally be off limits, has been determined not to miss out.  A few weeks ago we bought a plastic pumpkin ‘basket’ for him to collect his loot in.  A few days ago we hired a black cape and a mask so he could be dressed up as a vampire.  A few hours ago I made Spooky Spook cupcakes for the hoards of ‘trick or treaters’ I was expecting on my doorstep.

It could have gone better.

Indian Beef Curry with Kumera, Eggplant and Lentils

Alfie finished school and came home to rush into his costume.  I drove him to a street where I knew there would be plenty of action.  And I was right.  There were children in dress-ups everywhere.  The only problem is that we left it a little late and so many of the houses had run out of treats and so there was nothing left but a sign on the door saying, ‘Sorry, run out of sweets.  See you next year’.  It was still daylight.  It was still the afternoon.  Plotting children are clearly setting out for their loot of treasure earlier and earlier.

A good family curry with no heat!

We then came to a house that had a party in full swing going on in their front yard.  There were children running and playing everywhere and the mothers who were seemingly oblivious to the goings-on were sipping enormously filled glasses of white wine.  We arrived at the front gate and one of the mothers came running towards us, full glass of wine in hand that she placed on top of the sandstone front fence.  She also had in her other hand a large bucket of lollies and she held these up to Alfie and said, ‘I bet you want a treat’.  Next thing there was a loud bang and I was instantly sprayed, as in covered, with white wine, as one of the children had kicked a football that impacted with the wine glass, shattering it and spraying its contents all over me.  I was dripping in white wine.  It was running through my hair and down my face and my dress was soaked and my hand bag stained.  Mothers sipping white wine while boys kick footballs is not a good mix.

Great with rice but I served it with organic quinoa

I thought I might have been offered a bit of paper towel to dry myself off but I guess standing at someone’s front gate begging for lollies puts you in a fairly low bargaining position and so nothing was offered and I did my best to dry myself off using the palm of my hands.  Lovely.

We then came home and I excitedly waited for my trick or treaters.  None arrived.  Not one.  I have a few spare red velvet spooky spook cupcakes.  Can I mail them to you?

Because I knew I would be busy in the afternoon, earlier that day I made a curry.  Once back from trick or treating (that Alfie assures me was an enormous success) and after I removed my wine stained clothes, I reheated this and we enjoyed it for a late dinner.

Lovely for a casual meal at home

Beef Dhansak

Serves:  6

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is a very inexpensive family meal as the cut of meat (I used chuck) is very affordable

  • 2 tbspns ghee (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tspn ground tumeric
  • 2 tspns ground coriander
  • 2 tspns ground cumin
  • 2 tspons garam masala
  • 1 kg diced beef
  • 500g kumera (sweet potato), peeled, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 1 ltr (4 cups) water
  • coriander to garnish

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt ghee.  Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.  Add spices and cook until fragrant.  Add beef and stir until browned.  Add water, cover, bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer, covered for 60 minutes then remove lid and simmer for 30 minutes. 20 Minutes into cooking time add lentils.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 200C.  Take a baking tray and cover with baking paper.  Put sweet potato on tray, drizzle with olive oil and season.  Place in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked.  Take eggplant and prick all over with a fork.  Place on a baking tray and put in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, cut in half, scoop out flesh and add to curry.

Add kumera and eggplant to curry and cook until heated through.

Serve garnished with coriander with a side dish of rice or quinoa.

This recipe has been severely adapted from The Australian Womens Weekly Easy Indian-Style Cookbook.

If you liked this post, why not like me!




  1. Lavish parties here on the event night would be very dependent on the weather … but in general, the night is still for the beggars seeking candy. And I imagine Alfie enjoyed himself!

  2. It sounds like you had a rather harrowing evening! Your Beef Dhansak sounds like a very comforting meal to help you recover!! I grew up in Canada and moved to the UK in my twenties and was shocked that they didn’t celebrate Hallowe’en properly. Thankfully it is slowly catching on but we still don’t quite get it over here. There was a real structure to it in Canada (no one but the very youngest kids – say age 2 or 3 – went out before 6.30pm, and no one ever ran out of candy as that would have been too embarrassing). Manners were emphasised and it was pure fun. There were never, ever any ‘tricks’. Hopefully one day it will truly catch on in countries outside North America because at it’s best, Hallowen’en is truly wonderful. (Trick or Treat for UNICEF has been a major fund raiser for the United Nations Children’s Fund since 1950.)

  3. I love your blog. First time commenting, but would happily exchange my left over 13 lollipops to Alfie, and pour (rather then tip on you) a (particularly
    large) glass of wine in exchange for a small bowl of your delicious sounding curry!!

  4. Geez. Here in the US we have specific times for trick or treating. I went through 20 bags of candy last year handing out to the kids. This year we only expect to hand out a few since we moved to a neighborhood with few kids. It definitely depends on the neighborhood. You were wise (as always) to have dinner already prepared. Especially since you already had your wine;)

  5. We expect only a few trick or treaters ringing our doorbell, asking for candy. No wine will be spilled here, so if you and Alfie would like to stop by around say 6 p.m. Minnesota time, you are welcome.

    So sorry you had a bad Halloween experience.

  6. Off topic, but that bowl that you show, is it an Australian company that makes it? There is a company in Barbados that has the exact type of patters/colors called Earthworks. I love it.
    My first Halloween was when I was on holiday in the USA visiting family in NY. I was 6 and the Autumn colors were gorgeous and it was nice and cool. It was WONDERFUL! However, as an adult, I can not seem to summon any interest in it, and certainly can’t be bothered to dress p. So, my one and only Halloween remains a beautiful memory! I do think it’s crazy how it’s taken hold in England – and even Barbados to some extent. Only a few years ago it didn’t exist!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi TJ, the bowl was given to me by a blogging friend. There’s a shop that’s opened near me and everything is imported from Morocco (I think it’s Morocco). She bought the bowl there and I love it so much I’m going there to see what else they have available.

  7. Oh my goodness! All that preparation and no one came? Awwww…that’s just not right. I had no idea we exported this silly ritual over your way. It’s still early in my day, and in a couple of hours I’m headed down to my daughter’s to help get two little girls ready. I love it for them. I, personally, am not such a fan! But I can guarantee you no matter what you were doing I would have handed you a towel…and not a paper one!!

    The curry is a wonderful recipe. I want it NOW! Seriously, for lunch!! 🙂

  8. I’m sorry that Alfie’s first Halloween wasn’t too successful. Nor yours as I think the least that you should have been offered is a large towel to dry off with and a glass of wine of your own. As to the lack of trick-or-treaters when you got home … could they have come while you were out? I didn’t read carefully enough to see if you left anyone behind to hand out the goodies. 🙂

    I’m in a largely retiree/adult renters area so we haven’t decorated or ‘opened for business’ in years. The traditional sign of such houses are lights on the front porch (decorations optional).

    Yummy curry. And the bowl it’s in has wonderfully dark, halloweeny themed colours. A great bowl to fill with candy to snack from while watching scary movies.

  9. It’s a shame how little trick or treaters came my friend and how Alfies experience wasn’t the best 🙁
    Here at my place, we had only three – perhaps if they commercialized Halloween instead of Christmas right now it would be bigger? Fingers crossed!
    But on a different note I LOVE your gorgeous curry 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  10. You know,I am truly surprised that there hasn’t been ‘Trick or Treating’ in Australia considering that they tell us here in the U.S. that it stems from All Hallows’ Eve practices in Ireland, and I know Australian roots are often Irish.(And I know why and how a lot of Irish ended up in Australia, but I won’t get political on you). I guess I should say that Trick-or-Treating is a corruption of old Irish practices, but I have yet to meet an Australian who was not a character, full of fun and friendship!

  11. I’ve never been one to really celebrate Halloween either. I suppose all those years ago it just wasn’t something us Aussies celebrated. What a lovely curry to make. With all the spices going on I always have the expectation that it’s difficult. Thank you for sharing something so quick and easy x

  12. Oh dear, you sure got the trick instead of the treat Charlie! We never get Halloween hustlers here, but I’m sure they would have loved your cup cakes 🙂 BTW , I love your cutlery- and the curry looks good too!

  13. Oh no!! Dried wine in clothes smells particuarly bad too. We didn’t get any either. We always plan for it and no one shows up. Oh well, more for me!

  14. Ugh…sorry about the wine shower. You can ship any leftover cupcakes here…we’re almost out of candy bars and still a half hour left of trick or treating! The hubby and dog have door duty and I’m baking muffins in the kitchen 🙂

  15. Oh no Charlie! How rude that the woman didn’t offer you anything to wipe yourself down. I thought you were going to say she invited you in for a wine, that would have been a decent thing to do.
    You could bring the leftover cupcakes to Adelaide? 🙂

  16. I remember fondly the Halloween trick or treating of my youth. Very innocent then. And when I first arrived in Mexico, there was only Day of the Dead, no Halloween treats. And then it crept over the border and arrived. Now it is commercial…Love the look of the curry.

    So sorry you have trouble with the capcha, Charlie. I don’t even know where to begin to fix this as I didn’t even know I had it. Thank you for persevering.

  17. Oh dear!! Not the best experience… and I am sorry to say I would have been the lady with the big party, and children spilling wine!

    We had a huge party, so much fun with everyone all dressed up, the children went trick or treating in the neighbourhood with the dads, and it was a success for young and old!

    I wouldn’t have minded a bit of your curry though 😉 looks delish 🙂

  18. You do have some adventures in your everyday life. I have never quite agreed with us appropriating another nation’s customs just because the kids want lollies. Shame about your beautifully spooky cupcakes. I’ll take some.

  19. I always feel torn about supporting this odd import. On the one hand, the kids have fun. On the other hand, Halloween is a late autumn festival, and in the southern hemisphere we are in high spring (Beltane in the old Celtic calendar). So last night I celebrated spring with a group of women and we had a great time, with greenery everywhere.

  20. Oh no! Poor Alfie missing out on sweets (what conniving children, to stock up in mid-afternoon, I’m sure it shouldn’t allowed until after dark) and poor you for the wine spray. I am also so sad on behalf of your cupcakes! I’d happily take on by mail but suspect it wouldn’t end well 😛

  21. Magnolia Verandah says:

    Yes Halloween is a touch alien to me too. What a night (or afternoon) you had. We had Halloween themed 5 yr old birthday party this year which I really enjoyed. Thank goodness for that preprepared curry!

  22. We too have never understood this Halloween thing but be that as it may, I am thrilled that Alfie enjoyed it so much. Um, trying to find the good in all that wasted wine – at least it wasn’t red so it didn’t stain your dress…
    🙂 Mandy xo

  23. I had no idea you didn’t have ‘Halloween’ in Australia; now I’m wondering if it is celebrated in the UK? It was teaming rain last night but the kids still came out. Our’s wait until it’s dark because it’s supposed to be scary. I went over to my GF’s and she had her Jack-O-Lanterns and fog machine so it was quite spooky! We also dressed up; she was the Gypsie Whore from the night before but since JT had the cape for his office Halloween party, I had to improvise and dressed up as a Pirate Wench (I had a pirate shirt I made for JT years back, I just belted it and put on a black wig). We drank wine and handed out treats to the little ghouls. The costumes were great this year, more home made ones which were rather creative (one 11 year old was her future self!).

    I am sorry that you were treated so poorly at the party house, such bad manners, Charlie. I would have offered you a towel, and then a glass of wine to help you forget about the mishap.

  24. Oh no, don’t give up on Halloween just yet Charlie! It’s a lot more fun than it sounds like that party was 🙂

  25. Oh, Charlie! Halloween or not, that woman should have at least offered your a hand towel to wipe the wine off. The Trick or Treaters are the ones to pull the pranks, not the hosts.
    Your beef curry sounds delicious, Charlie, and for a change I’ve got all of the spices on hand. I’m going to give this a try and will let you know how it goes. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Gosh, sorry your Halloween was kind of a wash out. It really is a big deal in the US, although no one begins making the rounds to collect the loot until about 6 PM. But how nice to celebrate with that great looking Beef Dhansak! Such a nice dish, and I need to make it – soon, and then save it for next year’s Halloween! Thanks for this.

  27. Happy Halloween to you and Alfie 🙂 But gosh…your neighbour is so rude! They should have at least apologised at helped you dry up! Gosh I’m so glad that you weren’t hurt from the shattered glass…and what no one came >_< that's disappointing please feel free to send me any cupcakes you have left! I will eat them all for you 😛

  28. Unfortunately you got the trick while Alfie got the treats. I would have been so apologetic if I was the wine drinker at the front gate. Very rude of her to not have invited you in to dry off.

  29. That’s crazy about the wine incident! Seriously, no apology and no towel? How incredibly rude.

  30. Yes, you can mail me some of the spooky spook cupcakes and some of the Beef Dhansak to go with it, please. I think your neighborhood needs a bit more practice with this Halloween Trick or Treat tradition. Ours ended early last night since it was a school night, but no wine tossing that I saw!

  31. Normally we make this from chicken, though this looks equally good.

    When we arrived in USA we had no clue about Halloween either. Yet now it has become very big with my kids.

  32. What a warming dish after being soaked by wine.. I think she was quite rude, actually. Your customs are different from ours. We never make anything homemade anymore because of the worry of someone “slipping something into the food”. Everyone hands out small pre-bought packets of candy and some give out pop or a bag of chips. The kids often use a pillowcase so they can get a bigger haul of candy and they have to dump it out so we can make sure everything in the bag is safe and not opened. If we run out of treats, we put up a hand-made sign that says “All Shelled Out”.. and I actually have no idea where that comes from, lol! I’m glad Alfie had a blast!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That sounds so much more civilised and organised. I was only going to hand out the homemade treats to the children in the street who know me. It’s sad that we no longer live with the same level of trust that of years gone by.

  33. Halloween does seem to be getting bigger round these parts, but I’m not sure I will ever be right behind it… carrot stick anyone??

  34. It should really be called Halloween and other catastrophes don’t you think. I’m not too keen either but my kids are leading the way big time. Your planning though was impeccable and after the white wine incident at least you had a beautiful meal to come home to. Like Alfie I would call it a successful night.

  35. I dont like those Mothers Charlie, fancy not helping you out, you are such a lovely and well dressed woman I would be mortified. I am glad alfie enjoyed himself. Sad you didnt get to give out any cupcakes. I always find the standard of beggers to be low and supply freddo frogs!!

  36. No towel offered? That is about as rude as it gets. You should have trick or treated in Napa Valley where parents walk around with wine glasses that are filled at each house visited by other parents. One big party!

  37. This looks yummy! I like the idea of lentils with curry 🙂

  38. When I left Japan 15 years ago, Halloween wasn’t there but now I heard some kids attend trick or treating events where they are hosted at certain places. But I would say they are confused too. They try to imitate and adapt to their culture but I think it’s not quite the same. Sorry about the wine incident. And I’m always amazed how well prepared you are (talking about dinner you made in advance). I took the kids out knowing that I’d be busy I refused to cook. LOL.

  39. I had no idea Trick-or-Treating made it to Australia! Haha, so cool.

Speak Your Mind