How to create your own Halloween pumpkin

Transform your home into a ghoulish grotto by creating your very own great ball of fire

1) Choose a pumpkin which looks healthy with a good orange colour all over. Avoid any with bruises or patchy colouring - they should be as ripe as possible and have a sturdy stalk.

2) Cut the lid from your pumpkin. The idea of leaving a glowing pumpkin head flickering at a window dates back to an ancient Celtic tradition and used to be a sign you were welcoming the spirits of your ancestors into your home - it also kept evil spirits at bay. Start by making a hole in the top of pumpkin and cut the lid at a slight angle so you can replace it once you've finished. A six-sided lid may be easier than a circle.

3) Clean out the pumpkin using a wooden spoon to scoop out the seeds and strings. Where the face of your pumpkin will be, carve away the pulp until the wall is around 3cm thick.

4) Add the face. Draw a design you like on paper and tape or pin it to the pumpkin. Using a opened-up paperclip or a toothpick, prick along the lines and into the pumpkin - when you remove the paper you will be able to follow the design (if you can't see it well, rub flour over the front of the pumpkin).

5) Following the lines, cut out the shape with a pointed saw-blade knife. You may need to use several different knife sizes. Use a gentle, sawing action and if the worst does happen, reattach broken pieces with a toothpick!

6) If you rub the inside of the pumpkin with diluted bleach (1:5 ratio) it will preserve it for a few more days - you can also coat the carved edges lightly with petroleum jelly.

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7) Place one or two tealight candles in the pumpkin (if they wobble, carve little channels for them to sit in) and bore a hole in the lid as a chimney.

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