So there I was, waiting for a batch of blood for my annual Halloween party. Not the human kind mind you, but nevertheless a batch of blood. The only problem? It was about to arrive when I was going to have a meeting with my book publishers at Penguin to discuss publicity for my upcoming book.
"What am I going to do?" I asked Mr NQN. "It needs to be fresh, and I can't pick it up any other time"
"Bring it with you to the meeting?" he suggested.
"I suppose, I can't be the only author that has brought a bag of blood to a meeting, can I?" I reasoned.
Well as it turns out, blood isn't the easiest thing to get and it ended up being late which saved me from a fate of explaining why I was carry half a litre of cryovaced pigs's blood (well at least it wasn't in a bucket and I wasn't in a 70's style prom dress I didn't have said bucket tipped over me a la Carrie...).
Every year I look forward to my favourite time of the year, Halloween where I get to say goodbye to the pretty and embrace the ghoulishly morbid. This year for Halloween I ended up making 14 items - I know 13 is a lucky or unlucky number depending on who you talk to but an additional thing just slipped in in my excitement. I prepped the party for the week prior to it-I was holding it early as I wasn't able to hold it on the last weekend of October and I also figured if anyone wanted to cook the recipes they would have time in order to make them. As I have for the past few years, I went to my favourite party supply store The Party People for items including a backdrop that would transform our neutral toned apartment into a dungeon and for good measure I hired a fog machine so that guests could be treated to the sight of a foggy, misty Halloween evening! I do love the delightfully creepy!
A few days before the party I sent around a little reminder to my guests:
"My dearest, darling ghoul
I've been busy mixing up spiders and gruel
For a Halloween night
That will give you a fright
See you on Saturday at 7pm, don't forget there's only one rule...
Please wear a costume! ;)"
Well I never laid claim to any poetic talents. So without any further dithering allow me, dressed as your Disneyland Haunted Mansion Maid wearing a costume made by my mother, to present you with my hellishly horrible Halloween party of 2011!
Press the doorbell to enter...
My esteemed guests, let us start with something to drink. Some blood punch Madam or Sir? Presented most delightfully in a clear blood fountain, the mistress of the manor likes to drink blood so she thought you might like to try some. Perhaps you'll get a taste for it like she has...
Please help yourself to anything on the dining table...it's all gruesomely edible...
Have you ever visited a pet cemetery? Here is a haunted one made of an avocado, spinach and chickpea hummus dip where ghosts abound visiting tombstone crackers and pretzel fences keep them in.
If you haven't visited a dentist lately I wouldn't recommend these apple rotting teeth with caramel peanuts...
This was the brain of someone that displeased the mansion's mistress. She's a little despotic so she decided off with his head and that she would share it with all of you...
Oh dear, and here is the rest of the man that displeased the mansion mistress. Apart from being a despot she also has a nicer side and believes in nose to tail eating...So she thought that we should eat all of him from his bbq pork ribs to his spicy sausage intestines! With a bloody tomato sauce of course ;)
Smokey pumpkin cheese ball
Made with freshly roasted pumpkin, smoked cheese and cream cheese this lil smokey pumpkin cheese ball was served with garlic bagel chips. Obviously not for the vampires amongst us...
The mansion mistress told me to go out and buy some blood so I did and I made some Finnish blood pancakes with blood clots. They're her favourite and seeing as she cuts off people's heads, I tend to follow orders.
And if guests are in need of cooling off, here are some ghost ice pops made with pear and apple blackcurrant juice-they feel as cold and dead as some of the ghouls that wander these halls!
Don't mind the fog coming up, that's perfectly natural at this time of year, especially in a dungeon...
This one I'm afraid is a mummy pizza. Not the mothering kind but a much more frightening kind.
Some sunken ghosties, these didn't work so well although they tasted just like pumpkin pie. I'm sure I'll get in trouble with the mansion mistress for these frightened little ghosties!
Here is the Rat Queen who lives in the basement with her families of rats. She is watching over them as they devour a human arm...Sweet isn't it?
May I offer you a shrunken head?
And a confidante Sheb told me about these Twisties ghost chips which I could only find at one service station where I randomly stopped to fill up the mistresses ancient Bentley! So of course I bought all four bags that they had. They taste like Toobs!
Now onto the recipes!
At last year's Halloween party I dressed the dining table as a large graveyard with tombstones for every guest. This year the graveyard was a pet cemetery made out of hummus, avocado and spinach dip, with cracker tombstones, a pretzel fence, quail egg ghosts and broccoli and celery trees. Once the dip is made (and I ended up making a lot) putting it together and quite easy and fun and I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out!
Firstly measure how much capacity your rectangular tray will hold mine was about 6-7 cups. Adjust the recipe below according depending on how big your dish is. Inspired by the Disney Family Fun site
1 bunch English spinach
4-6 garlic cloves
4x 400g tins chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1 ripe avocado
6 tablespoons smooth peanut butter or tahini
8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup lemon juice
8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
Rectangular shaped crackers (for tombstones)
Pretzels (for fence)
Edible black pen to draw faces and write on tombstones
1 small head broccoli
A couple of celery tops with leaves
A rectangular tray
Step 1 - First, blanch the spinach in some water until it is wilted. Run cold water over the spinach and then squeeze all of the water out of the spinach-this takes a few minutes as there is a lot of water in the spinach and just when you think there isn't any more, there is! It's important to get all of the water out though as you don't want a runny dip-otherwise the broccoli and celery will have trouble standing up in a runny or soft dip.
Step 2 - In a food processor, process the garlic first to break it up and then add the well drained chickpeas, spinach, avocado, peanut butter or tahini, lemon juice and oil and process until smooth. It is a large mixture so it will take a few minutes to get to a smooth stage. Then place in a large airtight container covering the dip directly on the surface with cling wrap. Refrigerate until needed (this can be done the day before).
Step 3 - When ready to serve, draw faces on the quail eggs (drying the surface of the egg first on a paper towel) and crackers. Then stand a small head of broccoli in the dip and then the celery next to it (the celery needs the broccoli to lean against). Then place the gravestones and quail eggs. Place pretzels around the edge and voila! You have your graveyard.
Note: the crackers get a touch wet if they sit around in the dip all night so insert the crackers close to serving time and offer your guests a bowl of fresh crackers and pretzels too.
As soon as I saw the idea of this I loved it. Little did I know how exhausting peeling a whole watermelon is! Luckily Mr NQN stepped in as I was making slow progress getting the green off the melon and with some peeling and a few deft hacks we had a brain! I wanted to have some sort of fresh fruit component as every year the weather is warm and people's costumes can be heavy so we try and keep guests refreshed-in the most morbid way possible of course ;)
Inspired by the Disney Family Fun site
1 small seedless watermelon
1 vegetable peeler
1 paring knife
Slicing off the bottom to make a base
Step 1 - Slice a slice off the bottom of the watermelon to give it a flat base to sit on. Peel the green layer off and then get down to the white layer. Using a sharp paring knife cut swirls into the watermelon getting to the pink layer below.
Smokey Pumpkin Cheese Ball
Another dip but in the form of a pumpkin cheese ball this is really easy to make and* is best made the day ahead* so that the dip can "set". The recipe is inspired by Amy Sedaris's lil smokey cheesball and involves blending up cheeses together with some cold, previously roasted pumpkin and then placing it in a cling wrap lined bowl. Then just take a toothpick and run some lines down it like a pumpkin and then stick a bit of broccoli stem on top and some bagel chips around the side and you're done!
1 cup shredded smoked cheese
500g/1 pound cream cheese
60g/2 ozs butter
2 teaspoons steak or bbq sauce
1 cup pumpkin
Salt and pepper to taste
A little liquid smoke (optional)
1 small broccoli stem
Crackers to serve
Step 1 - In a food processor blend all of the ingredients except for the broccoli and crackers until smooth. Spoon into a cling wrap lined bowl, press down gently to get rid of any air holes and cover with more cling wrap. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve, unmold onto a serving plate and place upturned broccoli stem on top. Serve with crackers (I used bagel crisps as they were hard enough so that people could dip them into the cheese ball).
When Queen Viv first told me that Nigella had a clear drinks fountain and that I could use it to spurt out bloody looking drinks I was instantly sold. However in this case determination had to match desire as I looked everywhere for a clear drinks fountain and there were plenty of these in the US but none here and ebay sellers wouldn't ship it here. I finally found one place in Australia who had just one left and she sent to me. I put it together and voila, we had our blood spurting fountain! I'm hoping some True Blood vampires might stop by...
2 parts cranberry juice
2 part dark grape juice
1 part vodka
Step 1 - Mix all together and serve out of clear crystal fountain!
Rib cage ribs and intestines
When I went to the butchers I had to call him aside. "Um excuse me, I need some American pork ribs but they have to look like matching human ribs...it's for an early Halloween party" I said clocking his slightly alarmed look. I knew that there would be plenty of sweet food but I needed to put savouries out and I thought that this was an effectively gruesome way to feed people savouries. It is also very easy. You just marinate two racks of ribs in your favourite bbq sauce overnight (I also used some bbq spice rub to add some spiciness) and then bake them for an hour popping in your "intestines" or sausages in half way through. Just add a faux skeleton on top and you have a dish that would frighten the mask off Mr NQN's vegan mother Tuulikki!
2 racks of American ribs, about the same length and width ideally
1 bottle bbq sauce
3 tablespoon dry spice rub (I used a Le Spice one)
500g/1 pound spicy sausages (or really whatever sausage you like)
1 faux skull to serve
Step 1 - Marinate the ribs with the bbq sauce and dry spice rub in a zip lock bag for several hours or overnight ideally.
Step 2 - An hour before you bake them take out from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 200C/400F and line a baking tray with parchment. Place the ribs on the tray with the excess sauce and bake for 1 hour. After 30 minutes place the sausages on another tray and bake these too-mine seemed already arranged in an intestinal pattern but if yours aren't then arrange them now as they will hold their configuration roughly. When done, carefully lift them onto a serving tray and place intestines underneath the ribs and the skull atop. Give scissors or a knife and napkins for guests.
These were a cute idea and I wanted to a pumpkin pie type of filling topped with whipped cream. If I had done it again I would have made these closer to the time because it was a hot day and the cream, which I have to admit came out of an aerosol can because I just couldn't be bothered whipping up some cream and filling a piping bag with the real stuff which would have been more stable, so the ghosts sank a little.
1 cup roasted or tinned pumpkin (well drained)
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
300ml whipped cream
silver cachous for eyes
Step 1 - In a food processor blend the pumpkin, cream, brown sugar, nutmeg and salt until smooth. Refrigerate until needed (can be done 2-3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container). Spoon or pipe into small white cups. Pipe cream on top using a plain unfluted nozzle and then place silver cachous for eyes.
Rotting Apple Teeth
The best thing about these teeth is the more discoloured the apples get the more authentic they look! These were another idea from the Family Fun site and just a few apples go a long way. Just in case, I did soak the apple quarters in lemon juice water and then stuck in some peanuts mixed with dulce de leche or caramel into them. I did find the tooth adding process a bit hard and some fell out so this was a bit fiddlier than I thought.
3 red apples (Sundowners or round shaped apples are best as opposed to apples like red delicious)
30g/1 oz roasted peanuts
2 teaspoons caramel top and fill or dulce de leche
A large bowl of lemon water
Step 1 - Core and quarter apples and place in the lemon water. Slice out a roughly 90 degree section from the skin side as shown-you may have to slice a few times to get enough out to fit in the peanut "teeth". Coat the peanuts in the caramel and then flipping the apple so that you are pushing down the teeth into the apple vertically, insert four or five teeth per apple.
I got the idea to make these real blood pancakes while chatting to Mr NQN's aunt Paivi who told us of having blood pancakes growing up back home in Finland. I beseeched her for the recipe and she gave me not one but two, one from her friend Heli whose daughter happens to live in Sydney whom Heli was visiting at the time. Heli and her daughter Kristiina loaned me a Finnish pancake pan which makes all of the pancakes the perfect size and is also non stick. The blood? Well yes it is real pig's blood and you can order it from your butcher-just give them a few days to get it in.
These pancakes are just like eating black pudding and there was a flavour of bone marrow to them. They are very rich and a few went a long way but they were actually quite nice-salty and served with a cranberry sauce to give them a sweetness. They actually turn a dark brown or black when done giving them more of an interesting look and could fool people into eating them, if you wished to ;)
Recipe by Heli Berry
300ml/10.6ozs calf or pig blood
300ml/10.6ozs beer or milk
1/2 onion (fry in little butter till golden and cooled)
100g/3.5ozs butter melted
100g/3.5ozs barley flour (you can use wheat flour instead for both of these flour)
100g/3.5ozs rye flour
1 tbsp salt and white pepper
1/2 tsp marjoram
butter for frying
cranberry sauce for serving
Step 1 - In a large jug mix the blood, egg, beer or milk, onion and butter and then add to dry ingredients in a large bowl and fry in buttered pan with butter (the mixture is quite runny). With blood you need to mix fairly vigorously so that it doesn't set. Serve with cranberry sauce
These ended up being one of the most popular items. The recipe for brownie rat bites is here and I managed to find a massive nasty looking mother rat that looked like she was protecting her brood of baby rats feeding. Isn't that sort of a sweet picture? No? ;) OK let's move on then.
These mummy pizzas were very easy to make and can be made ahead of time (both prerequisites when you are making 14 items). I used pre sliced cheese and layered the cheese-admittedly all of the lines blurred together as the cheese melted so just make sure to leave a gap for the eyes which you can make out of a few things-I used mushrooms as the olives were a bit too small. I ended up making a vegetarian margarita version and a version using spicy sopressa salami layered between the tomato and cheese.
2 pizza bases
150g pizza sauce
250g/1/2 pound packet of cheese slices with 12 slices
12 slices of Sopressa salami (for vegetarian pizza, omit this item)
4 button mushrooms
Step 1 - Spread the bases with the pizza sauce and place the salami slices on the pizza sauce. Slice the block of cheese slices vertically into quarters so that you get long slices of cheese as shown. Place the cheese on the pizza leaving a space for the eyes.
Step 2 - To make the eyes, remove the stem and slice the mushrooms creating an eyeball. Place in the area for the eyes. You can freeze them with parchment paper between them if you want to cook them at a later time or bake them in a 200C/400F oven for 10 minutes.
I was playing with my new Zoku ice block maker (a more comprehensive review to come) and I decided to do some pops. This is because during the night we always play games and it's always so hot every Halloween especially for those of us in costume so it's nice to offer a icy refreshment to guests. Keen eyed readers may notice that the sign says Vampire Pops. Well they were supposed to be icy pops where there was a filling of runny blood aka berry gel but that didn't work at all so I made it a simpler pop and cut out a ghost figure in a thin slice of pear, stuck it to the side of the pop maker and then poured apple and blackcurrant juice in it. If you don't have a Zoku pop maker you can still do these and you stick the ghost on the outside of the pop-when it is frozen most things will stick to an ice pop.
Apple and blackcurrant juice (or any dark red juice of choice)
Icy pop molds
Step 1 - If using a Zoku pop maker slice the pear very thinly and with a paring knife cut out ghosts (or use a ghost cutter if you have a suitable sized one). Stick the ghosts to the side walls of the Zoku, pop the stick in and then fill with the juice and freeze.
Step 2 - If not using a Zoku pop maker and using regular icy pop molds freeze the juice until the hard. Then slice the ghosts out of the pear and then stick them on at the end just before serving.
Friday the 13th faces
These were a last minute addition to feed the vegetarians. I'm not sure if they turned out exactly how I wanted them to, perhaps not, but I suppose you could interpret them any way you wanted. Mr NQN thought that they looked like Hannibal Lecter's mask, I thought they looked mummified or like shrunken heads.
18 white button mushrooms
100ml garlic oil
Salt and pepper to season
You will also need a paring knife, a couple of straws and a chopstick
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Remove the mushroom stems. With a paring knife shape the round mushrooms to more of a mask or skull shape (just trimming the bottom sides to make a jaw is all that is needed). With the straw, poke holes to make eyes. Then using the chopstick make little marks on the face. Brush with garlic oil.
Step 2 - Bake for 20 minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
Haunted Mansion and Black Crow Cupcakes
Last week I posted the Haunted House cupcakes and I have a story on the black crow cupcakes to come. The crow cupcakes were also inspired by Zilly Rosen's fantastic Zombie Cupcakes book and are a combination of two cupcakes. The crows are meant to be picking at a bloody wound and they have a little flesh in their mouth. See? Who says that I don't bring you the prettiest stuff? ;)
Item #14: a surprise item coming up! ;)
And next I show you my lovely guests because a party isn't a party without guests!
A very sad and unhappy Haunted Mansion maid offers some shrunken mummified heads
A Gypsy pair then turn up with champagne-not your usual gypsies!
A pirate girl brandished a pirate's dagger to get the champagne!
Then a real Housewife of Atlanta turned up with big hair and a baby pumpkin
And then the Black Swan came out pirouetting!
While a pain lover showed us his scars and bandages..
Who is this?
It's Baba Yaga! Did you know about baba yaga? Apparently she was a witchy type that flies around on a pestle, steals children and lives in a house that has chicken's legs. Hence the baba yaga house!
And here's my very own Harry Potter-Mr NQN learned how to do two spells in time for the party! Although don't tell him but he is a slightly dementor looking here...
A purple netted witch
Guests helped themselves to ribs and intestines cutting them up with scissors
And negotiated the fog around the table
Black Swan makes out with the two headed beheaded!
And as the crow knows, there's no party without games. Hidden in the house were references to five horror movies in the decorations. And Laporello was the first to guess all five which were: The Crow...
As well as Sweeney Todd (the butcher shop sign) and Dracula (the hanging bats)!
Throughout the night we played the winking murder game which started with slips of paper in a skull bowl-one for every person present. There was one murderer and the rest of the guests were victims who had to die a certain, unique way. Once the murderer winked at them they had three minutes to die an elaborate and dramatic death such as being stung by killer bees, being burned to death, being scared to death and choking to death among others. The most Oscar winning performance won a prize and throughout the night, there were creative deaths including this one where we heard a loud scream from the bathroom only to see...
Laporello who had been shocked to death! And do you know who the murderer was?
The wizard spring onion above whispered to the ghost egg "It was Lorraine!". Yes, completely randomly, I had drawn the murderer card! I winked at people all night causing them to fall over and die a most dramatic, horrible death. And of course there were times when I didn't wink at anyone and they died-Miss America apparently had accidentally winked at some people so we had an inadvertent Red Herring which was brilliant for me to get away with things.
The performances of the dying were outstanding and there were times that we were worried about some people. Tuulikki's choking was very realistic we waited with bated breath to see her arm move and Alison enlisted the help of Mr NQN to create smoke with the fog machine while she was burning to death...
Now melted witchy, that's not nice, be nice to guests!
We ended off the evening with Halloween themed charades although it has to be said that one team's interpretation of scary was a little loose (i.e. tax and maths!). As always Miss America forgot which he was answering for and Queen Viv acting out Pauline Hanson was hilarious. And when I drew the show True Blood it took Alison all of two seconds once I acted out that it was a tv show with two words to guess correctly!
As the maid of the Haunted Mansion I'd like to thank you for being such delightful guests and coming with me on a tour of the Haunted Mansion curtsy
Love and ghouls,
Lorraine, The Haunted Mansion maid
So tell me Dear Reader, when you throw parties do you like to play games? And will you celebrate Halloween at all this year? And what is your favourite holiday of the year?