Dear Reader, it's that most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas, which is all very well and jolly but the favourite holiday for ghouls, ghosts and goblins! Where I get to indulge my scary, dark side and instead of making things that are pretty, I strive for ghoulishly ugly!
This year, I almost had a self induced nervous breakdown when I decided to make Hogwarts Castle in gingerbread. While assembling it, I rang Mr NQN and literally could not string together a sentence. He answered the phone and there was a few seconds of silence before I stammered out "hebeller...nana...ahhhhh." He wasn't too concerned, I do this kind of thing probably more often that is normal but when he asked "are you ok?" I mumbled "alright..." and then hung up.
After a cup of tea and some chocolate, I surveyed my to make list for the event which we held this past Saturday night in our apartment that Mr NQN keeps telling me fits fewer people than I had invited. I decided to do easy to prepare things, as a way to avoid another breakdown and I promise you - witchy swear in fact, that everything on this story is easy with a couple easy to medium level with a little bit of low level crafting. All designed in order to lower stress. It doesn't mean that they aren't spooktacular by any means, but if I can find a way to make things easier, I will.
As always, we got our decorations from fellow Hallowe'en lovers, The Party People (where else will you find a moving, talking marble bust?) and put up my favourite Hallowe'en mascots-the wall of flying bats who look over our Halloween parties every year. We donned our costumes-I as Morticia Addams and Mr NQN as Count Von Finlandia and let us welcome you into our Hallowe'en party! And scroll down to the bottom to see my ghoulish guests!
Morticia Addams here, I don't often eat much as I have to slip into a slinky black dress every day but this coffin dip is just the ticket if you are wanting a healthy dip. Pugsley doesn't like to eat it unless I tell him that it isn't in fact peas, but slime. And I think this little skeleton was the belle of the ball. He looks like he is having a great time but wouldn't you if you had escaped your coffin?
Someone once said two heads were better than one. How about half a dozen shrunken heads instead? Even better! These little heads were the perfect accessory for my hot mulled apple rum toddy. And as Morticia, I can tend to be be as pushy as Lorraine and suggest that if you make one thing this Hallowe'en, it's this! Just use the best of everything you can find darlings...
When I was preparing a cauliflower one day, it struck me how brain like it was. I had all intentions to make two of these but when I got home and realised that one of the cauliflowers that I had picked up at the market had bugs through it all, I thought that I had better throw that out. I mean faux bugs are fine but people tend to label you weird if you serve them actual bugs.
Sometimes you do something and it grosses people out a bit too much. Well apparently Freddy's glove scared a few people and they didn't know that underneath it all was just a meatloaf. It's harmless-just like me!
She doesn't look happy that everyone is whispering behind her back. What she doesn't know is that they're trying to figure out how to nab a Voodoo Doll cookie without madam noticing! Oh btw this is Morticia Senior.
I bought a jar of these little bockwurst sausages a few months before and kept them on my desk for the entire time. Looking at them made me smile - no, don't be naughty! ;) They made me smile because they reminded me that Halloween was coming up!
Have you ever wondered where spiders come from? From ginormous eggs! Well, only if they are those giant mutant spiders....
And no party is complete without cupcakes? These melting witch cupcakes are featuring in an upcoming post-and stay tuned because they're an intriguing mix of flavours well worth trying ;)
There were also little things to greet guests whereever they looked. In the bathroom. Bloody handprints on the door greeted them. And then watch out! There are spiders in the toilet!
And don't forget to look over your shoulder as a rat sometimes appears...
Harry Potter as a flying bat...
In the background was Hogwarts castle in gingerbread. I still have PTSD after making this so what can I say, let's talk about this in a few months after I've had some therapy...
Now onto the recipes!
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Level of difficulty: Easy
- 500g peas (frozen or fresh shelled)
- 100g/3.5ozs feta cheese
- Chilli flakes (to taste)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs like mint or dill
- 1 loaf bread, unsliced
Step 1 - In a saucepan, simmer the peas until cooked through and drain the water. Add to a food processor with the cheese, chilli flakes, oil and herbs. Whizz until smooth-you can leave this slightly chunky or make it a smooth puree.
Step 2 - Take your loaf of bread and cut it into a coffin shape tapering the sides. Cut off a slice from the top which is the coffin lid. Then hollow out the centre but keeping the inside to make croutons or something to scoop the dip out with. Fill with the dip and serve-you can also write RIP on the top and add a little skeleton.
Shrunken Heads in Apple Rum Toddy
I debated whether I should tell you that the rum I used was an amazing rum, the Bundaberg Golden Rum Reserve mostly because purists would be horrified that I used such a good rum in my drink but this drink was so, so, so good that I think that it helped make it smooth and gorgeous. You can of course omit the rum for kids.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Level of difficulty: Easy-medium but worth it
- 4 apples (or one apple per two people if you want to serve a head in a glass to guests)
- 2 litres best quality cloudy apple juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 cloves plus 16 extra cloves for eyes
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 3 pieces of fresh orange peel
- 3 pieces of fresh lemon peel
- 1/2 cup rum
Step 1 - Firstly, prepare the shrunken heads. Preheat oven to 170C/340F and line a baking tray with parchment. Peel the apples and cut them in half and take out the core-use a melon baller to do this easily. Then with the small side of the baller or a paring knife, dig out eyes and a mouth and nose-make them all different. You will have eight faces. Place on the baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and add the cloves for eyes.
Step 2 - Meanwhile prepare the apple rum toddy by heating the apple juice with the sugar. In a muslin pouch, add the 6 cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise and orange and lemon peel and tie up with kitchen string. Simmer for 15 minutes until the flavour of the spices infuses the apple juice. Add the rum at the last minute so that you don't lose the flavour of it-taste and see whether it is the right level of sweetness. Ladle into large cups with a head per person or a large bowl and add the shrunken heads to it.
Last week I posted my version of Hogwarts. I wouldn't recommend it unless you have sanity to spare (which I don't) and oodles of time. It's one of those things that you say afterwards "Oh well, I'm glad that I did it even if I did lose my tenuous grip on reality." Or perhaps that's something that I will say far into the future...
One of the easiest items to make this Hallowe'en, this first started its life as a model for a Hellraiser brain where I stuck raw spaghetti into it once cooked. Mr NQN didn't think that it looked at all Hellraiser like so it simply became an incinerated brain. Oh and the peri peri seasoning gives this one a lovely, spicy kick!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Level of difficulty: Easy
- 1 whole cauliflower
- 2-3 tablespoons natural yogurt (depending on size of cauliflower)
- 2-3 tablespoons peri peri seasoning mix (I used one from Le Spice)
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 190c/375F and wash the cauliflower and remove the leaves and stem. Place it stem down on a baking tray lined with parchment. Mix the yogurt and seasoning together to form a paste and paint the paste on the outside of the cauliflower.
Step 2 - Bake in the oven for 1 hour or thereabouts (depending on the size of your cauliflower). When cooked, remove from oven and score a line down the centre so that it looks like two brain halves. Serve with a knife so people can cut into it.
Freddy Krueger's Glove
When I was making this, I was inspired by Not Martha's Meat Hand from a couple of years back. She used a mold but I do sort of have this thing about single use items, no matter how brilliantly ghoulish (also I've never come across a hand mold) so I decided to see if I could make one using regular gloves or just by free shaping a hand based on my own. So I made three meat hands and the best one I have shared with you. You simply rinse out a latex glove and stuff it with a meatloaf mix. Then you freeze it, and then cut away the glove, stick some foil in it to make the "knives" and bake it. And voila, you have Freddy Krueger's incinerated hand or glove. When I called Mr NQN on the evening of the experiments to tell him about dinner I simply said "I made you a meatloaf shaped like Freddy Krueger's incinerated cut off hand." He simply chuckled and said "Okay."
Prep time: 20-30 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Level of difficulty: Medium-mostly takes patience filling the gloves
Makes 2-3 gloves
- 500g/1 pound mince
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste plus 2-3 tablespoons extra for glaze
Step 1 - Rinse out the latex gloves twice just to make sure that you get rid of any excess powder. Mix the ingredients together except for the prosciutto and stuff into the latex glove. This takes about 5-10 minutes per glove and the hardest bit is filling the fingers but once you get the tips of the fingers done, it should be easier. Latex gloves are easier than washing up gloves because you can see how far the meat has gone down the fingers. I found that the easiest way to get rid of air bubbles was to smack the glove which moved the larger ones or massage the bubble to move it or you can also poke tiny holes in the gloves with the tip of a sharp knife if you need to release some air. Using a rubber band or a bag tie, seal up the end and place in the freezer for a couple of hours until at least semi frozen (mine was frozen solid after a few hours).
Step 2 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking tray with parchment. Remove from freezer and carefully cut away the latex glove and spread with the extra tomato paste/ketchup mix. Wrap the prosciutto around the hand, the palm will do and oil a small sheet of foil and cover the fingers. Bake for 30 minutes. Insert foil to make freddy's knives.
Voodoo Doll Cookies
I felt terrible because I posted the recipe for Voodoo Doll Cookies a couple of weeks ago and when I'd meet up with people for lunch they'd say "Oh I thought you might bring me some of those voodoo doll cookies." The thing I liked about these cookies is that everyone found one that they liked the best. For me, it's this guy who turned out to be Amanda's new boyfriend. She even sent me a picture of him at home sitting next to a glass of champagne.
OK I'm not sure if they actually looked like fingers and Mr NQN wasn't so sure but since I had bought them, I used them.
- 1 jar Bockwurst sausages
- Sliced almonds
- Tomato sauce
Step 1 - Divide the sausages into two. In one half, peel a bit of the skin so that you can insert the nail in and on the other lot of sausages, cut off a small slice from the end. Join the two sausages together with a toothpick and then insert a sliced almond into the nail bed. Serve with tomato sauce.
Spider Web Eggs
One of the easiest Halloween treats that are actually quite healthy too, these spider web eggs are an effective way to feed everyone something healthy and spooky. A good combination no? The one thing I will say is that use as old eggs as you can find and apparently if you leave eggs out of the fridge, for every day you will lose a week in life which is good for boiled eggs as that makes them easier to peel. Also do this effect very close to the time that you will serve them. I made the mistake of doing these the day before and the veiny spidery effect dissipated with time.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5-8 minutes
Level of difficulty: Easy
- 1 dozen older eggs
- black food colouring (you can also use squid ink)
- black salt to serve-I used a genuine black salt, a gift from Celia who was invited to the party but was too scared of vampires to come (yes really!)
I used red food colouring to test it out
Step 1 - Boil the eggs taking care not to accidentally crack them open. Meanwhile, have a large bowl ready with water and a little black food colouring. When the eggs are done, carefully drain the water (again, we don't want any extra cracks). I used a washing up glove to hold them in one hand and a tablespoon in the other and I gently tapped them in the centre on two sides. Place in the water for 5-10 minutes. When you peel them, the spider pattern will come out! Serve with salt or mayonnaise.
Bloody Popcorn Brains
The funniest thing happened to me the other week. I was walking out of a restaurant and a man came out to talk to me. It turns out he and his family read the blog (yay! I love meeting readers!) and his son was mad for the bloody popcorn brains which I had posted a few weeks ago in the lead up to Halloween! Then other people had come up to me to say that they liked the brains and even friend Teena had made some for her daughter Annabel's party. And here I was thinking that nobody liked them! Joy joy!
Flayed Skin & Cheese Skulls
I really sort of started to worry about my state of mind when I thought of this recipe and that of the cauliflower brain. I was cutting through a hunk of cheese when I thought "I wonder if I could make a skull out of it? Anyway, you'll come visit me in the asylum won't you?
Prep time: 5 minutes
Level of difficulty: Easy-medium for carving skull
- An assortment of sliced meats like prosciutto (to look like flayed skin), olive mortadella (to look like skin that has a pox) and pastrami (just because it looked like flesh) as well as a slice opf brawn because, well, it looked a bit odd
- Firm cheeses to shape into skulls
Step 1 - Use a melon baller to hollow out the eyes and a paring knife to cut out the shape of the skull, nose and teeth. Lay out on a chopping board along with assorted meats. Oh and by the way, I chose the brawn because it looked quite odd and possibly gruesome. It turns out the guests felt the same way as all but one corner of it remained by the end of the night!
What ended up being one of the easiest things that I made for Hallowe'en, that morning I did a post on Creepy Crepes and they delighted Mr NQN so so I served some that evening too. People would simply roll up a crepe to find a different face underneath. I served these with plum jam aka blood clot sauce to those of you that have a sense of the macabre (always a good quality in a friend or partner).
And one more recipe to come! For the Melting Witch Cupcakes! After that, programming will resume to "normal" :)
Now onto my guests! Lurch was curiously absent so as Morticia I answered the door. First to arrive was Mr NQN's brother Manu and his mother Tuulikki.
Manu came as a robber with a flashlight and admitted that this was a last minute costume job i.e. his regular outfit plus a shirt over his head with a flashlight. He then proceeded to answer the door in his outfit robbing people effectively of their champagne and gifts!
Tuulikki came as an Egyptian evil cobra priestess in Set's harem. Set is an ancient Egyptian devil-you learn something new every day!
Next to arrive was Amanda who came as Hit Girl! She brought champagne and a lovely gift of fang ice cube trays.
Anavrinny made the most of her 8 month pregnant form and came as Juno of course!
Gina arrived as Miss Ghoul 2012 complete with sash, crown and flowers and Hot Dog came as a ghoul!
Girl Next Door's response to Manu's prompts to "hand over your gold and silver" was simply to moan zombie-like and hold out her mug. Yep she was The Waking Dead!
Louise came as her own cat and she explained that Viggo was not allowed to pop down to the shop to buy prawns in his actual Halloween costume which was...
Darth Vader complete with light saber!
Teena and Philippe came along as Hogwarts students from the house of Gryffindor and they brought with them the cutest Strawberry Shortcake. At age three, Annabel tends to think that a visit to Auntie Morticia's house involves flying bats, moaning, dropping heads and cooked body parts. Nevertheless, when Teena asked her if she liked coming to our place, she nodded a resounding Yes!
And last but not least, the least PC costumes went to partners in crime, well actually victim and serial killer, Miss America came as Ivan Milat and Queen Viv as a backpacker. What was startling was that Miss America indeed had a strong resemblance to Ivan Milat especially with the gun holder Queen Viv had fashioned him. And as for Queen Viv's tshirt-the people at the printers where she had it made said that "there might be a good commercial idea here..."
And super shy and quiet Mr NQN came as Count Von Finlandia
P.S. What happened to that enormous Hogwarts Gingerbread castle? Well, lots of guests took pieces home-I was only too happy for them to take home the buildings and towers and anything else that they wanted. Otherwise, we'd be eating it for the next year. Viggo messaged Mr NQN the next day. Apparently, his three year old nephew Donald has an appreciation of Hallowe'en on a completely new level. When he rebuilt his own mini version of Hogwarts using some of the towers he cried "there's people in there!"
And with that, I wish you a very good night haunting. I'll take my bag of rats with me now...
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your dream Hallowe'en costume and if you're celebrating this year who will you dress up as? And which Hallowe'en dish or costume in this post did you like the best? Do you prefer easier to make treats or more elaborate ones?