Dear Ghouls, Did you know that Halloween is on a Saturday night this year? That means it is party time! Here I share my top 5 tips an ideas for creating the perfect, ghoulish Halloween party! Find ideas to suit every budget and cooking ability and learn how to make the most of your costume, food, venue and guests. Lights, camera, action!
I think the reason why I love Halloween so much is that it is an entirely different sort of holiday from anything else. The rest of the year is spent doing pretty things and it is nice to be able to do something downright strange or the opposite of what you're used to. I'm all up for unusual dinners or parties and so is Mr NQN. However a few years ago there was one party that we had to question.
It's the time of the year when I get a little bit crazy. Emails go unanswered, phone calls unreturned and I only answer to the name Morticia for I bury myself under a black velvet witch's cloak and plan my Halloween. I get very ambitious and mad when it comes to my annual Halloween party but it's my favourite event of the year. Often I am asked for tips on throwing a Halloween party and this year I thought I'd share my top 5 Halloween party tips with you! Because as you may know, Halloween this year is on a Saturday so that means that it's the perfect night for a party!
Morticia Elliott's Top 5 Halloween Tips!
Tip 1: Choose your venue. I wanted somewhere new creatively speaking than our apartment which is very small. As luck would have it I searched online and found this house in Paddington. It was absolutely perfect with red walls and walls of paintings and eccentric, gorgeous touches. It already had an air of European Gothic.
I cleared the idea of a Halloween soiree with the owners first. We knew that we had somewhere very special to hold our party and a couple of days before I checked out the house just to see what it needed. Admittedly it wasn't inexpensive to rent and took up most of the budget (the rate was over double once cleaning, party and service fees were added).
Tip 2: Decorate while channelling your inner Morticia Addams. Every year in Australia the Halloween decorations get crazier and more varied. I always go the The Party People in Drummoyne and Sans Souci for supplies for two reasons. The first is their range of decorations. You can get anything and everything there from cutlery and plates to the most complex animated props.
Our personal favourite was a zombie lady who had an alien baby coming out of her stomach. The alien baby was motion activated and extended out through an opening in the front of her dress. Honestly who even thinks this up? :) But don't despair if you have little to no budget, variety stores have plenty of things and a bag of spider webbing can do wonders (and lasts for ages). Another idea is to buy 3 sheets of black cardboard and cut out bats in various sizes and stick them to walls or windows. Or take a roll of masking tape and "draw" dead body outlines on the ground (get someone to lie down and trace around them with the tape).
Tip 3: Costumes are compulsory to get into the spirit - for my parties no costume = no entry! It really helps get into the spirit of things plus if people are meeting for the first time, there is something already that they can talk about. If you are wearing a home made costume you need to start weeks ahead of time and look on ebay or the shops etc. By now it's a bit late for this year's Halloween so if you are buying a pre-made costume go somewhere like The Party People (not sponsored, we bought Mr NQN's costume but they do loan us the props) because you can actually try the costumes on there. Buying online is easy but one size fits all costumes are a crap shoot. This year Mr NQN bought a Slenderman Morph Suit on ebay and it was hideous. Like completely laughable but he couldn't return it to the ebay store. So the night before Halloween when we went to The Party People to get props, he tried on six outfits before he arrived at one he liked. And it was FANTASTIC.
Tip 4: Monstrous Music. Halloween music is definitely needed to get everyone in the mood. There are plenty of sound effects online but you generally want tracks that are going to last a few minutes. I find that a mix of spooky sounds and popular Halloween friendly tunes really works well. Throw in horror movie theme songs, Thriller, Ghostbusters and the Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack and you've got this. I have made my own three hour Halloween playlist public on Spotify so just search for "lorraineelliott" and my "Morticia" playlist and you are free to use it!
Tip 5: Food! Brains!! Food!!! No seriously, Halloween is the time to pull out anything ghoulish or gross. Think bloody, think ugly. Always make sure that you have plenty of savoury to go with the sweet. The following recipes range in skill and ease and I've indicated which ones are easy to difficult. The full recipes are below or in links. I made 13 items but don't feel the need to make as many (we really didn't need two cakes).
Welcome to Halloween Video!
This cake was for Nina and Rebecca because they are both gluten free. It's a pinata cake filled with fake cockroaches and centipedes. Realistically you don't need two cakes but I knew that Nina would happily take this cake home with her.
One of the surprise hits were these EKG eclairs (recipe here). I made the eclair shells ahead of time and froze the unfilled shells for a week. On the day we just refreshed them in the oven until they were crisp and Belinda dipped them in an icing sugar icing and drew EKG stripes on top!
Hands down my favourite item to make and eat at this party were these intestines. Filled with chorizo and cheese and brushed with blood aka tomato sauce these were fun to make and really tasty, plus filled the brief for savoury, hot food! We served these once all of the guests had arrived (and they made quite an entrance, see below ;)).
The one thing about having whole items is that guests are too polite to be the first one to cut into it. So start cutting up items and serving them to guests (or make individual ones). This was Belinda's favourite item and it is a vanilla crostata dough filled with raspberry and mixed berry jams.
In the week before the Halloween party, I neglected to cook regular food so the cabbage that I bought lay in the vegetable crisper. I remembered hearing about a barbecued cabbage idea and so I made a vegetarian version of this for Nina, the vegetarian.
These Day of the Dead Calavera sugar cookies (recipe here) are fun to eat or even to give out as take home gifts wrapped up in cellophane bags.
A night isn't quite complete without a cocktail and this Dark Demon cocktail, an adaption of a cocktail from Karma Cola is a balance of sweet and bitters, kind of like life no? We also served their organic blood orange sparkling water too.
These Moonlight cupcakes didn't quite work out the way that I wanted but I still liked the concept so I'll revisit it next year...
Ever tried making chalkboard cookies? I'll share a recipe and the method for these in an upcoming post. We stuck them on a chalkboard with royal icing and people helped themselves to a premonition!
I tend to over cater just because the idea of anyone going hungry fills me with cold, hard dread. And if you need something extraordinarily simple these ghost pizzas made with ghost cookie cutters are the easiest!
This is a fun kid's idea although we only had one kid at the party and that was 7 year old Raffles who is kind of like an adult. Still these are great because you can make them ahead of time and they are very cute (recipe here).
I planned to just make a stuffed pumpkin and then lovely Eva sent me a link to a Buzzfeed Tasty video and I knew that the 3 avocadoes on my windowsill had a new destiny! It's a vomiting pumpkin for a fun way to serve guacamole and corn chips! In the top was a vegetarian black rice salad. But honestly could you get anything funnier than this?
And now read on Dear Ghoul for the recipes followed by a round up of our Halloween party this year!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you have any tips for throwing a Hallowe'en party? Will you be celebrating it this year? What is your dream costume or favourite costume? And which dish did you like the best?
"Surprise!" Bug Cake
Did you make this recipe? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Rated 5 out
of 5 by
reader. Share your rating:
This Halloween cake is so ghoulishly creepy that some people couldn't look at it, even eat it but the people that tried it absolutely loved it! This cake is gluten free and dairy free so it's fantastic to anyone with allergies. For the surprise bug cake, double the quantity in this chocolate quinoa cake and bake it in two 20cm/8inch round tins for 60 minutes and cool them in the tin and refrigerate them overnight. The next morning make a triple batch of chocolate coconut frosting (recipe for the chocolate coconut frosting is underneath the chocolate quinoa cake).
I absolutely loved making and eating this delicious Halloween pastry! This is so much fun and honestly how could chorizo and cheese ever go wrong? Be sure to make the "intestines" twisty and serve with extra ketchup/tomato sauce. Everyone that stood there cutting this up and eating it looked like zombies. Honestly I could not have been happier...
I promise not all Halloween food is junky or junk adjacent. This Halloween Scream tart is based on a classic Italian jam crostata. The "pasta frolla" or sweet shortcrust pastry is a soft dough and perfect to work with for this tart. If you haven't made pastry before, do start on this one. It's soft and pliable and you don't have to roll it out to fill the tart tin, you just press it in and smooth with a small rolling pin. The scream cut out is so easy too!
If you have a lot of zombie guests at your Halloween party you'll have to feed them brains but how about trying this cabbage brain? A whole baked cabbage is slow roasted for hours, yes it takes time but it's so delicious. I had no idea whether this would work and in the tradition of the insane, I decided to test it out on the night of my Halloween party! Sometimes things work out and this is one of them.
One of the cleverest ways to incorporate pumpkin into your Halloween party menu is to have a little fun with a Vomiting Pumpkin! You basically take 1 large pumpkin and fill the top with a bowl of delicious rice salad. Then draw a face and cut a hole and have the pumpkin vomiting guacamole (never thought that I'd be writing that sentence on the blog ever....). Serve this with chilli corn chips and watch your guests giggle.
I brought these out towards the end of the night, just in case people needed something else savoury to eat. They were just simple tomato based pizzas with mozzarella ghosts cut out on top and olives for eyes.
Serves: 12 people
Degree of difficulty: easy
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
12 mini pizza bases
1.5 cups pizza sauce
12 slices of mozzarella
Sliced black olives
You will also need a ghost cookie cutter
Step 1 - Line two trays with foil or parchment. Spread the pizza sauce on the pizzas and then using ghost cutter, cut out ghost shapes in the mozzarella and place on top. Cut up olive slices finely and add as eyes. Bake in preheated 180C/350F oven for 8 minutes.
Dark Demon Cocktail
Looking for a simple Halloween cocktail? Try this Dark Demon cocktail that looks elegantly gorgeous especially with the blackberries and blueberries floating in it. I used Karma cola which is organic and uses cane sugar.
These Moonlight cupcakes are super cute Halloween cupcakes that are also delicious. The base is a rich chocolatey cupcake. We cut the tops out with a small moon cutter. You then fill the cavity with glorious apricot jam!
I could only get the house on Friday night which wasn't ideal but sometimes fate deals you a hand and you have to roll with it. That meant that some friends couldn't make it but it ended up being a great mix of people on the night. One thing about my friends: they are like my readers, they're the best people ever. They will happily talk to everyone and are welcoming so there are no unwelcoming cliques.
Belinda and Mr NQN had kindly taken the day off work to help me prepare for the party. They were beyond amazing. While I was prepping the food, they both decorated the house like ghoulish little fairies. Honestly they were so creative and did a much better job than I ever could.
The first guest to arrive was Julie who changed into her outfit at work. Her altered appearance elicited a scream from a colleague which I would say is a total win. And when the flash went off to take the photo the animated woman with the alien baby went off which is why she is laughing in the second pic! Surprise!
Next is Rebecca and Jason who drove all the way from Canberra! They came as a steam punk couple. Rebecca found most of her outfit at a Vinnies store while Jason joked that he had his whole outfit already (I think he was joking!). They ended up staying the night here in one of the bedrooms and helped us pack up and move out which was very nice of them.
The Wizard arrived next as a monk. If you know how active he is with dating, you'll know how truly ironic that is. And as per his personality he started off trying to ward off the alien baby lady with his cross only to find that he truly had a case of the beer goggles and made out with her. Yo, check her Tinder profile Wizard!
As for Nina and Garth, she came as a skeleton performer based on several things she already had in her wardrobe and did her makeup herself using a youtube video! He came as Batman which is a costume that Nina actually wanted for herself! They probably had to wrestle each other for it knowing them... ;)
My seven year old boyfriend Raffles and his mum Aleney arrived next and he came as a zombie ninja because he is obsessed with Japan and Halloween while she came as Medusa! I think he looks just like a kid version of Heath Ledger as The Joker? Yes? No? Anyway he and Mr NQN bonded and he thought that he was the coolest Sumo wrestler ever.
Belinda had to leave for parental duties in the afternoon and returned as a ghost ship princess. She was so busy with work that week that she wasn't able to get her costume and texted me when we were at The Party People. So I just picked up her outfit and luckily it fit her perfectly!
JY and Ben decided to come as The X Files' Mulder and Scully complete with blow up aliens. And don't ever mess with JY when it comes to a competition. When she heard that we had hidden 48 wrapped chocolates throughout the house she, Ben, Julie, Rebecca and Raffles ended up finding most of them!
Girl Next Door always gets quite creative with her outfits and this year she came as an Adult Colouring In Book complete with textas!
The Wizard's brother The Warlock arrived straight off a plane from Brisbane. The Wizard fooled us by saying that they were coming as a dynamic duo and we thought that we might have two Batmans on our hands for a second!
And then Queen Viv and Miss America arrived as two former foes, now united in adversity and circumstance: Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. For overseas readers that perhaps don't know who they are, they are two recent former Australian Prime Ministers. Apparently it is true when people say that anyone can be Prime Minister such is the swinging door to the post and I'm sure we'll all get our turn ;) Anyway, I was a tad disappointed that Miss America didn't wear Tony's red speedos. As you can see he tried to kiss and make up but Julia was not having it. They'll need more time under the bridge for that. Too soon Tony, too soon.
We started the party at 7:30pm and by 8:30pm everyone had arrived and it was around then that I served "dinner" or the hot food. The house had this wooden trolley so I placed the small intestine burek on it along with the cabbage brain and wheeled it out saying, "We have been busy operating...". I cut up pieces of the burek and people dipped them in the tomato sauce - served out of a kidney dish of course.
Batman aka Garth kept trying to challenge the Sumo wrestler aka Mr NQN to a wrestle. I'm not sure who would win because Garth wrestles as a hobby but he perhaps isn't quite used to as large an opponent. Mr NQN had to get used to his markedly larger frame (he's so thin he needed to stuff a pillow between his costume and stomach to fill it out). "Sit on me!" asked Raffles umpteenth times to Mr NQN who obliged in between being stabbed by his zombie ninja friend.
Usually we play a game of Halloween charades but everyone was talking animatedly that I hated to break up the conversation but next year, we'll have some great games up our sleeve that guests can play. Next year? Yep I've already thought of a next year's Halloween party already! It will be a long 11 months until then...