A NEW survey has revealed that when it comes to partying, Halloween is now our second favourite family celebration, behind Christmas, ahead of Easter and even birthday parties.
One in three families will throw a Halloween bash, according to a new survey by Woolworths.co.uk.
But instead of spending all that money on plastic skull masks and pumpkins, event organiser Polly Betton (who thinks nothing of firing cakes from a giant slingshot in the name of a good party), suggests using your portion of the £280million reportedly spent in Britain each year on Halloween, to have some bad, clean adult fun.
“Don’t make it cute,” advises Betton, author of Party! How To Organise A Brilliant Bash. “A grown-up Halloween is not fluffy, so abandon that in favour of almost anything else. This is not the moment for adorable ghost-shaped biscuits, twee gift bags or dressing up like a fairy.”
Instead, follow Betton’s tips for a wicked time . . .
HOW TO THROW A GHOULISH GROWN-UP BASH
Have a great theme. The Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is shortly after Halloween, and gives an excuse for amazing skeleton make-up and a riot of colour. For a more glamorous tone, try a Dead Celebrities theme, and if you’re a fan of kitsch, Hammer Horror is always a winner.
Put together a carefully-curated cocktail list, because good cocktails get a party swinging in no time. Think about appearance, flavour and practicality. Tequila sunrise is great for Dia de los Muertos, or perhaps Bloody Marys for dead celebrities.
Have fun with your playlist. While the usual suspects, such as Thriller by Michael Jackson, have their place, you can also take your cue from television and film (e.g. Bad Things by Jace Everett, from True Blood).
Projectors are a great way to fill up empty space without damaging the walls. If you have access to one, use it to project vintage horror films to give a cheap, easy and impressive backdrop to your party.
Go all out with your pumpkins and invest in a carving tool: a little serrated blade that makes it easy to carve intricate designs. Find instructional videos and free patterns to follow online, for an amazing pumpkin display. For a really impressive effect, put some dry ice inside a pumpkin and pour a little water over it to create billows of low-lying, spooky mist.
Make use of the witching hour. A midnight feast is always a good idea at a big party because it helps to sober up anyone who’s a bit too tipsy and delivers a welcome shot of energy to anyone who is flagging.
Try Polly Betton’s recipes to get your party started . . .
Cheese and Pineapple Hedgehog
Avoid torturing your guests with sweaty Cheddar and pop some of the following combinations on to cocktail sticks instead. If you think of it as a weirdly-presented cheeseboard, it suddenly seems a perfectly reasonable proposition.
Halve a grapefruit (or a melon if you want to fit more ‘spines’ on), wrap in foil and spear with your yummy cocktail-sticked morsels.
Torn mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and a basil leaf with a small squirt of balsamic glaze.
Thinly-sliced quince jelly, thinly-sliced Brie and thinly-sliced pear.
A small cube of goat’s cheese with a couple of blueberries.
Half a strawberry, hulled and filled with any blue cheese.
Ripe quartered figs with a smear of Stilton and a light drizzle of honey.
Fresh or dried apricot slices with little wedges of Camembert.
Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)
550g plain flour
2tsp dry yeast
1tbsp anise seeds
190g caster sugar
190ml orange juice
2tbsp orange zest
Icing sugar, to decorate
Pop the butter, milk and 125ml water in a pan over a medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is nearly boiling. Take off the heat and set aside.
Put 165g of the flour into a mixing bowl with the yeast, salt, anise seeds and 95g sugar and mix together. Once combined, gradually beat in the warm milk mixture, followed by the eggs and another 125g of the flour. Keep adding in flour until it forms a soft ball of dough that’s not sticky when prodded.
Put the dough on to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it’s nice and elastic. Pop into a lightly-greased bowl, turn it a couple of times so it’s well coated, cover and set aside in a warm spot to rise. It should take about an hour-and-a-half to double in size.
Punch the dough down and form into simple skull and bone shapes – make a whole skeleton if you’ve got the attention span. Cover with a tea towel and return to the warm spot to rise for another hour. Pop the oven on at 180C/gas mark 4 to preheat.
Once the second rising is done, bake the bread for 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
Meanwhile, make up the glaze by putting 95g sugar, the orange juice and the zest into a pan. Bring to the boil and keep going for two minutes. Apply to the bread fresh out of the oven while still warm.
Sprinkle with icing sugar before the glaze is set.