With four young boys in our house, there’s no escaping Halloween. Our eldest two love any excuse to dress up and have had their Halloween outfits planned for weeks. And the fact that it falls on a Saturday is all the more reason to make the most of the scariest night of the year.
When it comes to food that really wows for Halloween parties you can have a lot of fun coming up with creative ideas, and they don’t have to be difficult. You can take a simple, staple recipe and give it a twist to make it gruesome and ghoulish.
Choosing some simple recipes also means the children can get involved and lend a helping hand
You can make these with or without food colouring
Tom says: "Nothing could be easier than these popcorn brains. You can make them sweet as we did, or you can try them savoury, adding grated cheese and mustard.
"All you have to do is make the popcorn from kernels – always a popular spectacle for the children – then drizzle with your sweet or savoury garnish and roll them into small, brain-like bundles."
• 100g popping corn
• 100g white chocolate
• 50g butter
• 200g white or pink marshmallows
• a little oil
• 2 tbsp of any red jam (eg strawberry/raspberry/plum) – lumpy, textured jam gives the best effect
• pink, red and brown food colouring
Put the popping corn in a saucepan with a dash of oil. Heat the oil to a medium heat, gently add the corn, turn the heat down low, place a lid on the pan, and gently shake continuously to avoid the corn at the bottom from burning. Continue until all the corn has popped. If a few kernels do not pop, just discard them.
Melt the butter and white chocolate together in a pan over a gentle heat, then add the marshmallows and melt them into the mixture. Stir continuously to avoid burning until the mix is lump-free and completely smooth.
Add a few drops of the food colouring of your liking; red, brown or pink, or a mix – or none at all. Turn the heat down very low and stir in the popcorn to coat the kernels well. Turn out the mixture on to a cooling tray.
Put a little oil on your hands to ease the moulding process. Mould into small round shapes.
You can also mix the jam together with some red food colouring and paint blood lines on to the brains to finish, if you’re feeling really adventurous.
Tom says: "If you’re having a Halloween dinner party this pasta Bolognese, complete with scary eyeballs, is just perfect and looks incredible on the table. I can’t wait to serve it to the boys’ friends next week. "
• 50g sugar
• 100g butter
• 150g flour (sieved)
• 1 egg yolk
• caster sugar to dust
• 20 blanched almonds
• red food colouring
For the shortbread
Beat the butter, sugar and egg yolk in an electric food mixer until well softened and pale in colour. Gently fold in the sieved flour until fully incorporated (do not mix more than necessary). Wrap the mixture tightly in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
To cook and finish the fingers
Cut the shortbread into 20 equal pieces and roll/mould into cylinders/finger shapes.
Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Use a
small knife to cut lines in the fingers – these will create the impression of knuckles.
Place an almond on the end of each finger to represent the fingernails. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 130C/Gas Mark 1. Bake the fingers for 10-15 minutes or until just firm. Leave to cool. Paint the almond fingernails with red food colouring. Dust the fingers with caster sugar.
Four to six small portions
Sam says: "My witches’ fingers made from shortbread and almonds were so easy, but look totally gruesome on the table. Even the adults will want to give them a try. "
For the Bolognese sauce
• 1 onion
• 1 stick celery
• 1 carrot
• 1 leek (white part only)
• 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
• 250ml red wine (if cooking for the adults)
• 1kg beef mince
• 1 small tin tomatoes
• sugar, salt and pepper
• 100g red cherry tomatoes
• 150g mini mozzarella balls
• 1 small bunch basil leaves
• 400g spaghetti or tagliatelle
• 4 tbsp green pesto
First make the Bolognese sauce
Finely chop the onion, celery, carrot, leek and garlic. Sweat the vegetables until soft. Add the red wine if you wish, and reduce to a syrup. In a separate pan, add the beef mince and caramelise or brown the meat as much as possible. Add the browned mince to the cooked vegetables. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce is well reduced. Skim/remove excess fat from the surface of the sauce as it reduces. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.
Method for the ‘Eyeballs’
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Cut the mozzarella balls in half. Place one half inside each cherry tomato. Cut each basil leaf into small circles. Place one circle on a piece of mince at the centre of each mozzarella ball to create the “pupils” for each “eyeball”.
To finish the dish
Boil the pasta until just cooked and drain. Heat the Bolognese sauce. Stir pesto and any leftover basil leaves through the pasta. Divide servings of pasta and sauce between 4-6 bowls then arrange the tomato “eyeballs” on top.
Tom says: "You can get kids in the mood with Halloween-themed cupcakes or biscuits. Getting them involved and into the kitchen is also a great way to get some helping hands with preparing food for friends or other visiting guisers."
For the cakes
• 250g butter
• 250g sugar
• zest of 1 orange
• 4 eggs
• 250g plain flour
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• 2 tsp poppy seeds
• 25ml milk
For the icing
• 250g butter
• 300g icing sugar
• 250g Philadelphia cheese
• zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Whisk the butter and sugar together in a bowl until white, light and fluffy, then add in the orange zest. Crack the eggs into another bowl and then add slowly to the mixture, whisking as you go (if the mixture starts to split mix in some flour until you achieve a smooth consistency).
Then add the flour, baking powder, poppy seeds and 25ml of milk and mix together.
Spoon the mixture into cake cases and place on a cupcake baking tray. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden, then remove and leave to cool.
To make the icing, beat together the butter and icing sugar until smooth. Then add the Philadelphia cheese and the zest of one orange and combine. Cover the top of each cupcake with icing and garnish with some ghoulish sweeties.
Tom says: "As much as dressing up is incredibly exciting for the kids, I also like to think of Halloween as a great chance to bring them into the kitchen and get them cooking and baking. You can come up with so many different ideas, and it’s a fantastic time to get kids excited about cooking, making some scary treats such as these mini jam doughnuts"
• 250g plain flour
• 1 tbsp caster sugar
• 25g salted butter
• 2 egg yolks
• ½ tsp salt
• 100ml lukewarm milk
• 1 sachet yeast (7g)
Dissolve the yeast in the milk, then gently add the egg yolks.
In another bowl, rub the butter into the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt). Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and combine until they form a sticky dough.
Place the mixture in an oiled bowl and then cover with a wet cloth. Leave the bowl in a warm area and let the mixture rise until it doubles in size.
Remove the dough mixture from the bowl and knock it back on to the table. Cut the dough into six portions, then rest it on the table and shape into doughnut balls.
Place the doughnuts on a baking tray and leave to prove for a little while longer.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a fryer. Once hot, drop each doughnut into the fryer and cook until they turn golden .
Remove the doughnuts from the oil and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess fat.
Place some strawberry jam in a piping bag and insert the nozzle into each doughnut, squeezing jam into the centre.Finally, dust the doughnuts with sugar and serve.