Forget kitsch orange pumpkins Nasreen El -Mariesh gives you her tips on how to have a hauntingly elegant Halloween

When it comes to celebrating Hallowe’en there are two distinct directions to go; kitsch or Gothic. I prefer to leave the carved pumpkins and witches hats to the kids’ parties and instead take my inspiration from the Victorian era. Despite their uptight reputation they had a gruesome fascination with death and the macabre, which lends itself perfectly to a sinister yet tasteful celebration.


Create a foreboding Gothic setting with a few evocative props, plenty of candles and fittingly opulent fabrics. Old leather-bound books piled upon a richly coloured velour or satin tablecloth, ornate mirrors and shining candelabras are all reminiscent of the era.  Place (fake) taxidermy creatures such as ravens and bats, in bell jars or cloches, adding the odd piece of jewellery or black and white photo as a memento mori keepsake. Finally spray your table decorations with faux cobwebs and illuminate with silver skull candles  – £20 The Creative Candle Company. (http://www.thecreativecandlecompany.co.uk/groups/skull-candles]


Eyeball Punch – Extra large biscotti jars or glass urns make the perfect vessel for a deeply coloured intoxicating punch. Mix up some autumnal berry sangria using good red wine and a splash of brandy, topped with lemonade. Add whole blackberries and sliced plums and grapes.  Lastly throw in a few floating eyeballs (tinned lychees) for subtle but gruesome effect and serve in cut crystal glasses.

Cardiac Arrest Martini – this lethal martini is a twist on a classic gibson martini and uses a sweet baby beetroot in place of the traditional pickled onion garnish.   Adding a splash of the pink pickle juice gives a whimsical yet gory effect.  This recipe calls for chilling the gin in advance, which means it’s easy to knock up a batch when your guests arrive. Serves 6 – Chill 300ml of good quality gin and a hearty splash of Dry Vermouth in the freezer for no less than an hour up to overnight.  Skewer six baby beetroots on cocktail sticks and place in a chilled martini glass, pour over the gin mix and stir. Finally add a teaspoon of the pink juice and serve immediately.


You don’t want your food to look so grotesque that it withers the appetite, so avoid anything that resembles slime, gore or brains. Instead opt for beautiful food in a matching colour palate of deep purples, reds and white.  Serve on your best vintage crockery with old-fashioned silver cutlery for added theatre. Some ideas for a Hallowe’en themed buffet are:


  • Gazpacho shots – Serve chilled tomato and cucumber gazpacho in tall shot glasses. Add a tipple of chilli vodka for an extra kick
  • Devils on Horseback  – prunes wrapped in streaky bacon, skewered and baked in a hot oven for 20 minutes
  • Gothic looking cheeseboard – place a selection of ashy cheeses such as goat on a framed mirror with black grapes, red onion marmalade and charcoal crackers
  • Charcuterie – embed a cleaver in the corner of a wooden chopping board and arrange sliced cured meats, salamis and cornichons around the blade.
  • Quails eggs –  boiled, served with a dipping bowl of fine black charcoal salt
  • Bat wings – chicken wings marinated and cooked in a sticky hoisin glaze and rolled in toasted nigella seeds


  • Poison apples –  add ¼ teaspoon of black food colouring to any toffee apple recipe and voilà, you will have the glossiest apples in the land!
  • Mini Pavlovas with berry compote – top ready-made meringue cases with whipped cream and soft unctuous dark berry compote
  • Macarons – notoriously difficult to bake but oh-so-easy to eat. Take the easy route and simply order a batch of aptly coloured delicacies from Mademoiselle Macaron (18 for £16.50)  http://mademoisellemacaron.co.uk/
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