Wigs, cobwebs, costumes, food ... Anthea Leonard's Halloween party table. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
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When it comes to hosting a Halloween party, the more ghoulish the food, the better.
Pickled brains, witch's fingers, a bubbling cauldron of bile-green curry, a blood-red juice bobbing with eyeballs and creepy cupcakes. These are just a few of party planner Anthea Leonard's ideas for a "soul food" feast for Halloween.
Get creative with cupcake decorations. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
Leonard, who has baked cakes for the likes of Princess Mary of Denmark, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett, founded Sweet Art in Sydney in 1980. She says getting the food, decorations, lighting and costumes right is crucial when it comes to hosting a Halloween party.
“Firstly, every Halloween party has to be moodily lit. It also has to have great food. Get creative by shaping puff pastry into witch's fingers, using slivered almonds for nails, or make a selection of creepy cupcakes,” she says.
The observance of Halloween dates back to ancient Celtic rituals. Samhain, as it was then known, was believed to be the one night of the year when the souls of the dearly departed were set free to roam the earth.
Use slivered almonds to turn chocolate biscuits into witch's fingers. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
As Christianity spread through the Western world, the idea of remembering the souls of saints became known as All Hallow's Eve, from which Halloween is derived.
Even if you are not hosting a full-blown monster bash, Leonard says there are easy, affordable decorating ideas that will get you into the spirit of things.
“Get involved in the streetscape by carving a pumpkin or stretching flat cotton wool to make cobwebs to cover your mailbox,” says Leonard.
Fruit with a twist ... 'Eyeballs' on a skewer. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
She also suggests lighting the way for trick-or-treaters beating a path to the front door with a row of glowing lanterns. On the subject of styling, Leonard says it's important to pick a theme.
“Whether it's ghostly or graveyard, a traditional Halloween colour scheme should feature orange, black or white. Start with an orange tablecloth, and for contrast, tie napkins with spiders made from black tissue paper and pipe cleaners,” she says.
Leonard also recommends creating a sinister centrepiece by ripping a piece of tulle to shreds, suspending it from the ceiling and crowding it with plastic bats. She says one of her favourite Halloween decorating ideas is to craft black paper stencils of witches and cats on broomsticks that are backlit and cast frightening shadows on the walls.
In keeping with the theme of freaking out your guests, Leonard says eerie entertainment is the order of the day. She suggests a grisly game of bobbing for eyeballs (lychees stuffed with blueberries in cranberry juice), murder in the dark, pop goes the pumpkin (orange balloons tied into the shape of a pumpkin), or simply listening to spooky stories.
“Halloween is about having fun and the spooky surprises – in the food, costumes, decorations and lighting – are what it's all about,” says Leonard.
As the most spine-chilling day on the calendar looms, Christopher The, of Black Star Pastry, in the Sydney suburb of Newtown will dress his famed ginger ninjas (gingerbread men and women) as zombies, skeletons and vampires. This year he's also gone “all Frankenstein” and created a creepy Have a Human Heart pudding, which he describes as "decidedly anti-romance”.
“I love Halloween. I don't think it's about copycatting American culture: it's about communities trying to find connections,” says The.
Neils Marquardt was the US Consul General in Australia from 2010 until earlier this month. During his time here, Neils and his wife Judy hosted three hugely popular Halloween parties. He says trick-or-treating had become increasingly popular in the neighbourhood where he lived.
“I've had Halloween parties all my life and they follow the same formula. You need pumpkins, you need to make your house look haunted, you need extensive cobwebbing, you need to dim the lights, have creepy music, great costumes and a party feast,” says Marquardt. Sounds like a frightful lot of good fun.
More tricks and treats for your Halloween party
- Serve spook-tacular smoothies made from blood-red raspberries blended with iced water made red with food colouring. Coat the edge of drinking glasses using corn syrup dyed with red food colouring. Turn the glass upside down and let the "blood" drip down.
- Forget fluorescent lights – think Jack-o-lanterns and candles.
- Fill a cauldron of punch with cranberry juice and stuff lychees with blueberries (read: eyeballs).
- Buy some cheap toy birds and spray them black or make a bat mobile by spray-painting a black branch and hanging with plastic bats.
- Have a beautiful bouquet as a showpiece and infest it with fake bugs.
- Make a specimen jar by submerging a whole cauliflower into a big jar of water. Add a few drops of dye to tint it an icky shade of yellow.
- Make a vivid green curry and serve it in a cauldron.
- Consider your costume. All you need is a white sheet and some imagination and you have the makings for an Egyptian mummy or ghost.