Dine at home

Why should kids have all the fun at Hal­loween? Jenna Elsby cooks up a gothic-in­spired din­ner party for grown ups

Surrey Life - - Inside -

Jenna Elsby serves up a grown-up gothic feast

Be­lieve it or not, in my house, Hal­loween has be­come one of the most hotly-an­tic­i­pated times of the year. My four-year-old son just loves it, and I sup­pose who can blame him – you get to dress up and hit up the neigh­bours for sweets and choco­late!

As for me, I can’t say it par­tic­u­larly floats my boat as pa­gan cel­e­bra­tions go. I don’t think I even ac­knowl­edged it un­til I had chil­dren of my own… save for the odd child­hood ap­ple bob­bing ex­pe­ri­ence at the lo­cal vil­lage hall, while wear­ing a flimsy plas­tic witches hat from Tesco. This year, how­ever, I’ve taken a bit of an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” ap­proach and de­cided to host a lit­tle adult take on All Hal­low’s Eve.

I’ve taken in­spi­ra­tion from the lit­er­ary gothic genre, or Erin Mor­gen­stern’s The Night Cir­cus to be spe­cific. As the name im­plies, it’s about a cir­cus, Le Cirque des Reves (cir­cus of dreams, which sets up camp with­out an­nounce­ment or warn­ing and only opens its doors at night. The story cen­tres on a fierce bat­tle be­tween two young ma­gi­cians and in­cludes de­li­ciously named char­ac­ters such as “Pros­pero the En­chanter” ..what’s not to love?

My favourite scenes, of course, are the ones at the be­gin­ning of the tale that de­pict the se­cret mid­night so­ci­ety – a se­ries of din­ner par­ties held by a char­ac­ter won­der­fully named “Chan­dresh” with an ex­clu­sive guestlist of sor­cer­ers, ma­gi­cians, en­chanters and the founders of the night cir­cus. I de­voured the de­scrip­tion on th­ese pages and the con­cept has stuck with me ever since.

“At din­ner, which be­gins promptly at mid­night, each course is styled in black and white but bursts with colour once pierced with forks or spoons, re­veal­ing layer upon layer of flavours.” Exquisitely imag­ined feasts where per­cep­tion and sense are ma­nip­u­lated to en­hance ex­pe­ri­ence and flavour, you can un­der­stand why I would dream of a seat at this ta­ble.

So this Hal­loween, ladies and gents, I en­cour­age you to send the kids out “trick or treat­ing” and have your­self an en­chant­ing din­ner of your own. It prob­a­bly won’t com­mence at mid­night and the guests most likely won’t dab­ble in the black arts, but still, it should be wickedly in­dul­gent and ever so slightly sin­ful in hon­our of the sea­son.

In stag­ing this meal I wanted rich flavours to dom­i­nate the menu, com­ple­mented by dark and heavy styling pieces, such as a black cro­chet ta­ble run­ner, heavy slate plat­ters, carved wooden trin­ket boxes as serv­ing dishes, gold can­dle­sticks and tar­nished vin­tage cut­lery.

De­spite the rich­ness of flavour, this meal is so­phis­ti­cated and re­fined, mak­ing good use of lux­ury pro­duce and when han­dled with care and pre­sented with style, you’ll find a lit­tle goes a long way. For some­one who feels like a per­pet­ual teenager most of the time, a meal like this makes you dine in a dif­fer­ent way – for want of a more el­e­gant phrase – it’s grown up food, be­fit­ting a grown up oc­ca­sion. Bon ap­petite rev­ellers. JENNA ELSBY

For recipes visit sur­reylife. co.uk

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