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