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Scary Food not Food Scares for Halloween

October 31st as we all know is Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve, a custom that has become more and more commercialised over the years, with stores selling everything from themed costumes to novelty food. Witches, ghosts, ghouls, vampires, monsters, zombies, demons, Jack o’ lanterns, skeletons, creepy crawlies and characters from popular horror films are all represented as people get into the party mood.

Some costumes look extremely realistic and downright scary (although in my book nothing’s quite as sinister as a clown). Scarier still, though, is the prospect of a bout of food poisoning because proper care has not been taken when cooking up a witches’ stew or preparing finger food that looks like fingers.

Food hygiene tips for preparing party food

If you’re having a Halloween party (or any other type of party for that matter) where you’re providing food for guests, you need to ensure that basic food hygiene is put into practice. That means ensuring that your hands, all surfaces and utensils are clean before you begin, your hair is tied back and you are wearing a clean apron.

One of the biggest dangers when preparing food is cross-contamination so be sure that any raw meat and poultry is kept separate from cooked products or raw fruit and vegetables. This means covering or wrapping appropriately and storing separately in the fridge and ideally using separate chopping boards for preparation. Vegetables and fruit should also be washed prior to cooking or serving raw.

If you’re having several people to your party make sure that you haven’t overloaded the fridge. Fridges which are packed to the gills will not operate at the correct temperature – if you’ve got bottles or cans of drink in there, consider placing them in a container full of ice to create more space.

Always read the label

It’s also really important to read labels on products to ensure that they are stored and/or cooked properly. Don’t forget that ‘use by’ dates are there for safety, so should always be observed; whereas ‘best before’ dates relate to the quality of the food. Making sure that you cook meat all the way through (particularly mince, pork and poultry) will help to ensure safety, as will reheating chilled food until it is piping hot.

If you are cooking food from frozen always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and leave time for the oven to heat up before putting products in to cook. To reduce the risk of food poisoning, don’t leave buffet food out for more than a couple of hours, especially if it contains seafood.

If you follow these simple rules, your party should go without a hitch. Here are a few scary food ideas to get you in the mood:

Scary Food Recipes

Vampire’s Soup

(Courtesy of Baxters)

540g jar of sliced beetroot

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

600 ml hot vegetable stock

1 tbsp sugar

creme fraiche, for pouring

1. Cut the beetroot into small pieces and set to one side, ensuring they are well drained.

2. Heat the oil up in a large frying pan and add the onions and garlic and fry over a gentle heat for 15 minutes or until very soft. Add the diced beetroot and mix well, before adding the hot vegetable stock. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes before taking off the heat and allowing to cool slightly.

3. Liquidise the soup with a hand held immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth.

4. Add a tablespoon of sugar and stir well.

5. Season to taste before reheating the soup over a low heat until it is hot, but do NOT allow to boil.

6. Swirl crème fraiche on top  in rings and drag through with cocktail stick to resemble a spider’s web. Serve immediately with bread or toast cut into bat shapes.

Eyeball Lollipop

(From BBC Good Food)

100g Madeira cake

100g Oreo cookies

100g milk chocolate melted

200g white chocolate melted

A few Smarties and icing pens to decorate

Break the Madeira cake and cookies into the bowl of a food processor, pour in the melted milk chocolate and whizz to combine.

Tip the mixture into a bowl then use your hands to roll into about 10 walnut-sized balls. Chill for 2 hrs until really firm.

Push a skewer into each ball then carefully spoon the white chocolate over the cake balls to completely cover. Stand the cake pops in the pumpkin, then press a Smartie onto the surface while wet. Chill again until the chocolate has set. Before serving, using the icing pens, add a pupil to each Smartie and wiggly red veins to the eyeballs.