Like many a festival, Halloween is one where the original philosophy has long been forgotten in favour of fancy dress and sweet treats. And much fun it is too – except perhaps for your dentist.
It’s thought that one of the purposes of the original festival was to acknowledge the first day of winter on November 1. Here in Dubai, that news is particular cause for celebration, giving us an excuse to wave goodbye to the last remnants of the muggy summer in favour of al-fresco celebrations. Dubai is already getting set to go pumpkin and ghost-costume crazy, with themed brunches, menus, confectionary and even cooking classes on the horizon to mark Halloween this year.
Looking back, the history of Halloween has been intrinsically linked with food, ever since the early Celtic festival was first practised in Ireland. The time of year meant that traditional festivities and rituals involved typically autumnal foods, most notably apples, turnips, potatoes and (later) pumpkins. A tradition of ‘mumming’ and ‘pranking’ involved dressing in disguise and visiting neighbouring homes, requesting food in exchange for a performance, thought to be a precursor of today’s trick-or-treating. Also, ‘jack o’lanterns’ carved from vegetables were left out to comfort the supposedly wandering spirits of dead relatives. Originally, the Irish commonly used turnips, but once Irish settlers in the US began using their new country’s native pumpkin instead, Halloween’s most recognisable symbol was born.
Halloween was originally followed by a day of fasting. In Ireland at the time that meant not eating meat, so seasonal vegetable items such as colcannon (an Irish potato and cabbage mash) and champ (similar to colcannon) were eaten instead, as well as apple cake, boxty pancakes (made with potato), barmbrack (bread with sultanas and raisins), potato farls (scones), apples and nuts, all of which became part of the regular Halloween menu. Superstition surrounding the festival also affected the harvest, with folklore dictating that all potatoes and oats must be harvested before Halloween, while blackberries and apples picked after this time would be damaged by spirits.
Back to modern-day Dubai, we know you’ll need to book in advance if you want to order a giant three-tiered, haunted house cake baked by professionals, hence why we’ve scouted out our Halloween picks a week early. You might also pick up ideas of your own at some of the more instructional Halloween events taking place from this week, right up to the end of the month. We’ve researched everything you’ll need, and everywhere you could go to get ready for a haunting evening at home on Wednesday October 31.
Three to try
Dubai’s own versions of historic Halloween foods…
Colcannon mash Many of Halloween’s food-related rituals originate from Ireland, so it’s no surprise to find them on the menu at Irish pub McGettigan’s. Try colcannon (mashed potato with cabbage) as a side dish, or sample the champ (mash with spring onions), which is included as a side with some main courses. Dhs18 (colcannon side dish). McGettigan’s, Bonnington Hotel, JLT (04 356 0560).
Toffee apples Baker & Spice prides itself on offering seasonal menus, and during Halloween it will serve pumpkin salads, vegetarian lasagne with pumpkin, ricotta and feta, and sweet pumpkin pie. It will also introduce some apple -based specials: as well as being traditionally eaten at Halloween, apples also appear in much of the festival’s mythology. Try toffee apples, a Halloween favourite made from new-season Lebanese sweet red apples dipped in caramel that’s free from colourings and preservatives. Dhs6 (toffee apples). Baker & Spice, Souk Al Bahar (04 427 9856).
Pumpkin scones Combining the Halloween tradition of potato farls (an Irish scone) and seasonal staple pumpkin, Tribes’ scones are made fresh every day and served with cream and jam. Dhs14. Tribes, Mall of the Emirates (050 248 4959).
Getting ready to party
Whether you’re staying in to throw a Halloween-themed bash or are waiting to be terrorised by trick-or-treating kids, here’s how to prepare… Buy it Bella Bakery From full Halloween-themed catering to suitably spooky-looking occasion cakes, Bella Bakery can bake to bespoke requirements, creating decoratively iced cakes, cupcakes and cookies. We particularly like the cute cupcakes, with icing that looks like a buttercream ghost. From Dhs15 for cookies; from Dhs500 for decorative cakes. Orders must be placed at least one week in advance. www.bellabakerybellisima.blogspot.com (050 568 5208). Cakes ’n’ Bakes Specialising in custom-made cakes and sweets, Cakes ’n’ Bakes can make any number of themed sweet treats for a Halloween party, including ghostly ‘cake-pops’, witches-hat cookies and beautifully decorated cupcakes (we particularly like the mummy-themed designs). From Dhs150 for 12 cupcakes, from Dhs300 for decorative cakes. Orders must be placed at least one week in advance. www.cakesnbakesdubai.com (04 454 2287).
Candelite Confectionary store Candelite stocks playful, spooky sweets that make perfect trick-or-treat offerings and party-bag gifts. The range of Halloween ‘candy toys’ from Vero Candy offers Dracula, an evil pumpkin head and a wicked witch toy, all filled with chocolate buttons. In the spirit of the colder European autumn, you can ‘warm up’ with ready-to-make drink mixes from McStevens with fun names and packaging, such as the ‘Skeleton Brew’ or ‘Ghost White’ hot chocolates, and Hello Kitty ‘Spooky Chocolate’. We like the cute lollipops, from Original Candy Co, depicting spiders and skeletons and made with natural ingredients, colours and flavours (an ideal way to avoid too many E numbers). From Dhs30. Mirdif City Centre (04 284 0175), Ibn Battuta (04 363 1602).
Kitsch Cupcakes Always quick to deliver festive, seasonal cupcakes, Kitsch will sell ready-to-buy double vanilla and double chocolate cakes decorated with a smiling (and edible) pumpkin face made of icing. Dhs14 each. Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqueim 1 (04 395 6963), DIFC (050 336 8280).
Lakeland Once you know what you’re buying or baking for the edible part of your gathering, it’s time to think about presentation and the tools of the job. Lakeland offers cookie cutters in various creepy shapes (we like the little ghost), plus trick-or-treat gift bags and even an electric lantern shaped like a witch’s hat. It also sells novelty skeleton cake stands that hold a single cupcake, as well as a traditional three-tiered cake stand dripping in cobwebs and spiders. Dhs32 (three-tiered cake stand). Mall of the Emirates (04 323 6081), Mirdif City Centre (04 284 3460).
Villeroy & Bosch If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, try Villeroy & Bosch’s new Anmut Bloom collection. The bold pumpkin-like vases make a quirky yet not too childish adornment, if you’re planning a more grown-up soiree. From Dhs50. The Dubai Mall (04 339 9676).
Make it Marta’s Kitchen This company offers catering and culinary forums, with a special ‘Kitchen Horror Stories’ edition taking place for Halloween. At this family-friendly event, children and adults can learn how to make healthy, Halloween-themed snacks and tuck into festive canapés. Dhs200. 4pm-5.30pm, Tuesday October 30, Advance booking required. Swiss Tower, JLT, www.martaskitchen.com (050 379 8002).
Mazina The ‘Generation Creation’ brunch at Mazina offers a programme of creative activities that the whole family can try, alongside its traditional brunch buffet. This month you can learn to carve your own jack o’lantern from a pumpkin, then test your skills and creativity in the competition. Dhs220 (soft drinks), Dhs110 (children aged seven to 12); free for children aged six and under. 12.30pm- 3.30pm, Saturday October 20. The Address Dubai Marina (04 436 7777).
Miele Gallery This regular series of culinary experiences features a Halloween-themed version, where chef Russell Impiazzi will teach you to prepare dishes such as beetroot soup and pumpkin pie, before sitting down to eat them. Dhs400. 10am-1pm, Saturday October 27. Advance booking required. The Miele Gallery, Sama Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road (800 64353).
Give up and go out
If those newly acquired cooking and carving skills aren’t working out (or you can’t be bothered), here’s where to dress up and dine out for Halloween…
The ONE Deli The café is introducing a Halloween-themed menu, dubbing it ‘THE Wicked Gourmet Show’, and divided into acts instead of courses. The dramatic dishes include deep-fried devilled pumpkin and mozzarella balls, Rattle Your Bones braised beef ribs with wasabi potatoes, and a Halloween orange tart for the final curtain. Dhs57 for two courses, Dhs75 for three. Available October 19- November 3, 9am-9.30pm. Near Jumeirah Mosque, opposite Palm Strip Mall, Jumeirah (04 345 6687).
Yalumba Dressing up is actively encouraged at this one-off Halloween-themed brunch, and the best dressed will win a prize. Music from horror movies will be the spooky soundtrack to a selection that includes pumpkin soup, pan-seared veal liver (not that scary, but a little creepy to some), and a bloody chocolate fountain. Dhs499. Advance booking required. October 26, 12.30pm-3.30pm. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 702 2455).