Tag Archives: barberries

Mulled cider

The modern Christmas provides a curious tension between innovation and tradition, novelty and nostalgia, grandchildren and grandparents. We undoubtedly wish to preserve certain aspects of the period. It was only about a couple of years ago that I stopped insisting my stocking was put on the end of my bed as I feigned slumber. And I bet every family has their own way of going about opening their stockings. As for food – there are far more interesting things to eat than turkey, and yet anything else, in our home at least, just wouldn’t feel right, if only because of the near-deranged and much-anticipated plundering of the leftovers for sandwiches (complete with moist-maker).

But change is essential. Each year the Christmas miserablists seem to take a deep breath in late November and then spend the next month expectorating their hatred for what should be (and is for many) a wonderful time of year. Most complaints are the same old chestnuts – too much family time, bad music, too expensive, too commerical, too much to drink (huh?), too much to eat (quoi?).  These cliched quibbles are an indication that change is necessary if e’er I saw one. However the changes need to be slight and subtle. Start trying to reinvent the wheel and you’re going to irk a lot more people than the relatively small few that delight in making this time of year gloomy for everybody else.

For my part, swapping mulled wine for mulled cider is a good start. Cheaper (apparently we’re in the middle of a ‘financial crisis’ so this can only be a good thing), different, fun, and yet unmistakably festive.

Makes 3 litres

4 bottles of decent cider (fizzy is fine, the fizz cooks off)

500ml water

500ml orange juice

150g sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

A small handful of cardamom pods

A few cloves

Star anise

Some peelings of ginger

Bourbon or rum (optional)

I happened to have some barberries leftover from the Persian cooking experiment, so I slung them in too. You can pretty much stick anything you fancy in there.

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to just under a boil and leave for at least twenty minutes before serving. Don’t let the cider boil or you’ll lose some of the alcohol. A drop of bourbon or rum at the end is a nice touch.

Got any good adaptions of Christmas staples to send my way? Post a comment, or get involved in the Christmas Challenge.

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Ethnic Eating Experiment – Day 5: Aubergine Khoresht with jewelled rice

Well, after a week and a half in the editing suite the video for my final ethnic eating day is ready for human consumption.

This really was the highlight of the week – brilliant shop, delightful shopkeeper, and a very kind friend to help with the filming. The food was delicious to boot.

Aubergine Khoresht with jewelled rice

Serves 4

For the Khoresht
1 tin of aubergines
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 potatoes, sliced
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
4 dried limes, pricked with a knife
Water
Salt, pepper, oil

For the rice
Handful of barberries
Handful of chopped pistachios
Half a pint of rice
1 pint water

Pour boiling water over the barberries and leave to swell for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a large frying pan or wok and add the aubergines. Fry until lightly coloured, remove and add the onion. Soften, remove and add the spuds. Fry until brown, then return the aubergines and onions to the pan, along with the turmeric, dried limes, and enough water to just cover the spuds. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Put the rice and water in a saucepan with a little salt, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes (resist the temptation to remove the lid). While your rice is simmering away, drain the barberries and press out any excess moisture. Fry in a little more oil for a minute or do, before adding the pistachios and frying for another minute. Once the rice is cooked, season with a little pepper and add the pistachios and berries.

Check the khoresht for seasoning, and walk to your nearest Persian shop. Serve to the owner with the rice and some pilfered parsley.

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