Tag Archives: mulled cider

A White Christmas

This Christmas I challenged the readers of this blog to help me to rejuvenate what had become an all too methodical Christmas lunch. I wanted to eat something that went beyond our traditional and stale festive binge – nothing wildly different or controversial (I would never have been forgiven), but just enough to reinvigorate the day. There were some wonderful suggestions, from all over the world. Natasha’s fried carp with knedliky (Czech dumplings) sounded delicious but would have undoubtedly ended in a riot had it been served in favour of turkey. Alex, a Jewish friend, suggested latkas, potato pancakes eaten at Chanukah. Again, I was – I am – pathetic, and just didn’t dare produce these.

Some more conventional suggestions were embraced. However, after much deliberating I decided that, ambitious as I wanted to be with Christmas lunch, I didn’t really fancy the stress that would have undoubtedly been induced by attempting myriad dishes on Christmas morning. Doing turkey ‘n trimmings for 18 is stressful enough, so instead I dotted the various recipes around the festive period (there may still be time for more). They were all a complete delight. So thank you, everybody, for your truly inspirational input – you helped to make this Christmas much more fun.

Lambswool – with thanks to Nibbles for their suggestion


This is a medieval beverage, swilled no doubt by the gallon on high days and winter holidays. I tried it with ale, feeling that with cider (a more common variation) that it would just be like mulled cider. In truth it is probably nicer that way but it was still warming, aromatic and festive.

Makes 2 litres

6 Cox’s apples

25g butter

4 bottles good ale – Black Sheep or Landlord – otherwise good cider. White Lightning is excellent.

8 tablespoons brown sugar

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

Peel, core and quarter the apples. In a large cauldron, melt the butter over a fire that is not  newly ablaze, and yet has not lost all of its fervour, and add the apples and spices. Gently nurdle those golden orbs until lightly bronzed like the sultry curves of a Moorish maiden, then add the ale and the sugar. Stir well and heat until just below the point at which the bubbles breaketh the surface. Leave for the length of the second act of the Bard’s Twelfth Night and serve in warm goblets ye rapscallion ye.


Hot chocolate with chilli – with thanks to Ms. Alex

This is just the thing to drink on a cold winter morning. Chocolate and chilli are terrific bed partners – the chilli helping the chocolate to coat the throat with a deep warmth that trickles down all the way to your toes. Fight any resistance to this idea and give it a go. It’s fab.

Makes 6 mugs

200g good quality chocolate (70%)

1 dried red chilli, finely chopped and seeds discarded

100ml water

1l whole milk

4 tsp sugar

250ml double cream

A little extra chocolate for dusting

Break the chocolate into bits and melt over a low heat along with the water and chilli. Meanwhile warm the milk almost to boiling point. Once the chocolate has melted whisk in the milk and add the sugar. Heat for another couple of minutes while you whisk the double cream until softly whipped. Pour the hot chocolate into warm mugs, top with cream and a little grated chocolate.

Brussels sprouts with black pudding – with thanks to The Student Gourmet

Prepare the sprouts by discarding any grotty outer leaves, trimming the bottoms and cutting in half. Add to a pan of boiling salted water and boil for three minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water for 2 minutes. You can do this well ahead (I did it on Christmas Eve this year and the sprouts were as green and fresh as ever).

Heat some butter or goose fat in a large pan and add some chopped up black pudding. Fry until crisp, stirring occasionally, then add the sprouts and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve.

Chestnut soup with chorizo and saffron cream – with  further thanks to the mysterious ‘Nibbles’

This is an adaptation of a recipe from the Moro cookbook.

Serves 6

200g whole Chorizo, cut into cubes

1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 stick celery, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 dried red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary

1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

400-500g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped

1 tin tomatoes

1 litre chicken stock

2ooml double cream

a pinch of saffron

Olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the chorizo until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil.

Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and fry over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until lightly caramelised and soft.

Next add the chopped rosemary, chilli and cumin and stir for a minute or so, before adding the chestnuts, chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently heat the cream and saffron together until the threads have dissolved. Set aside and blend the soup until smooth.

Whisk the saffron cream over a medium heat until it is a little lighter, then serve the soup with a few chunks of chorizo and some of the cream.


Filed under Recipes

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.


Filed under Recipes