One of the nicest things about Christmas to me is the traditions we all keep, such as the new pyjamas, playing board games or cards or charades, popping open some special bubbly, blasting plenty of cheesy (but altogether necessary) Christmas music and gorging on our favourite food...all. day. long.
This year we (and we are a trio now) have the wonderful opportunity to start creating some of our own Christmas traditions, now that our darling daughter Hannah has joined us! I am thinking a nice family walk, followed by chocolate chip cookie baking, homemade hot chocolate and the 'Muppets Christmas Carol' movie on Christmas Eve. As for Christmas Day, we're thinking almost anti-tradition and beef is likely to be served! I would love to hear what your family Christmas traditions are...have you begun to create some of your own as time has passed? What is most special and important to you at this time of year?
So, to the main event - the best mulled wine. This recipe is adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. When it comes to the spices, do try to include them all but the cinnamon stick and whole cloves are the most important.
- 3 - 4 pieces of citrus fruit - definitely include an orange or clementine (I like lemons and limes too)
- 100 g soft brown sugar or caster sugar
- Whole cloves - use these to stud one of the pieces of fruit
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- A good grating of whole nutmeg
- 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
- 2 star anise
- 2 bottles good red wine (I use a spicy style such as Chianti)
- Extras - spiced rum, brandy or port (optional)
- Peel large sections of the skin from all but one of your citrus fruits. Stud the last one with about 20 whole cloves.
- Put the sugar in a large saucepan and turn on the heat to medium, add the peeled pieces of fruit and then squeeze in the juice of an orange/clementine. Break the cinnamon stick in two and add it in and grate in about 15 to 20 gratings of nutmeg. Throw in your halved vanilla pod and pour in a good glassful of wine, just enough to cover the base of your saucepan and the other ingredients.
- Allow the mixture to simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then turn the heat up to let the liquid boil and it will become thicker and more syrupy in consistency after 4 to 5 minutes. Herein is the magic of this particular mulled wine recipe!*
- Once your syrup is made, you can bring the heat down to a medium level again, pop in your clove studded fruit, the 2 star anise and pour in the rest of the wine (and a shot serving, or two, of an extra tipple if you're feeling so inclined). Stir well and serve when the mulled wine is nicely heated through. Cheers and merry Christmas!
*I have become a bit of a food tuber of late and this great syrup, when cooled, can also be added sparingly to give some festive appeal to your bubbly; this drinks tube video shows how.