Hot and Spicy

treeMy usual ritual of decorating the Christmas tree this year was a little different to the past few years as I swapped my usual companions, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley and the rest of the Love Actually cast, for 2 little baby helpers. More of a hindrance than a help to my obsessive-compulsive bauble placement, my 2 year old was tasked with hanging some non-breakable wooden decorations on the lowest branches (averaging 3 on the same branch), whilst my 14 month old removed said decorations and tried to eat the fairy lights.

In past tradition however, I was still able to enjoy a glass or 2 of mulled wine brewed from my own recipe, the perfect accompaniment to help get into the Christmas spirit.

The Nutcracker was warmed by his Gluvein whilst watching The Gruffalo's Child
The Nutcracker was warmed by his Gluhvein whilst watching The Gruffalo’s Child

Otherwise known as Gluhwein or Vin Chaud, dependent on which ski resort or Christmas Market you might be lucky enough to be visiting, there is a time and a place for, as it is known in boring old Berkshire, mulled wine. I particularly enjoy drinking mulled wine outside, in addition to my previous examples, I can think of a particular pub in Windsor, The Two Brewers, that hosts an annual carol singing event outside in the street on a mid-December Monday offering a more than adequate excuse to drink mulled wine.

If any of the above pastimes are not on the agenda this Christmas, offer to friends and family as a welcome drink at a Christmas drinks party and they’ll be looking forward to next year’s bash before the evening’s out. Just remember that mulled wine is essentially a fun alternative to having a cup of tea. With the exception of a mince pie or perhaps some Panettone, I can’t think of any other food that it might be paired with.

Chuck it in - no exact science here!
Chuck it in – no exact science here!

So here’s my own very easy recipe for mulled wine to serve 2-4;

–          Half an orange – quartered

–          12 or so cloves

–          Half a nutmeg, finely grated (or ½ a teaspoon of powder if that’s what you have)

–          1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds (optional)

–           1 cinnamon stick

–          3-4 tablespoons sugar (add to your own taste)

–          Juice of the rest of the orange

–          Another slug of orange juice or apple juice – or both, whatever you have

–          A very cheap bottle of red plonk (i.e. any supermarket “House Red” like the House Cotes du Rhone from Sainsbury’s that I used. Ours was actually a magnum so worked out even cheaper – and of course I doubled the other ingredients. Plus, I can’t think of anything else you’d want to do with it)

Ta-dah! Served with one and a half mince pies (courtesy of baby helper #1)
Ta-dah! Served with one and a half mince pies (courtesy of baby helper #1)

Spike the cloves into the orange segments and chuck into a large pan with the other. Toast them all for a minute or 2 over a medium heat, keep stirring so nothing sticks or burns. Add the sugar, pour in the juice and once it’s warmed up a bit, add the bottle of wine and leave to heat up. As it gets warmer and the sugar dissolves, taste the liquid and add more sugar if required. Do not let the wine heat up too quickly or get too hot (certainly not boil) or you’ll risk burning off all the alcohol.

Pour into chunky glasses through a tea strainer using a ladle – avoid pouring into a jug first as it’ll just go cold. Drink and enjoy whilst partaking in any of the above seasonal activities!

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