Sugar and spice

I’ve never been a fan of mulled wine, thanks to a couple of really nasty glasses years ago, both free at different visits to see Santa. I’ve avoided it ever since, until this Christmas when my friend May offered a glass at her house. I had two that night and I think I’m now a fan. My besty Jill had a party recently and she served hers up in old china cups – a cunning plan because you lose track really quickly how much you’ve had.

Today I had a Partylite candle show as a final fling before I go back to work tomorrow. I decided serve mulled wine but to make mine from scratch to see if it’s any better than the bottles of pre-prepared stuff you can buy in the supermarket. May was my litmus paper as she’s a mulled wine connoisseur and  it passed muster, got the thumbs up and, served in the china cups from the #epicdinnerparty I lost track of how much I’d had and felt all the glowier for it.

It’s definitely worth the effort making it from scratch and today’s recipe is shamelessly stolen from Jamie Oliver, although you’re getting my version as I didn’t have all the ingredients.

As the for the candle party, I had a lot of call-offs thanks to the flu, Norovirus and conjunctivitis but although we were a select bunch we had a great time and May is a fabulous Partylite rep. If you’ve never used a Partylite candle you don’t know what you’re missing. They’re much better quality than the cheap candles you can buy in the supermarket and they burn for much longer. I picked up a cheap Asda tealight by the wick the other day and the whole thing lifted out of its aluminium holder. It was then that I discovered that the colour and the scent are only on the top half, the bottom half is white and unscented. I pulled out a Sainsbury’s one too and it was exactly the same. Partylite tealights are coloured and scented all the way through and come in recyclable plastic holders which don’t get so hot which means they can be used in glass candle holders. You run the risk of the glass shattering if you use the aluminium ones and two of the people at the party had that happen to them recently, one at the Christmas dinner table.

May is also a baker so when she does a party she brings along a box of cupcakes which are always yummy and they didn’t last long in this house. You can check out Airley Fairley Cakes on Facebook and I’d thoroughly recommend ordering something if you have a celebration coming up.

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Today I learned:

  • you only get what you pay for
  • making from scratch is worth it most of the time (except steak pies!)

Today’s recipe

Mulled wine

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Ingredients:

1 orange

1 lemon

200g caster sugar

6 cloves

1.5 cinnamon sticks

3 bay leaves

large pinch of ground nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 star anise

2 bottles full bodied red wine (whatever’s on special offer)

Method: Peel large strips off the orange and lemon into a large pan. Add the sugar and squeeze in the juice of the orange. Add the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, nutmeg and vanilla. Add enough wine to cover the sugar and heat over a medium heat until it boils. Keep it on a rolling boil for 5 minutes so you get a syrup. Turn the heat down low, add the star anise and the rest of the wine and heat gently for about 5 minutes until it’s warm. I ladled it into china cups through a tea strainer to keep the bits back.

The reason you make a syrup first is that it needs to be hot for the spices to infuse properly but the alcohol boils off. If you were to add all the wine at this point you’d be left with non-alcoholic mulled wine and we can’t have that, can we?

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