Friday, December 10, 2010

I've got a confession to make...

I've got a confession to make and had better just take a deep breath and blurt it out before I reconsider.

Here it is. Are you ready?



It's just that I don't really like Christmas. In fact, I can be a bit of a grinch about it.

I can already hear the collective intake of breath. Oh, I hear you say. How very Scrooge-like of you.

In the past, I'd have retaliated with tales of just how stressful Christmas can be. I know so many people who put huge pressure on themselves to produce elaborate meals for large groups of people. So much pressure that they rarely get to enjoy the act of being hosts in their own homes. I also know of many others who spend money they can't afford on gifts for their loved ones.

All of this can be too much for me. Where's the simplicity? Where's the joy? Where's the rest and relaxation that are so necessary at this the darkest time of year?

These are the thoughts that came to mind when the theme was announced for December's Irish Foodies' Cookalong. Christmas, I muttered under my breath. Bah humbug to that.

But I hadn't reckoned on Twitter coming to life with excited outbursts from foodies all over Ireland. Caroline at Bibliocook posted pictures of her star-topped mince pies. There was talk of gingerbread cookies, prawn cocktails and bacon caramelised brussel sprouts. Yum!

And that was before Jono and Jules started to post about their ginger beer and tangerine-glazed ham, roasted beetroot with horseradish and apple sauce, chili and tangerine-braised lentils and roasted cauliflower with garlic, bay and lemon.

I started to feel tempted. With all of this talk of delicious food (and even more enticing for me, there was such a spirit of conviviality with everyone talking about the friends they would share these feasts and treats with), I thought it might be time for me to finally embrace the spirit of Christmas
So, that's what I did. I invited some friends over, threw on some Christmas tunes (John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Sufjan Stevens if you're interested) and mulled up my first ever vat of mulled wine.

I used Jamie Oliver's recipe which goes something like this:
2 clementines
Peel of 1 lemon
Peel of 1 lime
250g caster sugar
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg
1 whole vanilla pod, halved
2 star anise
2 bottles of Chianti (or any preferred bottle of red)

Start by peeling the lemon, lime and clementines.

Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat.

Add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the juice of both clementines.

Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. (Depending on your fondness for this flavour.)

Add your halved vanilla pod and stir in just enough wine to cover the sugar.

Let this simmer until the sugar has dissolved and then bring to the boil.

Keep on a boil for 4 to 5 minutes, or until you've got a thick syrup.

When your syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low. Add the star anise and the rest of the wine.

Gently heat it and after the flavours have been allowed to infuse for 5 minutes or so, ladle it into glasses and enjoy both the spirit and the taste of Christmas.

One of the nicest things about making mulled wine is that it fills your home with those smells that you can't help associating with Christmas; aromatic spices, zesty citrus fruits and a rich sweetness.
It also seems to have made something of a convert out of me. If this Christmas involves things such as mulled wine with friends, it may not be such a bad thing after all.

Merry Christmas everyone!


  1. I love mulled wine (I'll even drink mulled grape juice!) - great photos!

  2. Thanks, Brownieville Girl! I love mulled wine too (I didn't realise quite how much until this year!).

  3. Aww that's a lovely post - thank you very much for the nice mention! Jono and Jules.

  4. Jono and Jules,
    How could anyone fail to be impressed by your amazing feast? I'm still drooling at the thought of it!