White Mulled Wine

Although I’m not much of a wine connoisseur, I do think of myself as a bit of a mulled wine connoisseur, it’s not Christmas if I don’t go down to Manchester Christmas markets and purchase a ridiculously overpriced cup of mulled wine from one of their stalls. The best mulled wine you can buy in my opinion is the bottles of Gluhwein from Aldi. M&S used to do a lovely white mulled wine but they don’t sell it anymore so I’ve had to make my own. There’s a couple of recipes on BBC Good Food, I made the one with cider last year but this year’s was purely wine. There was no sugar in the recipe so it was really more like a French vin chaud than a mulled wine so I added 5 tbsp sugar which seemed to be just the right amount.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 bottles of cheap white wine. You could get a sweet riesling and cut down on the sugar possibly.
  • 100ml madeira (I used sherry as I don’t have any madeira)
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 dried apricots
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 5 tbsp sugar

Method

1.) Chop the lemon in half and slice up one half. Discard the pips.

2.) Slice a vanilla pod in half

3.) Bash up 5 cardamom pods – I used a pestle

4.) Add the wine, madeira, 1/2 lemon, cardamom pods, anise, vanilla and honey to a large pan.

5.) Bring to a simmer and heat on a low heat for 30 minutes.

6.) Strain out the vanilla, apricots, lemon, cardamom and star anise. Add the sugar and stir to melt.

7.) Enjoy while still hot or heat up in a mug in the microwave later.

Frangipane Mince Pies

Mince pies are a traditional Christmas treat in the UK. Generally it’s a mince pie and some sherry that gets left out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Mince isn’t a meat but a mixture of dried fruits, nuts, rum or brandy and spices. It’s really easy to find jars of the stuff around wintertime in the UK but if you can’t it’s not a particularly difficult thing to make. There are a lot of odd people that don’t like mince pies. Admittedly, mince pies are pretty commercially produced when shop bought and the pastry has to be a bit robust to survive. I think these mince pies taken from the Baking Bible that is Nigella Lawon’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ would convert the hardiest of doubters, the pastry is so light with the icing sugar and the frangipane goes beautifully with the spiced fruit. I think the almond flavour of frangipane just makes it extra Christmassy, reminiscent of marzipan and stollen. Serve one of these with a cup of mulled wine for the ultimate winter treat.

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 175g plain flour
  • 30g ground almonds and another 90g for the frangipane
  • 65g icing sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 125g unsalted block of butter and another 90g for the frangipane
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g mincemeat
  • 90g caster sugar

Method

1.) For the pastry, add the icing sugar, flour and 30g almonds and a pinch of salt to a food processor.

2.) Chop the 125g butter into small cubes and throw them into the food processor.

3.) Pulse the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.

4.) In a bowl, separate 2 egg yolks and add a tbsp iced water. Pour into the food processor and continue to pulse until the pastry is starting to clump together around the food processor.

5.) Bring it together with your hands and form two discs. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6.) Roll out one of the discs and stamp out 6 circles. Use these to fill the inside of a cupcake tin. Repeat with the other disc. I only had a muffin tin so I had to do a bit of a cut and paste job with the rest of the pastry which was fine but it was a bit difficult to get the pies out of the tin in the end.

7.) Refrigerate the mince pies for another 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

8.) Divide the mincemeat among the twelve tarts.

9.) To make the frangipane, melt the other 90g butter in the microwave for 20 seconds, beat with the other two eggs, the 90g caster sugar and the 90g ground almonds.

10.) Add dollops of the frangipane onto the top of the mincemeat. Cook for about 15 minutes. (Mine may look a bit brown but weren’t burnt at all!)

11.) Let them cool to room temperature before removing from the tin.

Festive Pasta

Here’s my last pre-Christmas meal before I get into the real unhealthy Christmas fare. I saw a recipe for sprout, hazelnut and leek pasta on BBC Good Food and I thought why not add some Linda McCartney imitation pulled chicken and it would practically be Christmas dinner on a plate with far less effort. I really love sprouts and can’t see why anyone wouldn’t unless they’ve been subjected to overcooked soggy ones.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 200g sprouts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 50ml vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 350g pasta
  • 1 tbsp parmesan
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped, toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 pack Linda McCartney chicken

Method

1.) Wash and slice the leeks. Chop the ends off the sprouts, discard the outer leaves and quarter them.

2.) Cook in a frying pan with the oil for 10 – 15 minutes until softened.

3.) Peel and finely chop the garlic, zest the lemon and grate the parmesan and make up the stock.

4.) Put the pasta in a pan and cover with boiling water, cook until soft.

5.) Add the garlic to the frying pan and cook for another minute.

6.) Add the chicken and heat up until it’s defrosted.

7.) Stir in the stock and crème fraiche.

8.) Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Then stir through the parmesan, lemon zest and hazelnuts until everything is hot and the parmesan is melted.

9.) Season and serve.