It’s the second week of December and it’s about time I posted a festive recipe, don’t you think?! Having said that I’d better take the decorations out of their storage boxes before the end of the year. I have been busier than usual for the past few months, to the point where I have neglected C&T. I’m proud though that I have managed to be quite consistent and post something for you at least once twice a week. My dream is to post three days a week but planning good content isn’t easy. The philosophy behind this blog has always been quality over quantity and that has been my game plan for the past five years. It will continue to be that way I promise.
By mere coincidence I’m posting a delightfully simple Mexican soup recipe, well loved in this house, because I’m putting it out there right now – it’s got chocolate in it. This is my take on what is still one of my very favourite cookbooks. Jack has published another book after this, which I still need to see, but I think that her first book deserves to be a classic. There is no need to write a second positive review because by now I’m sure you all know how much I like the recipes and Jack’s honest way of writing. She is a master at turning a few simple ingredients into something special, with the help of a little bit of chocolate. It does make a difference so don’t be afraid to add it.
Christmas is around the corner and the preparations have begun. I haven’t really been in the swing of things this week, although my trees are up and so are the rest of the decorations. My beautiful mum has been over to help me, although I suspect she came over to keep me company first, helping me out second – something which I always relish. To me, she is truly one of a kind. I love her to bits. I’m having people over this year for the day and although I still feel the pressure (even though I know I don’t need to) she somewhat managed to ease my nerves. I hope to offer a little bit of that by the some of the recipes here on C&T.
WordPress is acting up, but to make up for the lack of recipes last week, I have an additional post for you for this week. Also I’ve been receiving some requests these days in the run-up to the holidays. This is the first for this season. For me, this recipe is an oldie but a goodie, as they say. And it’s comforting. December has officially started – I say officially because culturally Christmas begins way to early. One of my neighbours has had her tree up for more than three weeks. That’s crazy if you ask me. I don’t think I’ll have mine up till next week, together with the traditional Bambin (Baby Jesus) and/or Presepju (Crib). And some things are still in boxes anyway. I’m learning slowly is the less I have the happier I am. I’m still working on that.
Spring has not quite arrived in the UK. I’m not going to say anything else about this – I’m really afraid I might jinx it, but I must post this before the weather becomes warmer. Two weeks ago it snowed here. OK. Stop. But in case you’re wondering, that’s why we’re still drinking mulled wine in April.
In general I think it’s best to go for a fruity full-bodied red, but this depends on personal taste. If you like to drink the wine you choose on its own, then you will like it when it’s mulled. This is J’s simple recipe which always worked for us. The roles were reversed this time: he was by the stove, I was taking the photos. Except the one with the glasses. (Was going to forget that! He wouldn’t have minded but I said it for the sake of completeness.) I don’t really need to say this but If you’re in Malta, forget about this until December!
We started to use this recipe with these quantities while in Michigan; that’s why I have also given cup measures. The equivalent ml measures are an approximation, but still valid. A slight variation will not make much of a difference here.
- 2 cups/500ml water
- ½ cup/100g caster sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- 2 small star anise
- 2 large oranges, cut in slices
- 1 bottle of red wine
Place the water, caster sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and star anise in a deep pot, on medium heat, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat. Steep the sliced oranges into the syrup mixture for around 15 minutes. Pour in 1 bottle of red wine (the deeper, the better).
Reheat the wine and fruity syrup mixture, but do not boil. Strain the wine, using a sieve and serve hot.
The recipe is here, ready for the cold weather, whenever that hits you! You guys in Oz – are you next? Enjoy.
I wanted to post this recipe in time for Easter. (I’m also preparing for Christmas!) If you’re celebrating with family and friends this could be an option for you whether you’re having some other pudding or not. If you are having a second for dessert I would suggest serving some kind of chocolate fudge pudding or chocolate fondant. Chocolate and pears are a great combination I promise you! I must tell you now that this is a combination of two recipes. J has been making these since I’ve known him, but recently I have found one in The National Trust Complete Traditional Recipe Book by Sarah Edington. It’s ideal for special occasions and gatherings or even a romantic supper for two. For mega impact prepare this with the largest freshest sweetest pears you can find. They mustn’t be too soft because they’ll just crumble on you as you heat them up with the syrup and wine. You can also prepare them a few days ahead of when you want to serve them and keep them for up to five days in the fridge. It’s also easy to scale up or down – you only need one pear per person! As a guide for 6 people you’ll need:
- 500ml red wine
- 110g caster sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of ground ginger
- 6 large pears
- In a stainless-steel saucepan, one big enough to hold all the pears upright, pour the wine, sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Heat these very gently until all the sugar has dissolved in the liquid. Then bring this to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes.
- Peel the pears with a good peeler as thinly as possible. Try not to remove a lot of flesh from the fruit, and leave the little stalk on the top, just because it will look nicer. Place the pears into the hot syrup and make sure you have enough so that the pears are completely immersed (it’s very important to pay attention not to burn yourself here), cover the pan and leave to simmer for around 15 to 20 minutes or until the pears are tender. They will also turn rich deep red in colour.
- Remove the pears from the pan using a slotted spoon and place each one in a bowl. Taste the syrup for sweetness and add a tablespoon or so of caster sugar. Boil the liquid quickly without covering the pan to allow the wine syrup to reduce.
- Some recipes tell you to let the syrup cool a little bit before you pour it on each individual pear. I, on the other hand prefer it hot (don’t ask me why but it’s so comforting) but this totally depends on your personal preference.
Just serve as is, plain, simple without any fuss. Happy Easter!