|our little christmas tree|
i wanted to keep the menu simple with a couple of home-made spreads to slather onto crackers and bread. christmas is never complete without cheese so i got four different rounds of hard cheese (a spicy and chive cheddar and a cranberry and apricot wensleydale). also included were the usual suspects like nuts and crisps and i got some cocktail sausages for those wanting some meat. the something sweet was traditional shortcrust mince pies, and on mama's suggestion i had an alternative of chocolate crinkles for those who are mince pie averse. for drinks there was home-made mulled wine and a crisp cava.
the mulled wine was a big hit and i was glad for the extra bottles of red that came along as most of them were used to top-up the mulled wine. i've had mulled wine almost every winter since i've been in london but had never made it myself. the drinking however comes in handy for note-taking and perfecting a recipe. in the last fortnight i've looked through the classic delia recipe, moving onto my modern favourite 'perfectionist' felicity cloake whose instructions on 'how to make perfect mulled wine' is distilled from experimentation. these notes were my starting point and then recalling a recent conversation with dishoom bar-wallah carl anthony brown, i decided that my mulled wine would have to be syrup based to coax the full flavour of spices such as whole cinnamon and cloves. in hindsight this was such as good idea because it meant i could prepare the base and add the wine shortly before our friends arrived. i am not very confident at choosing wine so was very pleased to be helped out by majestic in recommending the c
1 orange freshly squeezed
1 lemon (peel strips of the skin avoiding the pith and then juice)
three tablespoons golden sugar
three tablespoons runny honey (don't waste exotic honey on this)
one long cinnamon stick
a generous pinch of nutmeg
100 ml water
200 ml ginger wine
2 bottles of a fruity wine
place the clove studded orange, the juice of the orange and lemon, lemon peel, sugar and honey, spices and water in a heavy bottomed pan (i used a large le crueset casserole). heat the contents of the pan gently until the sugar dissolves at which point the heat should be turned up to bring the contents to a furious boil. add 100 ml of the ginger wine and let it continue to boil rapidly for two minutes after which the heat needs to be turned off. let the syrup sit for an hour or two. when you are ready to serve add the two bottles of wine and the remaining ginger wine and heat gently. i have a ceramic hob and kept the heat at a steady number three through the evening. as as the evening went along i added more orange juice, wine, honey and sugar as required.
|whole roasted garlic with rosemary|
to make roasted garlic and leek cream-cheese you will need two tubs of full fat cream-cheese. i know that most people buy philly cheese but i much prefer the waitrose kind that doesn't have that slightly gummy aftertaste that philly does. along with that you will need three bulbs of roasted garlic and two leeks which have been pureed after being caramelised in a knob of butter and some olive oil. when all the ingredients are cool whisk them together. i do like to whisk the cream-cheese a fair bit as it gives it a lightness and makes sure that all the ingredients blend evenly.
|clockwise from top right: roasted garlic and leek cream-cheese, |
poicamole & lemon-rosemary white bean dip