Mulled Wine


Preparing drinks over Christmas has now become very common and even though most of us spend Christmas with our family, organising drinks sometime before the 25th is a nice way of spending some time with your friends.

With cold winds blowing outside and the temperatures way down the thermometer its always nice to walk into a nice warm house and even nicer to be offered a nice warm drink.  Mulled wine or Gluewien does that perfectly and in addition gives out a lovely spice scent to fill the house and help everyone get into a Christmas mood! 

Even though you can find mulled wine in bottles now a days, this is really a no-brainer. Just choose a bottle of red wine which is not your best wine as the actually taste of the wine will be masked by the spices that you will be adding.

1 bottle red wine
1 whole orange studded with cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 tablespoons sugar or artificial sweetener

Start off by making the studded orange.  You can also use a clementine for this or a satsumi.  Wash your citrus and pat it dry with a kitchen towel.  Now take some whole cloves out of your little pot and start pushing them into an orange leave the top parts of the clove jutting out and creating a lovely pattern.  You should be using about 8 to 10 cloves for a normal sized orange - less if the citrus is smaller.  

Now for the mulled wine, place all the above ingredients in a saucepan.  Once emptied - fill up the bottle of wine with water and add it to the saucepan.  Turn the heat on low and stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved.  Keep it barely simmering for about 10 minutes.  All you need to do is dissolve the sugar and warm the liquid, it is important that the mixture does not boil since all the alcohol will evaporate.  Pour everything into a punch bowl and ladle into your glasses.
You can also add a tot of Cherry Brandy or Grand Marnier to this recipe to add a little more alcohol.

Merry Christmas!

Crème Caramel

With all the rich food we serve over Christmas here is a lighter ending to your meals.  Fresh Crème Caramel is can be prepared in advance and then baked at the last minute. 
 And since most of you will have your ovens on, this dessert is idea as it can be baked minutes before serving and served warm. 

Here is what you need to serve 6
500ml milk
4 eggs
50g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Warm the milk in a pan until warm but not boiling.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale.  This mixture should have increased in volume too.  Now add the vanilla essence and once the milk is warm pour the eggs into the milk.

In the meantime, you can place a little sugar (about 50g) in a pot and, without stirring, allow the sugar to melt over a low heat.  Now add 2 tablespoons of water just before the sugar turns a dark brown and remove from the heat.  This will be your caramel which is placed over the inverted moulds or usually at the bottom of the moulds before baking. 

Place about 1 teaspoon of the melted sugar into the 6 cups or small oven-proof bowls and top it up with the milk and egg mixture.  You should place enough sugar to cover the base of each mould.  

Now place the moulds in an deep oven dish and fill the dish  with approximately 2cm of water.  The amount of water depends on how deep your moulds are but the water should reach just about half-way up the moulds and not more than that.
Bake the creme caramel in a pre-heated oven at 160C for about 30 minutes until the caramel feels firm when tapped gently with your fingers.  

This dessert is delicious when served warm but can also be stored in the fridge and serve as a cold dessert.

This recipe has been previously published in the Eating & Drinking Magazine, out with The Times of Malta.

Christmas Food

With the weather freezing up like this I got thinking about Christmas food and gatherings. This year will be a different season for me as I will be travelling and spending half the holidays at home and the other half back in Malta.

The amount and variety of food available in shops here is to die for. No need to source different ingredients from a hundred shops, most delicacies are available right around the corner. Then there are the BBC food websites that whet your appetite to put the apron on and start cooking from now till Christmas; if only is had a minion to do all my shopping - that's one thing I hate!! I found this page on the BBC site which I thought would make an interesting read - BBC Christmas

In the following weeks I shall be uploading some Christmas food recipes and some interesting dessert you can prepare for your gatherings, but in the meantime, have a look at this - Vanilla walnut ice-cream  I know that this is an ice-cream, but after a heavy meal I suggest that it's the best way to end it. And walnuts are quite plentiful at this time of the year!


Bread Ring

There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread to fill the house!  Even though this seems like a daunting task, bread is actually very easy to make at home; your only consideration is allowing enough time for the dough to prove.  
I suggest that you try this recipe out if you can bake the bread in 2 hours.  If you are still unsure about the timings, try it out in the weekend.  Best not to start your bread after a days work at 8pm!
Other than calculating the right time, there is really nothing else.

I like to make the dough using my Kenwood with the hook attachment in place.  Of course any other food processor will do. always follow the intruction manual to see which attachment would be best

Here is what you will need to make this delicious and yet extremely easy bread ring.

500g flour - I suggest you try and find strong flour, alternatively you can use normal plain flour NOT self-raising.
50g butter or margarine
1 packet (11g) yeast
1 tablespoon salt - I prefer using rock salt
300 ml luke-warm water

Place all the ingredients in your  mixer bowl and give it a stir on low speed.  With the engine running and even if the margarine is still in 1 whole block, add the water gradually until you have added all of it.
Turn the engine to full speed and mix until a dough is formed and moves easily around the mixing bowl.  Mix for a few more seconds then stop the engine.

Prepare your work surface by pouring about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and using your hands spread is slightly so that it covers a diameter of about 20cm.

Now place the dough on your work surface and knead it with your hands for about 5 mins.  You can also bring little hands out at this point to help you knead as you cannot really ruin the dough.  Just make sure to give it the last knead yourself and shape it into the smallest ball you can.

Now place the ball of dough back into the bowl and let it rest for about 1hr.

Once your 1 hour is up, remove it from the bowl and knead it into a ball yet again. Now roll it out into a long roll. If you think the roll looks too big don't worry.  Bring the ends of the roll together to form a ring. Allow the ring to rise one last time for about 45 to 60 minutes then bake in a pre-heated oven at 225C. Once the bread is in, lower the temperature to just under 200C.

Your bread should be ready and golden in about 20 minutes. If you prefer a darker loaf, then leave it in for another 5 to 10 minutes.  The best test to check whether your bread is nicely done on the inside is to tap the bottom of the bread.  If it sounds hollow, then the bread will be good.

Allow the bread to rest for about 15 minutes before you eat it as this will cool the bread slightly making the inside nice and light but still allowing you to eat a warm loaf.