Saturday, 20 December 2008

Seasonal pleasures

I love that each season brings its own unique colours, plants, foods, weather, activities. I crave change and variety in life so the changing seasons definitely keep me on my toes. Summer is an obvious one for me - warm summer nights, Barbecues and swimming in the sea. But northern European summers often disappoint due to high expectations and unpredictable weather.

The winter started early this year with magic (freakish) snow in October which really got me in the mood. We've had a particularly cold winter and I've felt myself slowing down, wanting to hibernate under the duvet with a hot cuppa. I'm feeling really attuned to winter's treats - they definitely compensate for the cold and dreary weather: log fires, candles, hearty meals, comfy wooly jumpers and mulled wine.

Macondo cafe on Camden Passage (photo by Jungle Drums)

When we do venture out in the cold, there are a multitude of cozy crowded cafes that invite us to share a warming drink and a good chat. Recently I spent a long slow afternoon at Macondo, a lovely latin cafe and eatery on Camden Passage in Angel. They'd adapted their menu to feature special 'festive' drinks like apple and ginger tea with mulled pears and cinnamon. Lots of pubs are also offering delicious mulled wine. But none match up to my mum's recipe - enjoy it...


1 bottle of red wine (inexpensive)
1/4 - 1/2 cup (50 ml - 100 ml) vodka (optional) or rum
5 - 20 whole cloves
1 large teaspoonful cardamom seeds
2 - 4 pieces (sticks) cinnamon
1 - 2 pieces ginger
Peel from half a lemon
1/2 - 1 cup (125 - 250 ml) sugar
1 large teaspoonful vanilla sugar
raisins & blanched almonds


Crush the cinnamon and cardamom. Peel the lemon. Put all the spices and peel into a glass jar with the vodka.
Cover. Leave overnight. Strain the vodka, discard the spices.
Soak raisins & almonds in vodka/rum (maybe just during the day – not as long as the spices?)
Mix the spiced vodka with the wine and sugar.
Heat all the ingredients in a large saucepan until steaming hot. Do not boil! Stir and taste.
If not sweet enough, add more sugar. If too sweet, add more wine.


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