As Christmas is one of the happiest and busiest times of year for me, I thought now would be the ideal time to start my new blog – no pressure then!
Christmas is always a real family occasion, and we are lucky enough to be a happy family that thoroughly enjoys a large get-together where the ages range from nine to 90.
Although Christmas is often more focussed on children it doesn’t take much effort to make it a happy time for adults too. Quite apart from the food and drink, seeing friends and phoning people you’ve not seen for ages can make the festive season very special!
I’ve come up with a few ideas for you, which I hope you’ll find fun to make in the run up to the big day.
Mulled Wine – Victoria Farm style
Serves 8 non-drivers
The aroma of this mulled wine sums up Christmas for me. It is quite strong, so ideal for prim and proper relatives or friends who need to relax a bit before they can join in the fun – oops, did I really write that?
You will need:
- 75cl (1 bottle) claret
- 150ml (1/4 pint) unsweetened orange juice
- 150ml (1/4 pint) water
- 150ml (1/4 pint) port
- 50g (2oz) brown sugar
- 7g (1 heaped tsp) mixed spice
- 2 large juicy oranges, each cut into 8 pieces.
- 8 cinnamon sticks
Put all the ingredients, except the cinnamon sticks, in a saucepan and place on a very low heat. Gently warm or ‘mull’ the mixture for an hour or so. If you want to prepare it in advance, warm it for an hour, leave it to cool and then reheat it when needed.
Serve in chunky glasses or mugs, with the cinnamon sticks as stirrers. Don’t include any of the orange pieces as they have an embarrassing habit of falling onto your nose as you drink the wine – not a good look!
Filo waterlilies with figgy mincemeat
Serves about 8
If you fancy a change from the traditional mince pie, why not try these pretty, tasty and light alternatives? I personally prefer filo to shortcrust pasty – try them and let me know what you think!
You will need:
For the mincemeat
- 225g (8oz) dried figs
- 75g (3oz) pecan nuts
- 350g (12oz) cooking apples (preferably Bramleys)
- 75ml (3fl oz) Calvados
- 50g (2oz) stem ginger in syrup
- 675g (11/2lb) mixed dried fruit
- 25g (1oz) unsalted butter
- 5g (1 tsp) ground allspice
- 2g (1/2 tsp) ground nutmeg
- 2g (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon
For the pastry waterlillies
- Approx 20n sheets of filo pastry
- 225g (8oz) melted butter
To make the mincemeat, pour the mixed dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the Calvados, then leave to soak in a warm place for several hours. Peel, core and chop the apples, and mince or process them together with the stem ginger, pecan nuts and figs. If using a food processor you may need to add more Calvados to moisten the mixture.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir really well to make sure they are well combined. Put into clear jars and seal. Do not keep too long (chance would be a fine thing in this house!). I expect you’ll use it all before Christmas but if not, don’t exceed 6-8 weeks in the refrigerator.
Using good kitchen scissors, cut the filo pastry into 5 – 5.75cm (2-21/2 inch) squares. Cut a stack at once, don’t do them one at a time or you really will be there until Christmas! Keep the pastry covered with a clean damp cloth as much as possible to avoid it drying out. Butter a nine-hole bun tin and place a square of pastry over the hole. Brush the top of the pastry with melted butter and cover with another square of pastry, placing the second square at an angle. Continue to layer about 5 sheets of pastry, buttering in between and rotating each square a little each time to give a petalled edge effect – see diagram. Fill each pastry case with between 10 – 15g (1dsp to 1tbs) of mincemeat and bake in a pre-heated oven at 160ºC (325ºF), gas mark 3 for 45 minutes.
And for your table…
Can’t resist passing on one of my favourite and easiest Christmas table decorations! Have a rummage in your garden, or keep your eyes peeled on a winter stroll and see if you can find some Old Man’s Beard (Clematis Vitalba). These pale silky fronds make a stunning and effective table decoration especially if you add some glitter spray, or sparkle, or interweave some spangled gold threads. Magical!
Herbs on the Christmas tree!