Just Another Glogg Post

The ultimate mulled wine recipe.

One recipe to rule them all. One recipe to find them. One recipe to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Christmas in a cup!

Ok, so a Lord of the Rings marathon may not be part of your festive rituals but I bet that making mulled wine is. This recipe is totally foolproof and is worth making for the aroma alone. I often leave the batch simmering for longer than I should to let the Christmassy smell fully permeate every room.

Pairs beautifully with tacky decorations and cheesy tunes

To make 4+ mugs you’ll need:

  • 2 pots
  • A bottle of wine (or a selection of apple and pomegranate juice if you prefer no booze)
  • 500ml orange juice – no bits, the cheap and cheerful kind
  • Gin
  • Brown sugar
  • A tea bag
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Mulling spice bag (or two)
  • Cinnamon sticks (optional)
Gather your ingredients

Fire up that hob to a gentle heat, chuck the entire bottle of wine into your favourite pot and get your playlist on the go. I thoroughly recommend The Beach Boys or The Carpenters Christmas Album – warning – may cause dodgy kitchen dancing.

In the other pot, add about a litre of water and encourage her to a rolling boil. Add your mulling spice bags; I think two bags is the Goldilocks amount, but alter as you see fit. You can pick these up in most supermarkets but I reckon a jar of handcrafted ones would make a thoughtful and cost effective present for someone special. Turn the heat down and leave those spices to steep and simmer.

Oh, the smell is heavenly

Eat a mince pie. Yes, this is part of the recipe. I’ll allow a hearty slice of Stollen or gingerbread instead. In the time it’s taken you to have a tasty treat, we should have a nice mulling liquor ready. To this, add your orange juice, 5 tbsp of brown sugar and a splash of gin. You can use any tipple you fancy: brandy, port and whisky work well too. Keep an eye on the vino in the other pan – don’t let her reach a boil.

Grab a lemon and rock and roll it over a hard surface before squeezing a little into the mulling liquor. Finally, add a regular English Breakfast teabag – this is the magic ingredient. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes – the future you will be so glad that you did.

Once 10 minutes is up, discard the teabag from the pot and pour your delicious, boozy, fruity potion into the warmed red wine. Slice up the remaining lemon and segment some orange, (or – hack alert – go with a couple of easy peelers). Gently stir these into the winey elixir. Finish with a couple of cinnamons sticks if you feel inclined.

Serve in mugs or heatproof glasses (the kind used for lattes – don’t serve in a regular wine glass. I made the mistake of doing that one year; it was painful). You can leave the mulled wine on the hob with lid on, ready to be heated for guests and feed her more wine throughout the evening if she looks a little low. The same is also true for me during the holidays.

A few of my favourite things

If Covid means you’re unable to visit or receive family and friends this Christmas and are feeling a bit glum about it, why not try this delicious concoction as an outdoor drink? Wrap-up warm, enjoy the crisp wintery air carrying your Thermos mug of mulled wine from which you regularly sip as you sit on your front stoop, or take a wander around your neighbour, decoration-spotting and wishing those you pass a Merry Christmas. You’ll be spreading good cheer and the unmistakable aroma of mulled wine. Go on, you know you want to. ~L.

Recycler Avec Ma Famille

Do your family recycle?

Does your family recycle? I don’t mean do you diligently separate your paper from your plastics from your metals, rinse them all and leave them kerbside in neat caddies every week, thought this is a VERY good thing to do. I mean, does your family recycle things between its members? Perhaps does your family cycle, as in rotate, things between its members is a more accurate question. This family does, in a big way, and I conclude that my little cottage, in the far South East corner of Surrey, acts as some form of homing beacon for all the family detritus in circulation. Eventually, it all ends up here. Usually, after a few months of contemplation, we upcycle, and find a new purpose for the item. Thank goodness the cottage has surprisingly generous attic space and a couple of sheds for storage. Permit me to share some examples.

Terracotta Tuscan Ovens

Terracotta Tuscan ovens. This particular sequence is one of our longest running. At 17 years old, I got engaged to my childhood sweetheart (no, of course it didn’t last, but we are still in touch and he is definitely one of this world’s good guys). We had a party to celebrate and though I don’t recall asking for presents, my very generous family and friends bought us various gifts for our “bottom drawer”. Nana Mary bought us a Tuscan oven which sat in its box for the next seven years as I finished Sixth Form, went off to uni, and came back, then headed to London and a succession of rented flats. I recall using it a few times to roast a chicken for Steve and Lily decades ago, but that’s about it. This Tuscan oven is still around, having an extended rest at the back of a kitchen cupboard. It might not have been in use very often, but on one of the occasions it was doing its thing it evidently caught my Mum’s eye because she hotfooted it to Lakeland Limited (probably still called Lakeland Plastics in those days) and bought herself her very own Tuscan oven. Earlier this week, Lily and I planned a pre-Lockdown 2 walk, exploring her new neighbourhood. Naturally, before our walk I had my second guided tour of her new house to see how she and Vince are settling in, during the course of which I had the opportunity to make many very helpful Mum-suggestions about what I would do if I was her (she loves that, as all daughter do). Opening one of the drawers in her kitchen to show me how Kondo-like she has been utilising her storage space, Lily spies the Lakeland Tuscan oven as asks if I want it because Nan gave it to her, she never uses it, and it’s just taking up space. I hesitate, I actually hesitate and for a moment thinking I’ll tell her to bin it, and then I just can’t. So I return home with a second (and never-used, by the way, not even once; it is in pristine condition) Tuscan oven. Thirty-six years, almost to the day, after acquiring the first one, I now have two Tuscan ovens. I’ve just done a quick calculation: between me, Mum and Lily, those two Tuscan ovens have done 15 house moves and have been used less then ten times. But fear not, I woke up with a start at 5:15 this morning with the genius idea of how to upcycle them: I will use the lids as seed trays and the deeper bases as planters next summer. Give me a bit of thinking time and I invariably come up with an upcycling idea.

Golden Creeping Jenny tumbling out of the recycled chiminea

Exhibit two is a cast iron chiminea purchased by Mum and Dad in, I would estimate, the mid 1990s. It stood proudly, and infrequently used, in the garden of my childhood family home. A year or so after Dad died, Mum understandably wanted to downsize and enjoyed a Goldilocks series of moves, first a couple of flats, which were too small, then a countryside bungalow, which was too big, before settling on her now-home, which is just right. During the “too small” stage, the chiminea headed my way, along the M4 and round the M25, in the back of someone’s car that was pulling a brilliant wheelie the whole way cos, let me tell you, that cast iron baby is heavy. In my garden for the past decade, the chiminea has been lit precisely twice. On the first occasion by Will (my son), on the afternoon he finished his GCSEs, when he used it to burn all his school notebooks (thank God he didn’t have to do any resits. The supreme confidence of youth, eh?) The second time was three years ago, on Bonfire Night, when we had visitors over for nibbles and sparklers and thought it would add to the ambience if we lit it. What a mistake. The thing belched like it was trying to turn us into Arbroath smokies. The garden stank of smoke for weeks. Never again. The chiminea has been upcycled to a distinctive planter for a golden Creeping Jenny, which tumbles from the main cavity like the contents of Ladybird’s/Vera Southgate’s Magic Porridge Pot. And Mum has since bought a new, just-right size chiminea for her garden; but it’s only for looking at, not for lighting.

Other notable examples include a dismantled pine-slatted wardrobe which seems to have journeyed from “our I”, my Mum’s cousin Irene, to our cottage, where, after 18-months seasoning in a shed, it has been upcycled to smart softwood edging for my new flower borders; Lily’s post-Japan bicycle, which lived for a while in the porch of her flat in Hither Green, and found its way to the cottage several summers ago, and has been literally cycled, very slowly, by me this summer, in an attempt to get healthier. My favourite item on rotation at the moment is a battered Fiat Punto. Bought by me and Steve eight years ago when we needed to replace our second “run around” car, Lily used it for work; Will learnt to drive in it and ownership transferred to him for a while; Vince (Lily’s boyfriend) then bought it off us to use for work; eventually Vince upgraded to a snazzier car and back it came to the cottage; then it went off to Bristol for Will to use while he’s studying there. No wonder the insurance company groans when I call to advise of a change of registered keeper and main driver. It’ll be back at the cottage when Will comes home for Christmas, and it’ll be lovely to see it, dents, scratches, “funny smells” and all.

We de-la-Haye Girls quite often end up sharing and swapping bags, shoes and clothes too!

You know what, I’m going to have to cook something in one of these Tuscan ovens before they are relegated, or maybe that should be promoted, to the greenhouse. Let the search for vegan recipes for Tuscan ovens begin.

Please do assure me that your family engages in similar rotation of chattels. ~ E

The Fall Into Autumn

L and E share a few of their favourite things about the upcoming season and get their hygge on.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Ok, ok – I’ll stop singing. I admit that was slightly premature. In my younger years I was adamant that my favourite season was Winter as it features both my birthday and Christmas – what’s not to love? But as I grow older – and hopefully wiser – I realise it’s the build up to the festive season that I love so much, otherwise known as autumn.

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you’re pining for the summer that nearly wasn’t, here are some of our favourite things to help ease you into the cooler weather and get your hygge on!

  • Swap your wardrobe out! We love doing this, packing away the bikinis and Birkenstocks to make way for scarves, boots and tights. By tucking away your winter clothes for half the year not only does it free up your wardrobe space but you get to go shopping again, without spending any money, when you disinter all your woollies come mid-September. It is a truth universally acknowledged that we all look cute AF bundled up in a winter coat. Adorn yourself with the hues of the season – chocolately browns, ruby reds and happy orange. Why not treat yourself to some new luxe loungewear so that you can get cosy once you come in from the chilly outdoors? And for the ultimate lifehack, put your socks/school uniform on the radiator the night before so you can jump straight from bed into cwtchy clothes.
L keeping warm in Reykjavík, Iceland
  • Go exploring. As we head into another (semi) lockdown, at least we can mask up and get some of that crisp, autumnal air. See what treasures you can forage on your walk, our current collections are hawthorns, rosehips, apples, sloes, elderberries, hazelnuts and king of the playground, conkers. Take your camera or phone out with you and get snap-happy capturing the colours as they change. Listen to the crunch of the leaves beneath your feet. It’s magic.
Woodland walks
  • Snuggle up. Once you’ve blown the cobwebs away, treat yourself to a warm drink. Of course a pumpkin spice latte does very nicely if you have a fancy machine and all the fixings, or live within walking distance of a Costa. But if you don’t, how about reclaiming the long-serving hot chocolate? A fistful of mini-marshmallows on top, perhaps an extra shot of melting chocolate delight courtesy of a chocolate spoon, or maybe splash in a glug of Baileys if it’s not a school night.
The world’s thickest hot chocolate, Said-Soho
  • Slow down. Use this period ahead of the mayhem of the festive period to reconnect with yourself. Cook something with love that will fill your kitchen with delicious smells all afternoon. Leave it to transform on the hob or in the oven while you relax in the bath or finally finish that chapter you’re reading. My mother has always been the baker in our house, her cakes are legendary and I know how relaxing she finds wiling away a few hours in the kitchen on a damp, autumn afternoon, and the cottage smells divine afterwards. If I’m slow-cooking I’ll always opt for a roast. A roast is the gift that keeps on giving; leftovers in the fridge for the following few nights are better than the original meal I often think.
A berry delicious crumble E made a few weeks ago
  • Stick the telly on. For me, the nights drawing in signal the return of Strictly for me! Both E and I love to “get into” a series or boxset, bingeing an episode or two after dinner each evening and then discussing it all next time we meet. The Fall is our current obsession – pardon the pun. This activity is best enjoyed with blankets and endless cups of tea and biscuits. The horror movies at Halloween are what I look forward to the most and with new content being hard to come by at the moment we’re planning to re watch some old classics.
Tyler, our moggy relaxing in his favourite spot, by the television

So what are we waiting for? I’ll light the candles, you bring the pumpkins and let’s see in the very best season together. Altogether now;

All the leaves are brown…

The Mamas & The Papas