Advent Calendar 6 and 7: Christmas Chutney and Cranberry-Red Onion Marmalade

It doesn’t get much more festive than Cranberries. They’re in season over the festive period, they’re santa-suit red and they taste phenomenal with meats and cheeses- staples in many a Christmas feast. They also have a very high pectin count, meaning they make excellent additions to preserves, helping them to set beautifully.

Cranberry sauce is great and all, but we can do better at SWB this year. Plus, a good chutney or savoury marmalade is a fabulous addition to any cheeseboard or buffet. Here are two of my Christmastime favourites I’m making up for my own Christmas dinner, plus extra for gifts.

Christmas Chutney

This recipe is childsplay to throw together and packs a great flavour punch. It goes great with sharp cheeses or meats in sandwiches, and can be made, start to finish, in under 45 minutes., including any chopping.

  • 400g cranberries
  • 400g cherry tomatoes (you can use regular tomatoes, just chop them up first)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/2tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml cider vinegar

Chop the onion into rough slices.

Pop the cranberries, onion and tomatoes into a saucepan over a low heat, and heat for 10 minutes, until the berries start to pop.

Add all the remaining ingredients and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the chutney for 15-25 minutes until the chutney is combined and pulpy.

Pot into sterilised jars, or store in the fridge.

IMG_6848Next up is a delicious red onion marmalade with the festive twist. If you don’t want to use the cranberries, use an extra 400g of onions instead for a true red onion marmalade.

Cranberry and Red Onion Marmalade

  • 500g red onions
  • Juice of an orange
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground gunger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 150ml ruby port
  • 100ml cider vinegar
  • 400g cranberries

In a glug of oil, fry the onions off until translucent.

Add the orange juice, port, vinegar, sugar and all the spices. Stir through to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the mixture gently for 35-40 minutes. The mixture should be nice and syrupy by this point.

Chuck in the cranberries and turn up the heat a little. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes, until all the berries have popped and the mixture is nice and thick.

Pot into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.

 

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 5: Mulled Cider

Sometimes the world is out to get you. Hard days and long nights don’t take a holiday because it’s Christmas. Therefore, here is a recipe that will cute your ills, soothe and warm you, and get you well on your way to being merry.

Mulled Cider

  • 1 litre still dry cider (I used Snakecatcher by New Forest Cider)
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, split
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Juice of an orange
  • 50ml calvados
  • 50ml pomegranate juice
  • 3tbsp caster sugar

Warm up the cider until steaming. Meanwhile, measure out your dry and wet ingredients.

Chuck in your spices and juice/booze mixture and give everything a good stir. Bruise the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod with your spoon as you do so.

Bring the pot up to a boil, then turn it back down to a simmer for 5-8 minutes

Serve piping hot in heatproof cups.

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This recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the same, with a few measurements tweaked, and an extra dose of booze to warm your cockles. It’s a damn good recipe, so I didn’t need to muck about with it much. Sweet, fruity, boozy and oh so quaffable- this is going to be my go to mulled beverage this year.

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 4: Christmas Cake

If you are anything like me, then the year has gotten away from you, and half a moment ago it was halloween, and you were overdue for making your Christmas cake, and now, BAM! It’s December 4th, and you still haven’t done it. Do not despair, dear ones. It is not too late.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t *need* to make a Christmas cake months and months in advance. Sure, you get more time to feed it to boozy godliness if you do, but it is not essential. So long as you make your cake 3-4 weeks before the big day, you will have plenty of time to get in plenty of feedings to have a delicious, brandy spiked delight to serve on Christmas Day.

The recipe below is adapted from Delia Smith’s age old and much loved Christmas cake recipe. I’ve really only removed the nuts (I prefer the texture nut free, personally), tweaked the spices to my preference, and altered the fruit a little (cranberries > currants).

Christmas Cake

  • 750g dried fruit (you can pretty use whichever dried fruits you like in this mixture. I used approximately 100g glacé cherries, 200g sultanas, 200g raisins and 250g dried cranberries)
  • 50g candied peel
  • 3tsbp brandy
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1tsbp treacle
  • Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

9-12 hours before you want to make the cake, or the evening before, weigh out the fruit into a mixing bowl (If you like, you can chop your cherries, but I prefer them as whole gleaming jewels in the finished cake). Drizzle the brandy over the fruit and stir to ensure all the fruit is coated. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to steep. If you are able, the odd stir during this process will only help the absorption.

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Preheat the oven to 130-140c and double line an 8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper. Prepare a double layer of greaseproof to sit on top of the cake in the oven too. This will help protect the cake from over-browing during its long and slow baking.

Weigh out your flour and measure out your spices. Sieve or whisk together to remove lumps.

In another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat the eggs, and mix into the butter mixture in 2-4 parts until completely incorporated.

Add the flour mix into the wet ingredients and fold to combine.

Finally add the zest, treacle and fruit, and fold into the mixture until it is uniform.

Pour the cake batter in the prepared tin, cover with the paper ‘lid’, and pop it in the oven for 4 and 1/2 hours. If your oven is particularly fierce, check at 4.

Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing the cake to an airtight container. Poke the cake full of holes with a toothpick, and drizzle in a healthy plug of brandy. Repeat this process at least once a week until you are ready to ice the cake, flipping the cake over each time to ensure an even feeding.

 

Like a lot a festive recipes, this cake is super easy, it’s just time consuming, and contains a lot of ingredients. Making your own Christmas cake is a labour of love, and will rapidly become a tradition in your household, if for no other reason than the phenomenal scent of it baking for hours on end. With so many steps before the cake is baked, and after, theres plenty to get the whole family involved in. If you are tee-total, use strong tea instead of brandy in the first step, and simply don’t feed the cake. It will keep well enough if it is kept airtight.

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 1: Sbiten

To get the ball rolling on this recipe advent calendar, here’s a Russian winter warmer that’s great if you want something fruity this festive season.

Sbiten used to be the eastern european go-to warm drink. The recipe was first documented in the twelfth century, and wasn’t replaced by the now more popular tea and coffee until the 1800s.

Full of festive spices and sweet blackberry flavours, this inky drink is going to becomes a season favourite of yours, for sure.

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Sbiten

  • 115g blackberry jam or bramble jelly
  •  honey
  • 1tsp cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint, or a pinch of dried
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 625ml water

This recipe couldn’t be simpler. Put all your ingredients in a saucepan and bring it up to the boil, stirring to combine and to melt the jam.

Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Strain, and serve piping hot.

 

If you have leftover Sbiten, you can store it in the fridge for a day or two and reheat as needed. Realistically though, this sweet and spicy drink is going to vanish faster than you can say ‘Za zdorovje’!

Enjoy!

Lush Christmas review: Shower products

Hello kittens!

Today, I’ll be looking at the shower goodies Lush have put out for us this Christmas.

Beyond their ever popular shower gels, Lush have an array of innovative shower products to make you feel clean, fresh and adored. For Christmas they’ve released a bunch of these, including two Fun products, which directly help the children still affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Gold Fun

Rich in honey-caramel sweetness and pretty golden lustre, Gold Fun is as beautiful and decadent as it is, well, fun. Like all Fun products, this doughy soap can be used to wash your body, hair, as bubblebath and as a toy. The sweet and skin kind honey notes in this product are popular with kids of all ages, and this makes a great gift for someone who is young at heart.

 

Snowman Fun Kit

Looking for a Secret Santa gift that comes in at £5? The Snowman Fun kit is perfect. Sweet and fruity smelling but compliments moisturising carrot oil in this three coloured Fun set- black, orange and white. This kit can also make penguins! This is an awesome stocking filler for anyone who enjoys a bath (or a shower- fun works well in both). Also, you can make a beautiful inky black bath if you use just the black part of the product.

 

Snowman Shower Jelly

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Shower jellies are just shower gels with their water removed, and seaweed added to set them. They’re vegan, long lasting and tons of fun. This snowman has the same scent as the Snowman Fun Kit (which is the same scent as Carrot Soap, from 2014’s easter range) and the same ingredients- skin softening carrot oil and lovely fruity buchu. With all that seaweed, he’s extra moisturising too, and pretty darn robust. Either use him whole like a wobbly bar of soap, and allow to dry in his pot or on a soap dish, or break a piece off and scrub him inside a shower lily.

 

Rose Jam

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This is my favourite lush fragrance- floral yet heady and involved, grown up and sexy. This shower gel shares its scent with several year round products, but I am thrilled that this shower gel is back. Rich in organ oil, it is very moisturising, and makes a great shampoo as well as a shower gel. The double dose of rose is great for troubled winter skin and the vanilla is likewise very calming and gentle, while lemon brightens.

So White

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Crisp and appley, So White is as light as powder snow, and lovely as its name sake fairytale princess. This product was designed by the staff of the Kyoto Lush store, who were invited over to Lush HQ in Poole to work on a product. It shares its scent with the bath bomb of the same name. This is a great product to use in the morning, or any time you need a breath of fresh air. However, with soothing rose and moisturising rice bran oil, this is still a kind and caring product for the harsh winter months.

 

Hot Toddy

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I LOVE spicy scents and flavours, so I was thrilled to see this scent return (it used to be a bubble bar) as a glittery, festively red shower gel. This shower gel is like a big warm Christmas hug- warm and sweet clove, earthy patchouli, warming cinnamon leaf oil, aromatic and bright citrus notes and softening carrageenan seaweed. If you don’t love this product, I’m judging you. It’s like mulled wine, but for your skin!

 

Snow Fairy

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She’s baaaack…

You can hardly have failed to notice that the lady in pink has returned again this Christmas. Sweet and candy scented  and blissfully pink, she has a huge fanbase, and not just kids and teenage girls either. To me, Snow Fairy smells like pear drops. Other people get bubblegum or candy floss. Whatever she smells like, she’s delicious and adorable, and this year the shower gel is enriched with moisturising seaweed and pretty lustre.

 

The next and final part of the review will be all the other products Lush have brought out for Christmas this year- cleansers, lip and body care products.

See you soon!

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Mango Chutney

I love Indian food. I used to be very suspicious of it (I have an intolerance to garlic, and have therefore had some very bad experiences) but got turned back on to it via the delicious fare at a friend’s wedding last year.

‘Indian’ food has long been a staple favourite in Britain, since the days of Empire, and today this persists in our love of the take away curry, as well as the homemade option. However, this neon food is a long way from the traditional flavours it was inspired by, and this is perhaps truest for the tango-orange gel that is called Mango Chutney.

My father loves a good Indian, and since it was his birthday last month, I whipped him up a batch of curry-changing sweet goodness in the form of a more traditional Mango Chutney. And, spoiler alert: it’s not bright orange.

 

Proper Mango Chutney

  •  145ml Cider vinegar
  • 250g Caster sugar
  • 180g Dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground allspice
  • scant 1/4 tsp Ground cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground nutmeg
  • 1 red chilli
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 onion
  • 70g sultanas
  • 10g Root ginger
  • 500g mango flesh

First things first, get prepped. Wash up 4-6 jars to make sure they are super clean, then pop them in the oven at 100-130c to dry and sterilise. You can also put them through the dishwasher, but I recommend sticking them in the oven anyway, as hot food needs to go in hot jars, or the jar could shatter.

You also need a decent sized saucepan, and ideally to prep your fruit and veg in advance. The chilli needs to be deseeded and chopped finely. The onion needs to be chopped fairly finely. The ginger needs to be grated or very finely chopped. I bought my mango frozen because I am incredibly lazy, so all I had to do was defrost it, but if you are using fresh you need to chop your mango into 1cm cubes. You can do this as you go, but it’s much easier to get ahead.

Right, now to the cooking part- heat the vinegar and sugars to combine, and add the spices, chilli and salt. Bring up to the boil, and boil for 10 minutes.

Add everything else except the mango and boil for further 10-15 minutes.

Finally, add your mango and reduce the heat to a simmer for a further 15 minutes. Depending on how chunky you want the finished product, you can use a potato masher or your spoon to crush the mango into the mixture as it cooks.

Remove your jars from the oven and take the chutney off of the heat. Spoon the mixture into the jars and, ensuring the screw top is clean of drips, screw on the lids until closed, but not sealed. Allow to cool fully before tightening the top of the jar up.

 

The finished product is dark, spicy and sweet. You can play with the chilli content and spice balance if you know you like things hot, and add a clove of garlic or more onion if you want more punch, but this chutney is sweet and complex, and goes well not only with curries, but with meats and cheeses.

Enjoy!

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Golden Christmas Cake : Advent Calendar 23rd

My mother requested something a little different when it came to Christmas Cake this year. The traditional black, rich cake is yummy, but I agree that it divides people into lovers, tolerators and haters. Haters won’t touch it, tolerators will have a sliver begrudgingly, and lovers will eat half the cake themselves, before leaving it to moulder on the side til easter.I get the feeling that my mother is in the middle category at best.

So, to honour her wishes, and because I like a challenge, and because I kept forgetting to make my Nanny’s Christmas Cake, I gave a blonde fruitcake a go. I based my recipe on Nigella’s Golden Fruit Cake very closely. The only changes I have made are because I wanted a flour based cake, and due to fruit and spice preferences.

Please note that though I have used dried pears in my recipe, you can substitute dried apples, which are MUCH easier to get hold of. Of course, you can dry your own, as I did.

Golden Christmas Cake

  • 850g dried fruit (apricots, pears and sultanas. I used about 250g sultanas, 150g pears and the rest apricots)
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 175gsoft butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125ml Malibu
  • A glug of brandy
  • 200 grams ginger jam
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, or 3 pods worth
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • approx. 75g whole blanched almonds
  • 2-3 generous tablespoons apricot jam
  • Gold sugar balls and confectioners glitter to garnish

First, prep the fruit. Roughly chop the pears and apricots. Cut the cherries in half.

Put all the fruit, the butter, the rum, jam and sugar in a pan and bring up to a simmer, mixing until all the butter is melted. Simmer for 10 minutes, the add the brandy. Stir through, then turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool.

Double line a 9 inch pan and preheat the oven to 160 c.

In a bowl measure out your dry ingredients and mix them together. Mix them into the fruit mix, then beat in the eggs.

Spoon the gloriously bejewelled mix into your lined tin and even out. Decorate the top with the almonds as you please.

Bake for 1 hour 40 minutes at 150 c. Check at 1hr 20 minutes. To finish the cake off, turn up the heat to 170 c for 20 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden and an inserted blade or skewer comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin- this will take some time as the cake is so dense and large. However, you can glaze it when it is halfway cool. Melt the jam in a milk pan and spread evenly over the top of the cake to give it a jewel like shine. If you like, you can now sprinkle over golden sugar sprinkles and confectioners glitter, for an extra touch of seasonal sparkle.

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Moist, richly fruity without the smoke of traditional cake; this is an excellent last minute wonder. It also avoids me having to marzipan and ice anything, and then being ‘made’ to eat everyone else’s icing and marzipan, as my family lack my sweet tooth to a degree.

Enjoy!

 

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Speculaas Cheesecake : Recipe Advent Calendar 22nd

Speculaas, Spekulatius or Spéculoos, depending on where you are from in Europe, are traditional spiced biscuits made to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas at the beginning of December. They are made with a specific set of spices (known as Speculaas Spices) which bring warmth and sweetness to the biscuit.

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I love the combination of cream and ginger and spice, so here’s a lovely dessert that’ll be a simple yet elegant showstopper at any seasonal feast.

Speculaas Cheesecake

  • 200g Ginger biscuits
  • 1tsp Cinnamon (ground)
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg (ground)
  • 1/4 tsp Cloves (ground)
  • 1/8 Tsp ground or 1 fat pod Cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp White pepper (ground)
  • 75g Butter
  • 400g Cream Cheese
  • 300g Mascarpone
  • 200g Icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Take your ginger biscuits, and break down in to crumbs. It is easiest to do this in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin. Wrap the bag in a tea towel first to prevent the bag splitting.

Melt the butter in a pan, and add your Speculaas spices and mix in. Then add the biscuit crumbs and mix through thoroughly until the mixture is uniform. This mixture will be your base.

Press the crumbs into the base of a greased 9inch springform or loose bottomed tin to form the base of the cheesecake. Pop it in the fridge to cool and set.

In a mixer, or with a handheld electric whisk, combine the cheese and mascarpone. Whip until light and aerated.

Sieve your icing sugar and whip into the cheese mix bit by bit. Finally, add your vanilla and do the same until you have a fully combined, fluffy mix.

Spoon your mix into the tin on top of the crumb base and gently spread out, smoothing the top with a spatula or palette knife. Set in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

Are you going to make this treat soon? Be sure to tell me how you got on!

Enjoy!

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Traditional Mincemeat : Recipe Advent Calendar 18th

I love my Cranberry Mincemeat, as does pretty much everyone I know- even several who don’t really like mince pies! But cranberries don’t mix with certain medications, so since I’m off to visit relatives for Chrimble, I needed to make something everyone could enjoy.

You can buy standard mincemeat in the shops, and sometimes very good ones, but they are often overly sweet or very acidic. Making your own is really simple, it just takes a little bit of time. And the flavour is always better.

In the past I have made Bramley Apple and Clementine mincemeat to replace my favourite red concoction, but this year I’ve turned to Delia and her famous mincemeat recipe.

You can find this recipe in her wonderful Happy Christmas book, or on her website, but here it is again. I’ve really made very few changes, and those are mainly based on what I had in at the time, rather than for flavour tweaks etc.

Please note this makes PLENTY of mincemeat- you’ll have enough for pies and then some. You can easily half the recipe and still have oodles.

Traditional Mincemeat

  • 450g Bramley apples, cored and chopped (Approx 3 apples: I actually used 488g because I have a waste not, want not frame of mind. Also, you don’t need to peel them.)
  • 225g shredded vegetarian suet (you can use any suet, and I only actually used 200g)
  • 1025g mixed fruit and peel (currants, raisins and sultanas)
  • 350g Soft dark brown sugar (I used a mixture of molasses sugar and SDB sugar)
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • 4 tsp mixed spice (I used a mixture of the last of my mixed spice, plus nutmeg, ginger and cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 6 tbsp brandy

In an oven proof mixing bowl (if you don’t have one, don’t panic- you can transfer the mix to an oven proof dish later) combine all the ingredients except the brandy and leave to infuse overnight. Cover the bowl with some loose cling film, foil or a tea towel to keep anything unwanted out.

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If you haven’t already, cover the mincemeat loosely with foil. Pop it in the oven at 120 c for 3 hours.

After the 3 hours are up, remove it from the oven and stir occasionally as it cools. The melted fat will settle back into the mixture and coat the ingredients, rather than remaining in shreds.

Once cold,  mix the brandy through the delicious mixture and store in sterilised jars.

Mincemeat recipes can look daunting, because of the amount of ingredients involved mainly. The truth is, they are sickening easy. All they need is a little time and simple cooking, and you’ll have something wonderful to eat this christmas season.

Let me know how you get on!

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God Jul! : Recipe Advent Calendar 16th

God Jul! Or Merry Christmas if you are of an english speaking persuasion.

Glogg is the traditional swedish christmas drink- a mulled wine full of spices, but perhaps a little different to what you are used to. Glogg contains a lot of booze, giving the finished product a much more fortifying taste. It also traditionally contains raisins and almonds, and is spiced with Cardamom, which is headily aromatic and common in nordic Christmas fare.

Thankfully, apart from the extra ingredients, it isn’t any more difficult to make, and I love how warming the wine and spices fills my home with the feeling of a Christmas Grotto. Yum!

I’ve broken down this recipe into a 1 person size portion, and adjusted the heating time accordingly. I’ve also omitted almonds, as I simply didn’t have any whole ones in the house. If you want to include them, simply use the same measurement as for the raisins.

Glogg

  • 125ml red wine
  • 1 shot Brandy
  • 1 shot Ruby Port
  • Scant 1/8tsp Ground Cardamom, or 1-2 pods
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 clove
  • 20g mixed fruit and peel (or 15g raisins and approx 5 g peel)
  • 33g sugar, ideally in lumps

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Add all the ingredients, except the sugar, to your pan, and bring the mixture up to a steaming heat.

Heat the wine at this heat for 10-15 minutes. Do not let the wine boil.

When you are ready to serve, strain the mix through a fine mesh sieve. If you like, you can add the fruit to your serving glass, or leave them out at this point.

Place your sugar in the bottom of your glass or mug and pour the portion of Glogg over. Enjoy!

 

The extra booze gives Glogg a really warming kick. I love the clean, heady scent of the cardamom too. This isn’t more than a stone’s throw away from standard mulled wine, but variety is the spice of life.

Speaking of spice, if you can get hold of make-you-own tea bags, you can make up portions of this mix, save the liquids, as stocking fillers for those old enough to enjoy this Christmas delight.

Skål!

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