Hot, spiced mulled wine is one of the quintessential drinks of Christmas. The smell of the spices and the hot wine makes the house smell wonderful and what better way to welcome guests to your festive get together?
I’m not keen on mulled wine (or mulled cider) to be too sweet, so just sweeten enough to suit your preference and leave the wine on a low heat so everything slowly heats and infuses together.
This is so easy to make and you can do it on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker and you can customise the spices and spike with brandy, rum or the liqueur of your choice!
Ingredients – double for a crowd, halve for 2! 2 bottles of red wine – one that you would drink 1 large orange, sliced 1-2 lemons, sliced 2 small clementines A few cranberries (optional) 8 cloves (or more) Cinnamon sticks Sweetener of your choice to taste – caster or brown sugar/honey/maple syrup Brandy (optional)
Method: Stud each clementine with the cloves and then add everything to a pan and heat slowly. Don’t let it boil, just leave it on a low simmer and check the sweetness.
To serve, ladle into heatproof glasses or mugs and add a little extra brandy (if using) and don’t forget the mince pies. Merry Christmas!
There is nothing particularly sophisticated about a cheese ball, but they are so good to eat! I’ve made lots of them over the years as they are super easy to make and use just a few ingredients so you can whip one up in no time at all.
This one is fairly traditional with equal quantities of cream cheese and hard cheese and dusted with spices but shaped into a pumpkin! Great for an autumn party, Halloween or Thanksgiving.
There are a million of these on Pinterest and everyone uses a pepper stalk, but I used one of my faux pumpkin stalks – I knew they would come in useful one day! (My husband thinks I’m a hoarder btw).
A cheese ball will keep for a few days in the fridge, but you can also freeze them. I think they taste at their very best when they are room temperature, so of course they make a great choice for a buffet table.
You can go spicy or non-spicy. I normally put chilli in mine, but just taste your chilli first for heat. I had pretty mild ones here, so put a green and a red one in. I burn the skins of the pepper and chillies over the gas flame and then put them in either a plastic bag, or a bowl, covered by a plate and rub off the skins when cool enough.
Ingredients: Cream cheese at room temperature – I used a 280g family pack Grated cheese, I used a mixture of Cheddar, Red Leicester and Double Gloucester, use whatever cheese you have, just use equal quantities of cream cheese and hard cheese 1tbs tomato puree 1-2tsp Dijon mustard 1-2 chillies, grilled and skin removed, finely chopped 1 red bell pepper, grilled and skin removed, finely chopped (reserving the stalk to use to decorate the cheese ball later) 1tsp paprika 1tsp Worcester sauce Salt and pepper
Coating: 2tbs paprika 1tbs mild curry powder
Method: Beat everything together with a wooden spoon and check the seasoning.
Form into a ball and wrap with plastic and chill for 30 minutes
When it has had chance to firm up a little, wrap fairly tightly with string (or elastic bands) to form a pumpkin shape before leaving to chill until firm – at least another 30 minutes.
Place the paprika and curry powder into a bowl and mix together.
Unwrap the chilled cheese ball and place onto the spices, before dusting with the coating all around and brushing off any excess using a dry pastry brush. The pumpkin is now ready for its stalk – use the stalk from the pepper you grilled earlier (if you don’t happen to have a hoard or faux pumpkin stems!)
Serve with crudites or crackers, I used my leaf shaped paprika crackers here
I love a nice, fresh Christmas wreath, but they are so very expensive to buy (the good ones anyway), so its a great idea and a nice seasonal activity to make your own.
The first thing you need to decide upon is what kind of base to use, I’ve used a wire ring and covered it in moss, but you can also get a foam one that you soak first to keep the foliage fresh. Both are fairly inexpensive, but a wire one is reusable.
The only other equipment you need is some florist wire, some wire cutters and a hook for the door if you don’t already have one – I used a Command hook that is temporary as I didn’t want to screw a hook into my front door!
If using a wire ring, it’s a good idea to cover it in nice fresh moss that will keep the base moist and help your foliage last longer. You can buy moss from a florist, or you can take a basket and go foraging. The best time to go is after the rain. I found some in my garden, but for the majority, I went to the local woods and found plenty at the base of the trees. Just take care not to take too much from the same place.
Using the wire, wind it around the moss to cover the ring completely. Covering the ring with moss can be a messy business, so its a good idea to do it outside!
Once you have covered the ring in moss, its time to attach your foliage of choice. I foraged some, but also bought some nice Christmas stems too. I also used cinnamon sticks, dried lotus heads, pine cones and dried orange slices tied on with twine. I couldn’t find any crab apples, or else I would have used some of those too.
I’ve gone for a simple, traditional wreath, but the designs are unlimited. Just be sure there are no wires sticking out of the back that might scratch the door.
Once a week, spray with water, or if you have a foam ring, you can soak it to help stop the foliage drying out
I don’t make crackers all that often, but its nice to serve something made from scratch and the children like to get involved in anything that involves a cute cutter!
These are buttery, crunchy and just the thing to serve with a cheese ball!
The only thing to remember is that crackers need to be rolled out super thin and pricked with a cocktail stick or they might not be very crunchy. You can leave them plain, or brush with melted butter when they come out of the oven and sprinkle with sea salt, seeds or crushed chillies.
I served these with my pumpkin shaped cheese ball here
Ingredients: 250g plain/all purpose flour 1tbs paprika 1tsp baking powder ½ tsp salt 60g very cold butter, cut into dice 1tbs olive oil Chilled water, around 180ml – enough to form a dough
Toppings: A little melted butter Sea salt Nigella seeds Sesame seeds
Method: Place the flour, paprika, baking powder, salt and butter into the food processor and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Pulse in the olive oil and then adding the water, pulse until a rough dough is formed.
Halve the mixture and flatten into two discs and chill for around 30 minutes.
You want to roll out the dough as thin as possible, so I actually roll it out on the lightly floured liner before transporting it to the baking sheet.
When the dough is rolled out, stamp out the leaves (or whatever shape you are using) and prick with a cocktail stick. You need to do this step or the crackers will puff up.
Put the remaining dough back in the plastic and back into the fridge and bake the crackers for around 10 minutes until golden.
When they are taken out of the oven, place on a cooling rack, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with your chosen topping.
Continue until all the dough is used up, or you can freeze and use at a later date