Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider

This is very similar to my mulled cider recipe here, but I have given it a Christmas tweak.

Cranberry Mulled Cider1

You can totally make a non-alcoholic version of this to make it family friendly, just substitute the cider for apple juice (and leave out any rum or brandy!)

I love creating recipes that make me think of cozy evenings in front of a crackling log fire, with perhaps snow falling outside, or a storm raging on a winter’s night, while I am warm and snuggly inside!

Cranberry Mulled Cider4

If a snow storm was raging outside and you are indeed sitting by that crackling log fire, then this will definitely warm the soul too.

1.5 litres of hard dry cider (use good quality apple juice if making a non-alcoholic version)
0.5 litres of pure cranberry juice
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 orange, stuck with 10 cloves
1 punnet of fresh cranberries
¼ fresh nutmeg – grated
2 small apples, cored and cut into chunks
2 clementines, cut into segments
½ cup (packed) brown sugar
Maple syrup or honey – adjust to preferred level of sweetness
Brandy or rum to spike – optional

Mulled Cranberry Cider3

Add everything, except the maple syrup or rum if using and heat gently over a low to medium heat and allow all the flavours to mingle. Leave on a low heat for around 20 minutes. Don’t allow the cider to boil. You can also do this in a crockpot or slow cooker if you have one.  Taste and add a little maple syrup or honey to sweeten a little.

Serve hot in heatproof glasses or mason jars with a shot of brandy or rum if desired and decorated with a cinnamon stick.

Cranberry mulled cider

The non-alcohol version would be lovely for Christmas morning, opening presents with the children.

Smoky and Spicy Cheese Ball

Since I made my very first cheese ball here, it was so good, I have been needing an excuse to create new ones.

cheeseball2b

With the festive season upon us, a cheese ball is the perfect make-ahead addition to a any party or buffet table. Served with cruditiés or crackers, they are really good for feeding a crowd and delicious to eat.

This one is all about smoky and spicy flavours. Smoky cheese, smoked paprika, smoky and spicy chipotle chillies and the crust has chopped smoky almonds, smoked paprika and lots of crispy shards of smoky bacon goodness. Like my first cheese ball recipe, I haven’t used any extra salt in this at all.

cheeseball2

Ingredients:
8oz/226g room temperature cream cheese
8oz/226g room temperature Applewood smoked cheddar, grated
Small bunch of chives, very finely chopped
1-2tbs of chipotle chilli paste.
1 roasted red pepper, skinned and finely chopped. You can easily cheat and use one from a jar for this.
2tsp smoked paprika – sweet or spicy, the choice is yours
Freshly ground black pepper

Crust:
1 pack of salted smoked almonds, very finely chopped
6 thin slices of smoked streaky bacon, cooked until crisp – then cool and finely chop
Freshly ground black pepper
2tsp smoked paprika
Crackers for serving

cheeseball slice

Method:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the room temperature cheeses, peppers, paprika and chilli and mix on low speed until well mixed.  Add the chives and mix until just combined.

Place onto cling film and form into a ball. Refrigerate for at least two hours in order for it to firm up and be rolled in the crust ingredients.

On a plate, spread out the chopped almonds and bacon. Season the plate all over with freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle over the paprika so you have an even coating.

cheeseball slice2

Then just roll the cheese ball around in the crust ingredients, until fully coated. This is ready to serve immediately but will only get better if left to come up to room temperature. Otherwise you can refrigerate for up to 3 days.

cracker1

This could easily be made vegetarian by leaving out the bacon and using more of the other ingredients to coat the outside.

Stichelton & Smoked Bacon Salad

Stichelton is a delicious, unpasteurised blue cheese, made to the original Stilton recipe at the Welbeck Dairy in Nottinghamshire.  I first tried this at the School of Artisan Food on the Welbeck estate, at one of their amazing lunches during a baking course.

Stilton and bacon salad plate

I bought my cheese from the Welbeck farm shop, where I can easily spend way too much money as there are so many good things to buy!  I love it with the apple sourdough that I always buy a loaf of when I go there too.

Stilton and bacon salad

Blue cheese and bacon go so well together and with the addition of toasted pecans and a few tart, dried cranberries, this salad is one of my favourite lunches.  Sometimes I add grilled chicken for a substantial warm salad that is good any time of the year.  I serve this with a simple honey and mustard dressing

I usually use smoked streaky bacon for this salad, but I bought some black treacle cured, smoked back bacon today, which worked really well.

Stilton bacon salad closeup

This is enough for 1-2 people, but the quantities can easily be increased.

Ingredients:
Mixed salad leaves – baby leaves, spinach, Rocket/Arugula, Romaine – anything you like
4-6 slices of good quality smoked streaky bacon with the rind removed or 2-3 slices of black treacle cured smoky back bacon
Stichelton or Stilton blue cheese at room temperature with the rind removed
Red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of pecans, toasted in the oven for 5 minutes
A few craisins (dried cranberries)

Dressing:
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp Wholegrain mustard
2tsp Runny honey
4tsp Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper if desired

Pre heat the oven to 220°C/430°F

Line a baking sheet with foil and place the bacon on the sheet. Cook for around 10 minutes or until crisp and chop into rough pieces.

Arrange the leaves, warm pecans, cranberries and tomatoes on the plate and whisk the ingredients for the dressing until you have a nice, slightly thickened consistency.

Stilton bacon closeup

Toss the salad gently in the dressing. Break the Stichelton into large crumbles and top with the hot bacon, toss gently once more and serve immediately.