Monday, 29 November 2010

Sugar and Spice and all things nice

If they haven't done so already, bakers around the country will be preparing to make their Christmas Cakes and Pudding in the next week or so (I actually started writing this post about 10 days ago, so most people will have done so by now). Fruit Cakes don't have the appeal they once did, more and more people are replacing traditional wedding cakes for more popular options such as chocolate and carrot cake, while pre-bought puddings and desserts are more likely to appear on the average dining table come Christmas day. But I do like to make my own cake most years, using a recipe my mum's used since the 1970s (I'll admit I've never attempted a pudding myself). However, after the cake is made, I always find myself with a store cupboard full of dry spices that would sit there until the next year, which is silly really, as they can be applied to all sorts of foods and drinks, especially in the run up to Christmas.

Quick Jerk Rub for Chicken and Pork: This speedy blend of Carribean flavours should be rubbed over meat or poultry before going under the grill. You can adjust heat to taste adjusting number of chillies or by choosing to omit the seeds. This is a semi dry rub as it uses mostly powered ingredients, but the addition of scallions, scotch bonnet chillies and fresh garlic gives it a certain level of moisture. The addition of a good glug of sunflower or groundnut oil, and tablespoon of each of tomato puree and dark rum, turns this into good marinade. The marinade should be smeared over the meat at least 4-6 hours before cooking, preferably overnight.

Mix the following together in a pestle and mortar or food processor:

6 scallions, chopped
2-3 Scotch bonnets chillies, seeds inclused
2 garlic gloves chopped
1 table spoon of brown or demerara sugar
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Rub over meat before grilling as directed.

Extra Creamy Eggnog with Irish Mist: A great use of nutmeg and other store spices. Warning: not for kids (makes around 10 glasses, depending on serving).

1 litre of gold top milk
5 whole eggs and 5 yolks
1 vanilla pod
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 stick of cinnamon
5 cloves
500ml of double cream
200 grams of golden caster sugar
600ml of Irish Mist

Gently heat the milk and spices on a low setting in a large pan. In a bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar until fluffy, then gradually add to the pan, and turning up the heat to medium, stir briskly for five minutes. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and sieve the mixture to remove the cinnamon, vanilla and cloves.  Stir in the Irish mist and cream. Serve warm in Irish Coffee glasses, garnished with additional nutmeg and some orange rind.

Mulled Lurgan Champagne: Again, not for kids, or for the faint hearted.

2 bottles of Buckfast Tonic Wine
700ml bottle of brandy
700ml of apple juice
300g of brown sugar
1 large orange, halved and pierced generously with cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks
15 Cardamom Pods
Contents of 5 capsules of ginseng (optional)
5 Star Anise
Couple of twists of lemon peel

Fire everything into a large pan and heat very slowly on the lowest heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Ladle out into mugs or glasses over a sieve to avoid bits. Hide car keys, breakables and make sure any outstanding grudges have been settled long in advance.

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

1 comment:

  1. Had a some lovely mulled wine at my friend Clare's last night. Her secret ingredient? A good dose of cracked black pepper to finish the glass. Amazing.