Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Mulled Wine How To

Stop! Don't do it! I know it says mulled wine on the bottle, but it ain't. It's cheap vino with sugar and a vague cinnamonny flavour, and it'll be wholly unsatisfying and give you a killed hangover tomorrow. You're going to get a pan dirty anyway to heat it up (unless there's a magical way of microwaving the bottle), so you might as well make your own.
You know that amazing mulled wine you had at that Christmas market? The one that warmed your hands, and hypnotised you with its deep plum colour and alcoholic fumes?

Well you can recreate that at home, in about 5 minutes. You don't need a packet mix, or sachet.

Just get:

  • Something citrussy, its juice and peel (one or two of lime, lemon, orange, clementine)
  • Something spiced (two or more of ginger (a thumb size, peeled), cloves (4 or 5), cinnamon stick, vanilla pod, star anise, a bay leaf)
  • And something sweet (castor sugar, white sugar, muscovado sugar, even maple or golden syrup - about 4 tablespoons per litre).

PLUS (of course) a bottle of red (or if you prefer, apple juice).
Get a saucepan. Add the juice and zest of the citrus (wash, then peel the outside with a vegetable peeler for the zest. Then slice in half and squeeze into pan).

Add the sugar or syrup, and the spices. Stir over low heat, until syrup gently bubbles (you don't want it to boil). Add half a cup of the wine, and let this bubble away until it smells delish (5mins).
Now add the rest of the wine, and turn the heat down LOW. You don't want to boil away all the alcohol, just heat the syrup into the wine.

Give it 5 minutes, or until just steaming, and then serve.

Mmm. Christmas in a cup. Much more delicious than a posh bottle of shiraz on a cold winters night, and about £10 cheaper than buying it at the pub. *hic*
Drink up!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Sometimes I wonder if visitors to Amsterdam pass through the city in a bleary haze of hash and red lights, because I've never heard someone rave about the city. So prepare for some raving, because I just got back from a long weekend there, and it was wonderful. The city - beautiful. The people - amazingly friendly. The tram driver, the cashier, the ticket inspector, the shop keepers, people on the street...I've never met so many smiley, helpful people. It made my trip.

My friend and I stayed at a hotel by the lovely Vondelpark, a long stretch of green gardens bordered by beautiful tall slim houses. Our room had a high ceiling, long grey sheer curtains, and an extremely modern (and therefore confusing - for me anyway) bathroom. The carpet was hideous (orange, with purple sports), but when lying on the king sized bed I couldn't see it!

We hired bicycles on that first afternoon, and then didn't get off the bikes for what felt like two days. We cycled everywhere on dedicated bike lanes, eating frites and peperstek, sketching by the canals and wandering through late autumn markets. Pedestrians AND cars giving way to cyclists, and I felt completely safe zipping around.

Perhaps because we kept to the outer ring of canals, and the areas surrounding, we were able to avoid the tourist ridden area. We saw only 1 star bucks, no MacDonald's or H&Ms, but dozens and dozens of streets filled with independent stores. The kind of streets that you travel across London to visit, but here in Amsterdam they were everywhere.

There were cool little cafes, gorgeous clothing stores and those designery knick-knack shops where you walk in with a mind to browse, and walk out with a pack of 5 letterpress cards, a hand blown glass ornament in the shape of a moustache and a soy candle that smells like Christmas. I ran out of time to enter every little boutique, bakery and gourmet produce grocer I saw, and had to resist the urge to cart hard rubbish back to the hotel - who could throw out a pair of chairs this beautiful?

I stopped and sketched until my hands froze, and then rode on until I warmed up again. I ate frites at least 4 times, with pepper-mayonaise. Can you blame me? It was HEAVEN.

On the second afternoon we cycled out to open fields along the wide river to the Rieker Windmill. As it grew dark (at 4.30pm) the lights in the little apartments on floating pontoons in the river switched on. They had such clever designs - little mezzanines, and big open living spaces, and half-submerged bedrooms.

I returned reluctantly home on Sunday with a backpack filled with my bodyweight in stroopwaffles, a non-stick frying pan and a book full of sketches. 

See Amsterdam in my Etsy store, soon!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Food from home

Though I love eating in London (and do so voraciously), I still really miss Australian food, even two years on. I don't mean Australian cuisine (if there is such a thing - possum, anyone?), but food stuffs I grew up with.

Cheddar Shapes and cheese flavoured Sakata Crackers...mmm. Dear McVitie's Mini Cheddar biscuits - your lack of powdery artificial flavouring is disappointing. I need flavour you can see!

Offally meat pies (I'll take mystery meat and gravy over steak chunks any day).

And Bonsoy.

Oh, sweet bonsoy, king of soy milks. Despite being recalled a few years back for containing 110 times the healthy amount of daily iodine for an adult (apparently it contained a seaweed product that went a little crazy) I remain ever faithful. Can't have too much iodine right? No goitre for me!  

In London there are a few health food stores that import it in all the way from ye olde Fitzroy, Melbourne, but it’s exorbitant and I need the money for other things. Like electricity.

Anyway, this long prattle does have a point. Yesterday it was a grey day, with that annoying persistent drizzle that's too fine to keep off with an umbrella and makes everything feel clammy. All I wanted to do was curl up under a blanket, but as this is frowned upon at work I decided to pop out to a cafe in my lunch break instead.

And when I did…there it was! Sitting on the counter, that reassuring yellow and purple carton. I ordered the biggest legally allowed chai latte (which cost about as much as a small house) and savoured it on a window table. I was probably hunching over the mug, inhaling deeply with a slightly manic look in my eye, because no one sat next to me during the lunch time rush. Heaven.

The chai was pretty terrible actually – sweet and syrupy, but the soy was so delicious that I didn’t care. I’d meant to work on a paper cut but forgot to bring a pencil to sketch with, so I free cut instead.

And this is what I made:
Find it on my Etsy store!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Autumn at last

Beautiful autumn is finally here. London's unexpected warm spell (Tshirts? In October?!) meant that the trees held onto their leaves for a little longer, and late rhododendrons and flower buds were still poking through a couple of weeks ago, as if to say 'Is that you spring?'.

Wintry England finally got its act together last weekend when the trees were dumping great hoards of leaves on the ground in panic. I drove to a woodland in the north for a wander. Just me, and about 2000 families and their dogs.  

Thankfully, once we were out in the woods, all was still and calm. Turns out there was enough autumn gorgeousness for all of us. 

 Also,  my Etsy is now up and running! Come over and say hi.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bonfire Backyard Market

Thank you to all the lovely visitors, customers, stall holders and Ms Marmitelover for an amazing day at the Bonfire Weekend Underground food and craft market held in MsMarmite's house and garden in north-west London.
Tasty treats at Dreamboats stall

I am still buzzing and grinning after spending my day at the bottom of the garden, in a shed-studio gloriously converted into a Henni and Bean extravaganza on the bed, chocolate kingdom of Paul A. Young on a work bench and glittering grotto of jeweller Emma Mitchell (check out this Sycamore Seed necklace -  so beautiful).

The Henni and Bean bed-stall!

Just outside in the back yard a cosy bonfire burned all day and fish were smoked, ukeleles were played, and freshly fried arancini and dreamboats* were eaten.

Salmon to be smoked

Up the spiral iron staircase an accordionist sang on the balcony, while in the dining room ginger and Jack Daniels cannelloni and Indian chutneys were eaten. In the bedroom there were hookers...crochet hookers, that is, and on the bed and Elderflower Cocktails being concocted on the ironing board.
Accordioning on

In the bathroom, beers resided in a bathtub full of ice next to an honestly jar, and in the kitchen demonstrations took place over the Aga.

A really special way to spend Guy Fawkes especially as the pyro in me was tickled pink with the backyard fireworks...gun powder huzzah!
Fireworks at the fancy school across the road

Kris xx

*Dreamboats - a food so amazing they are worthy of a footnote. Imagine a round crusty ciabatta, bready bits pulled out and cavity filled with three different types of oozy cheese, toasted pecans, red wine, and a touch of honey, roasted in the oven until melted and sticky. OOohhhh. I don't know if the lovely lady who makes them has a website, but when I find it I'll quit my day job and eat all day share it with you. 
Give me a slice of this, and a quiet corner please.