It's been a full-on month - busy at work, and some difficult things happening behind the scenes including the loss of a very dear friend, and continued worry about my 96 year old father in law who isn't in the best of health but is a long way away from us. I haven't ended a year feeling this drained in a while and honestly, I hope I never do again.
Despite this, I had a lovely Christmas day - which made going straight back to work today feel like ripping off a plaster. I got some great books including Alice Lascelles' The Cocktail Edit, and I'm drinking leftover mulled wine with chocolate in it, which is a win for this evening. The mulled wine is inspired in equal parts by Alice Lascelles and Annie Gray's At Christmas We Feast - and tiredness.
We were too tired on Christmas eve to finish the modest pan of mulled wine. There was enough left to chance keeping it until getting home from work today, but 48 hours of macerating with cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and orange had made it a bit overpowering. Which is when I remembered the recipe for Wine Chocolate in At Christmas We Feast, which I didn't much like when I made it.
I had a mug's worth of mulled wine to play with so added a spoonful of grated hot chocolate and gave it a good stir - it took the edge off the spices and orange, rounded everything out, and made a really good drink - a twist very much in the spirit of The Cocktail Edit.
My preferred mulled wine method is to use a bottle of inexpensive but okay red wine (anything from a supermarket own range label that comes in at about £5 will be perfect) and to gently heat it with a couple of small cinnamon sticks, 4 cloves, 2 star anise, a couple of strips of orange peel along with some slices of orange, and whatever juice is left from it, and 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar - experiment with the sugar, my preference is for something which comes with a bit of flavour as well as sweetness. Heat it to just about a simmer and then remove from the heat for half an hour to let the flavours really blend, then reheat and add a good measure of brandy if you want a bit more kick.
The Wine chocolate recipe has you heat a bottle of ruby port with 1tbsp of rice flour and 125g of good dark chocolate (around 70% - 75% cocoa solids). Mix the rice flour with 3 spoons of cold port into a paste, add to the rest of the port and heat with the grated chocolate until a very low simmer is reached, it's smooth, and the consistency of double cream. Serve in small cups and drink straight away You may enjoy this riff on a recipe from 1723 much more than I did.
For the best of both worlds serve the mulled wine with a teaspoon of good-quality dark chocolate flakes stirred vigorously into each glass or cup. Alternativley strain the mulled wine into a clean pan before reheating, add around 125g of chocolate and whisk it in as it reheats. Add the spices back for decoration if desired.