Thomas J Fudge – mulled wine

There are certain things that it’s just criminal not to have over the festive period and for me mulled wine is one of them. Mulled wine and mince pies are two things I can honestly say I feel almost no desire to eat for the rest of the year, but everything about them just screams Christmas, so when it comes to the holidays – let’s be honest.. the whole month of December – I eat them in abundance. After all the supermarkets have had them out since October!

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I’ll be the first to admit that I really, really dislike wine, and the crazy thing is that I’ve tried so hard to like it – I want to like it, I really do. I’m not a big fan of most alcohol to be honest. It was easy at University, when bars and clubs served up spirits mixed with so much sugary soda that it drowned out the taste of the alcohol. Or going to a nice bar and ordering lovely cocktails (by lovely, I mean cocktails with the addition of so much fruit juice and other flavourings that the alcohol is more than outbalanced!). But when I go out for meals and everyone’s being sophisticated, drinking (and being able to distinguish between!) different types of wine, it’s hard to hide behind the fact that I just find them all unbearably bitter. Dry, fruity, crisp red, white, rosé.. some even claim to have fruity, peppery or floral undertones but to me they all taste equally bitter to me. I keep thinking that I’ll mature into liking it – I used to hate coffee for example, and I live off the stuff now, but no matter how many times I try it, I can’t manage more than a sip without it ruining my entire meal! I don’t think I’ve ever been out for a steak when everyone hasn’t raved about how well a glass of red goes with it, but I just can’t drink it! That’s where mulled wine is perfect though; the addition of the spices and sugary sweetness just makes it so delicious, and the fact that it’s warm makes it the ultimate comforting drink over Christmas 🙂

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I’ve never tried to make it myself though, so when the team at Thomas J Fudge asked me if I’d like to make my own variety of mulled wine to accompany their chocolate Florentines I jumped at the chance to get creative in the kitchen! They sent me a bottle of red wine and a gift card to pick up extra ingredients, plus some of their amazing Florentines of course. I went to the supermarket and bought things which I think should go in mulled wine – a ton of Christmassy spices, citrus fruits and sugar, but I also wanted to try something totally unique so I bought some cocoa powder and some chocolate too. It might sound crazy, but as an absolute chocoholic, I thought that the spices and the bitterness of the wine could make a deliciously creamy alternative to a standard mulled wine.. and if it all went wrong then it would essentially just be a super indulgent conventional hot chocolate, with milk and melted chocolate – how bad could that be!? After all, it’s Christmas – chocolate is practically its own food group! 😉 I didn’t really know where to start, but I’m no stranger to starting creations in the kitchen with no idea what I’m going to add or how it’s going to turn out, so what’s new!

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I started off trying to create a conventional mulled wine recipe. I used two thirds of the bottle, leaving a bit to use in my chocolate mulled wine later on!

Traditional mulled wine

500ml red wine

60g brown sugar

1/2 cup cranberries

2 tbsp honey

juice and zest of one orange

zest of one lemon

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 vanilla pod

6 cloves

1 tsp fresh nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

small piece of ginger, grated

100ml water

  1. Mix all ingredients except the wine in a large saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add just enough water to the pan (I used 100ml) to cover the sugar and let it cook for 4-5 minutes.
  2. When the mixture has become thick and sticky, add the wine and turn down the heat. Let the mix simmer for about 5 minutes and serve warm with chocolate florentines and mince pies of course.

It was so easy to make – I was expecting to have to leave it to simmer for hours, but I was eager to try it (with the intention of leaving it on the hob for longer if needed) and it only needed a few minutes. I did leave the leftovers covered with the lid on (to stop the alcohol from all evaporating) overnight to let the spices continue to infuse and I feel like the longer you leave it the more tasty it will be, but it could have just been my imagination.

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Happy with how it turned out, I moved on to creating something slightly more unique.. or just plain crazy! But stick with me, as I loved it, and I hope you will too! 🙂

Chocolate mulled wine

250ml red wine

50g cocoa powder

50g brown sugar

200g chocolate*

juice and zest of one orange

1 cinnamon stick

2 cardamom pods

1 vanilla pod

4 cloves

1 star anise

1 tsp fresh nutmeg

300ml water

  1. Mix the sugar, cocoa powder and all of the spices in the pan with the juice and zest of one orange. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into small pieces.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir through the dark chocolate, whisking well until the chocolate is fully mixed in.
  1. Add the red wine and place back on the heat, warming gently for about 5 minutes.
  2. Sieve the mixture into a glass and serve warm.. (or cold! – see note below) with more florentines, if you have any left!

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Yes there are little pigs in blankets in the background 😀 I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make mulled wine – now it’s no longer a thing reserved only for Christmas markets (where I find it can be pretty hit and miss!). I love how rich and decadent this chocolate twist on the traditional mulled wine is and I hope you do too! Happy Christmas everyone.. I hope you all have a lovely time with loved ones.. and that it’s packed full of good food and drink too of course 🙂

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*You can use any combination of milk and dark. I would personally suggest 100g milk and 100g dark (or even slightly more milk)– I’ve tried it with 200g of dark chocolate and it was a little bit too bitter/intense, especially with the combination of the wine. BUT if you do try this using all dark chocolate, put it in the fridge for a while to let it set slightly, and it turns into the most smooth, decadent Christmassy spiced mousse which makes the perfect indulgent dessert! And why not use the florentines as a spoon to scoop up the mousse.. it’s Christmas after all (like you need an excuse!) 😉

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