I’ve just looked out of the window and it’s still winter out there. When I get in from work on evenings like this, damp, shivering and with numb fingers I really fancy something warming to drink. Most people won’t think of it once the holiday season is out of the way but a good mulled wine isn’t just for Christmas, it can see you through the whole of winter. Since this one’s also quite extravagant you can take advantage of the January sales and buy your booze on the cheap.
Mulled wine can strike terror into the hearts of guests, awful watery stuff with limp slices of orange served in plastic party cups that everyone says they like but are invariably found the next morning cold and half full on every surface in the house.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
Let me introduce you to Smoking Bishop, a rich and hearty brew that was a favorite of Dickens. It can be made ahead of time and stored – the original recipe used bitter Seville oranges which are available in February so people really did plan ahead in those days.
The key ingredient of any mulled wine is the wine. We need two bottles, one of port and one of claret. They don’t need to be anything fancy but if you can’t drink it straight, no amount of mulling is going to help.
For the fruit, four or five oranges and a lemon will do the job, they need to be slit and roasted – yes roasted. Keep the oven low ( 150C in ours) and cook them until they just start to brown – 40 mins did it for me.
Whilst they’re cooking get the spices ready – about 30 cloves, a couple of sticks of cinnamon and a good lump of mace ( or half a nutmeg), throw these into a pan with a cup of water and boil it until half the water’s gone then strain out the bits.
Add your cooked citrus to the pan, the wine and put it on a low heat. Don’t boil it or it’ll taste terrible. Once it’s warm you can sweeten it – I use just a tablespoon of honey as I like the bitterness of the oranges to come through. Give the fruit a quick squish.
Smoking Bishop – drink responsibly ( yeh, right…..)