Apparently the weather outside is the 'worst storm of the year'. I can only assume it's much more severe in other parts of Blighty, because here on the inner edge of East Anglia it's just a bit dark and windy. Windy enough to blow over a plastic dustbin, at any rate. Scary stuff. It's even been raining a bit!
Okay, sarcasm aside, it's a great day to be inside. And a couple of things that make it even better are mulled cider and my newly-discovered favourite, pumpkin bread.
There are as many recipes for mulled cider as there are for mulled wine, but here's the one I've been working. It's based on the Finnish glogg (or glogi, or something-with-an-umlaut-I-can't-remember-how-to-type) my mum's friend Rauha makes, and it works equally well with red wine or with cider.
Take a bottle of vodka, and pour out maybe one or two shots (you can drink these later). This is to make room for the spices you'll be adding. These are: a couple of cinnamon sticks, a crushed nutmeg, small handful of cardamom pods and another of cloves, and the grated peel of one orange. Use whole ingredients, not ground as they'll just make it gritty. The most difficult part of this is getting the orange peel inside the bottle!
Put the lid back on and congratulate yourself with a vodka tonic. Leave the bottle for a week (maybe less: watch to see if the cardamoms and cloves have all sunk to the bottom), then it's ready. Pour it through a sieve (you can strain all the spices out if you have a spare bottle, but I tend to leave mine in and just pour it through a tea strainer).
Add it to cider, and heat through--I'd use about a shot of vodka to each pint of cider, but you can make it stronger or weaker as you wish. I've been making it with Waitrose 1% Alcohol Cider, which means it won't get you drunk as quickly. Don't let the liquid boil as the alcohol will all evaporate. Pour into mugs and serve.
Once you've made your glogg it's all ready and waiting to be turned into something wonderful. Keeps for ages (but why wouldn't you drink it?) and can be added to cider, wine, hot Vimto (the BEST thing if you have a cold), or even tea. You could even try adding the spices to brandy instead of vodka. Go nuts.
Speaking of nuts, the feature in a lovely recipe I made the other week. Pumpkin bread! I know in America pumpkins are a much more widely-used ingredient at this time of year, but in Britland we tend to carve them for Hallowe'en and forget about the actual eating part. To that end, there's not much chance of buying canned pumpkin puree: we have to make our own!
It's not hard, though. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Bake it for 50 minutes at 180C, then let it cool before scooping out the flesh. It comes away very easily. Mash it a bit, and you've got your puree.
For pumpkin bread, you need about 250g of this (less than half a small pumpkin; I used the rest of mine for soup). You also need:
210g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp baking soda
120ml olive oil
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 tsp each of ground nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice
100g chopped walnuts
Sift together the dry ingredients, then use an electric mixer to whisk them together with the wet ingredients and spices. Stir in the walnuts, then pour into a small greased loaf tin and bake at 180C for 50 minutes (or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean).
It's not the most calorie-friendly food, but then it's not that bad either (f you follow weight watchers, it's about 60 points in the whole loaf; a 1cm slice is about 6 points. You can reduce this by adding fewer walnuts, which are worth about 11 points as I recall).
Spread some Philadelphia cheese on it. Get a mug of hot cider. Laugh at the wind and rain outside.