mulled wine

A World Of Donuts

There are some pretty good things to do on a rainy weekend in Melbourne, and going to a Donut & Beer Festival is one of them!

I arrived at the festival nice and early and did a tour of all the food stalls. There were so many different types of donuts on offer, from cold and filled to fresh cooked hot ones. There were even glow in the dark donuts. There was no way I was going to be trying all of them. Having my partner Paul there to share the “burden” helped. After much thought we narrowed it down to five food trucks offering a range of hot and cold donuts from different countries.

First stop was Honey Dee Loukoumades. We’ve had these warm, honey drenched Greek donuts before and have even made them ourselves.

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There were four flavours to choose from:
Honey Cinnamon Walnuts
Caramel with Artisan Salts
Nutella
Callebaut Milk Chocolate with Dark Chocolate Rocks
Luckily they were offering a tasting platter with all four donuts so we chose that. They were all delicious but our favourite was the traditional cinnamon and walnut one. I really liked the salted caramel one too.

I couldn’t wait to try the South African Koeksister Donuts at the Ostrich and the Egg. I have heard of them but have never had them so I was really looking forward to them.

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They had three offerings:
Traditional – Coconut
Garden Route – Sable Biscuit, Pistachio, Sesame Seeds
North of the River – Cocoa, Coffee Crumble
Happily they too had a tasting platter deal so we got to try all three. I thought I was going to love the coffee crumble one but I think one of the spices was cardamon which I don’t like. Surprisingly Paul, who loves coffee but not coffee flavoured foods, liked it. We both loved the other two donuts. They were moist and flavoursome and really unusual.

When I first saw the sign for Yuzu Donuts I thought it was a Japanese stall. Then I saw the familiar black, red and white decor and knew this was a New Zealand stall. The name Hangi Boys Kiwi Kitchen was also a big clue 🙂 I was very excited as I love New Zealand and have visited the country a couple of times. But I haven’t had Kiwi donuts before!

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They only had one donut flavour to chose from:
Grapefruit & Yuzu Custard with Dried Raspberry
Yum. It was like a cold jam donut but with a tart and creamy centre. We both enjoyed this Kiwi treat.

A real show stopper was the Hungarian Kurtosh Donut Cone at The Hungry Boys stall. They reminded me of Romanian kürtőskalács. Everyone who walked passed had a good look, including me, but I was the first to stop and buy one! There was no way I could resist a donut moulded into the shape of an ice cream cone which is then filled with warm, creamy delights.

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You could choose a banana or an apple filling but as Paul cannot eat bananas we chose:
Mama’s Apple Pie
The cold donut cone was filled with stewed cinnamon apples, toasted granola and heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and a chocolate biscuit. It took a while to make our way through this enormous donut but we did! Having so much creamy goodness made the task easier, as did the comforting flavours.

With almost no room left in our bellies we made our way to Blondies Doughnuts. Thankfully their specialty is mini doughnuts 🙂

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We chose a tried and true classic:
Mini Cinnamon Sugar
I really think hot cinnamon donuts are the best and these mini morsels were outstanding. I was considering having a second serve but I thought that would be tempting fate. Plus, we hadn’t even started the beer tastings.

After a fortifying coffee we tasted a few Indian Pale Ales. There was also a mulled wine stall which I quickly made my way to. The warm wine was sweetened with molasses and spices and was divine. They were selling jars of their concentrated mulling syrup which I bought. Now when I want a mulled wine I can make an individual cup, adding one or two teaspoons of their Smoking Bishop Syrup. I can’t wait to start mulling 🙂

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I Never Drink … Wine

When Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi first uttered those immortal words in Tod Browning’s 1931 movie Dracula, he didn’t realise he would be giving birth to one of the most famous lines in vampire folklore. These words never appeared in Bram Stoker’s novel. They were unique to the film which is loosely based on the 1924 stage play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. It was this play that introduced us to an urbane, tuxedo wearing Count Dracula, much different to Stoker’s quite repulsive vampire. The romantic, cape wearing Count would become one of the most popular versions of the mercurial vampire in literature and cinema. His popularity does not appearing to be waning.

To celebrate Bela’s upcoming 134th birthday on Thursday October 20, I thought I would drink some wine in his honour 🙂 Sangria, a chilled Spanish red wine drink, is supposedly named after the Spanish word for blood – sangre – which reflects its dark red colour. I have chosen to meld a chilled Spanish sangria with a warm mulled wine. After all, if Dracula did drink wine he most certainly would want it served warm – like blood!

Hot Blooded Sangria

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Ingredients
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
750ml bottle of red wine
1/3 cup brandy
1 blood orange, cut into pieces

Method
Place the juice and sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir until combined.
Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes syrupy.
Add the wine and brandy. Cover and simmer, without boiling, for 5 minutes.
Add the blood orange pieces to a heatproof jug.
Pour wine over the blood orange pieces.
Drink while warm.
Refrigerate any leftover wine and enjoy cold over ice.

Spanish Rioja is traditional but you can use any red wine you like. I used a Vampire Merlot from Transylvania 🙂
You can use any variety of oranges when blood oranges are out of season.

A Touch Of Autumn

I stepped outside today and finally felt it – Autumn!

The air felt cold and crisp, the sky was covered in dark clouds and rain threatened to spit. I couldn’t wait to go for a walk. As I walked I remembered autumn days from my youth, when walking to school would entail kicking through the fallen leaves blanketing the streets; the trees happily giving up their greenery and shedding their autumnally coloured offerings.

Autumn was always my time. It was a sign I had survived another sweltering hot summer and a promise of colder weather to come. I looked forward to days of rugging up in jackets, scarfs, hats and gloves and putting on thick socks and warm shoes. Nights would be spent rugged up in front of a heater with a book and a hot drink. Today has given me hope that we may actually have an autumn this year.

We’ve just had our Autumn Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a time when the hours of day and night are equal. For many Pagans it is a time of harvest, of reaping what we have sown. It is a time of reflection, particularly reflecting on what it means to be Pagan.

As I reflect on autumns past, present and future I can’t help but feel that a wise, warm and heady beverage would help these contemplations. And what could be more warm and wise than a herb infused mulled wine 🙂

Sage Mulled Wine

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Ingredients
750ml bottle white wine
1/4 cup honey
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
1/4 cup gin
lemon slices for serving
extra fresh sage sprigs for serving

Instructions
Add the wine, honey and bay leaf to a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Add the sage and lemon thyme.
Turn off the heat, cover and allow the wine to steep for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid and gently reheat the wine until it starts to steam.
Remove the bay leaf, sage and thyme.
Turn off the heat and add the gin.
Place a slice of lemon and a sprig of sage in heatproof glasses or mugs.
Ladle the wine evenly between the glasses.

Springing Into Action

Between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox falls Imbolc – the beginning of Spring. While there is debate about when to celebrate the first day of Spring, for many Pagans Imbolc is celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere on the first of August. There are still cold Winter days ahead, but the first signs of Spring are beginning to show. Imbolc is a time of celebrating the growing light and the return of life to Earth.

One of the best things to do to celebrate Spring is spring cleaning. One reason for a spring clean is that places that have long, cold Winters are often shut up during Winter and become stuffy and claustrophobic. This was especially true when heating consisted of coal or wood fires. But the ritual of spring cleaning has been around for a long time. Many cultures have spring cleaning rituals which consist of giving the house a top to bottom cleaning. These rituals are also symbolic of sweeping away built up negative energies and are an opportunity for us to explore our accumulated personal baggage. Spring is a time to throw open the physical and metaphorical windows and shine a light on all our dark, hidden corners!

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In Australia, August is the perfect time to spring clean our backyards in preparation for snake and bushfire season. While we don’t have long, cold winters our homes can still be stuffy so a good clean might be needed. Those of us with flatulent French Bulldogs really appreciate being able to crack open the windows and let in some fresh air! Spring is also a perfect time for de-cluttering. But the most important part of spring cleaning for me is personal introspection and spiritual de-cluttering. Our psyches can certainly benefit from a yearly re-evaluation and spring clean.

For me, Imbolc heralds the return of snakes and Persephone. Both snakes and Persephone are mythologically considered chthonic – that is they spend part of their yearly life underground or in the Underworld. While snakes never completely hibernate in Australia they are less active or visible during winter. As the weather warms snakes slowly awake from their slumber and begin their re-entrance into the upper world. As the weather warms and the season slowly turns from Winter to Spring, Persephone also begins her ascent from the Underworld.

Like snakes and Persephone I like to have a Winter hibernation where I take a break from the world and draw my energies into myself. Sadly I didn’t manage to have a break this year but I still managed some sort of hibernation and introspection. Armed with my trusty Tarot cards I have spent many late evenings in Winter watching the Sun go down and consulting my cards. I am so glad I did this as I recently needed all my personal development skills!

I was reminded of the importance of vigorous personal spring cleaning last weekend. At a family function I was saddened by the behaviour of some relatives who seemed to be re-living and acting out old family patterns – and not very enlightened or positive ones! I was taken back to not so pleasant childhood memories. For a moment I was thrown back into the Underworld and a darkness settled on my soul. Thankfully it didn’t last. But it did remind me that it is time for a spring clean! I think this year is going to be a BIG one!

I approach a spring clean in a systematic way. My approach is quite straightforward although going through each stage can be challenging.

First, I take some time to be away from my day to day activities.

I then take a long hard look at myself and ask the following questions:

  • Do I have any habitual ways of thinking that I don’t want to continue?
  • Have I gone back to any bad habits?
  • When I look at my own thinking and actions do they seem similar to ones that I don’t like in others?
  • Where am I fooling myself – what thoughts do I have that contradict my values?
  • Is there anything else that pops up that I should also clean out?

I then think about how I would like to be and I nurture the behaviours in myself that I like and respect.

At the end of all this “mulling” it seems only fair to relax with a nice mulled wine!

Grenadine Mulled Wine

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Delicious mulled wine with a Persephonian kick of pomegranate.

Ingredients

1 ruby red grapefruit
10 whole cloves
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup water
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 cup grenadine
1 bottle of riesling or other white wine

Method

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Stud the grapefruit with the cloves.
Place on a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the grapefruit is soft.
While the grapefruit is baking place the agave syrup and water in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until combined. Add the cinnamon sticks and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes syrupy.
When ready, remove the grapefruit from the oven and place in a medium saucepan on low heat. Add the syrup, grenadine and wine. Cover and simmer, without boiling, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove grapefruit and cinnamon sticks.
Ladle into heatproof cups.

Any variety of grapefruit can be used in this recipe.
Grenadine is a syrup made from pomegranates.