I just finished Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
I’m still kind of lingering in Cromwell’s England, which is appealing not just because I like historical fiction, but because I’m an Anglican. Mantel’s beautifully crafted work is the kind of read that makes me wish that I had paid more attention during history class and inspires me to go out and brush up on the history of the Reformation.
I highly recommend Mantel’s book: the characters are multi-layered, the setting is full of rich details, and the story, of course, is compelling. There’s quite a bit of food mentioned, although nothing inspired me to go out and try my hand at 16th century cookery.
But, as I worked myself through Wolf Hall, I did find myself wanting a glass of mulled wine. Or some sort of cider or anything else that would take the edge off the winter chill and take me into the cluster of gossips around Anne’s court and the feasts full of political undercurrent and subtle humor. At four months pregnant, I can’t really have any such thing, but I can offer you Jamie Oliver’s tasty recipe for mulled wine. So, whip up a batch, pour yourself a glass, and dive into Wolf Hall.
Jamie writes: “Peel large sections of peel from your clementines, lemon and lime using a speed peeler. Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Throw in your halved vanilla pod and stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar. Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine and then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you’ve got a beautiful thick syrup. The reason I’m doing this first is to create a wonderful flavour base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It’s important to do make a syrup base first because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you’ll burn off the alcohol.
When your syrup is ready turn the heat down to low and add your star anise and both bottles of wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it’s warm and delicious, ladle it into glasses and serve.”