Friday, 21 December 2012


Saint Nicholas' Day has become part of the Herring-Child festive season. This runs from December to January, and encompasses as many traditions from random countries as we find entertaining/tasty/alcoholic enough.

It starts in earnest on the 6th December, when we deliberately try and burn the house down in the name of good clean fun.

Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German drink whereby a zuckerhut (compressed sugar cone) is doused in rum, set on fire, and the caramelised sugar and excess rum drips into a bowl of delicious mulled wine. The magic combination of tasty, tasty alcohol and approved pyromania is intoxicating.

We were introduced to the concept a few years ago and have attempted it with varying levels of success ever since; the chief issue with us being the lack of zuckerhut. Previously we attempted to fashion our own by packing moist sugar into a cone of baking parchment. I suspect had we packed harder, and left to dry for more than a few days, it may have been more successful, but I am impatient when it comes to rum-soaked goodness.

Cue 2012, when I finally caved and bought myself a proper kit from the German Deli in London website. I also loaded up on the zuckerhut from the same place.

It was magnificent.

A word of warning though: when adding additional rum you are likely to lose and eyebrow or two. Also, over excitement can also lead to singed carpets.

 Frustration as I clearly didn't add enough rum and it fizzles out in disappointment.
A much more pleasing sight.


Feuerzangenbowle Recipe

3 bottles of cheap red plonk
3 oranges
2 lemons
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
(optional, 2 cardamom pods, bruised)
1-2 zuckerhut
1 bottle of strong dark rum (we used Woods Old Navy Rum as it was 50%)

Gently warm the wine on the hob with the juice of two of the oranges and one lemon. Slice the remaining fruit and add to the hob along with the spices. Warm slowly for at least half an hour, not allowing it to boil, then transfer to the heatproof punchbowl. Lay the zuckerhut on the tongs (or other heatproof ledge-type implement) over the bowl and douse in rum. 

Turn the lights off, and set on fire. 

Use a metal ladle to top up the rum to prevent the flames going out, taking care not to singe yourself, your friends, or your house. Drink, rinse and repeat with another cone and finish up the bottle.

Boring safety advice: DO NOT POUR STRAIGHT FROM THE BOTTLE, or you will end up with a Molotov Cocktail, which is far less tasty.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Homemade all-purpose Mexican seasoning

I spent a while last year experimenting with chili, and finally came up with a mix that seemed to work as a general multipurpose Mexican seasoning. I add it to chilis, tacos, hot bean dip. etc, etc, etc. I doubt it's particularly authentic, but it does the trick.

All-purpose Mexican Seasoning

8 tbsp chili powder
4 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp salt (or to taste)
2 tbsp black pepper
4 tsp dark brown sugar (I used molasses sugar, but demerara is also good)
4 tsp cocoa
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder (I couldn't find this so bought freeze dried onion pieces from a Chinese supermarket and crushed them)
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika (change ratio of smoked to normal paprika to your desired smokiness level)
1 tsp cinnamon

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Pinterest Success #1: Rosemary Parmesan Crackers & Texas Trash Dip

In common with many others, I spend more time pinning things to Pinterest and less time actually making things, but I finally tried out some new recipes. Some worked, some didn't. These are the ones that worked.

First up are the Rosemary Parmesan Crackers (see here for the recipe). These were tasty indeed, and I will definitely make these again (though in greater numbers). For once, something I made actually resembled the picture on the website.

(LEFT: picture from Alexandra's Kitchen blog, RIGHT: fuzzy photo demonstrating my efforts minus the garnish)

Secondly was the Texas Trash dip. It's basically all refried beans and large amounts of cheese - what could go wrong? No pictures of my efforts this time, but I'm highly endorsing this and will do this again.

(Picture & recipe from Life as a Lofthouse blog)

The only changes I made were to halve the amounts, replace the sour cream with creme fraiche, replace Monterey Jack with Edam, and the taco seasoning with a tbsp of my homemade chili mix.


I am making a general pre-new year resolution to actually DO rather than PIN. Or, at least, get the ratios of doing to pinning to a more appropriate level.