Christmas mulled wine truffles
I should be writing this fireside, with the right side of my body just a bit too hot and the left side just a bit too cold.
I have never perfected the art of getting evenly toasty but oh my God, I love trying.
I stepped off the BA flight in London last week and instantly went into shock.
I have not been back for Christmas for five years and I had completely forgotten just how cold it is.
It is the kind of cold that sinks through your pores and permeates through every ounce of your being.
It was minus 2F when we landed.
I know that is practically spring for our Canadian friends but for me it is basically arctic.
It does not matter how many layers of clothes I put on, I have only been properly warm twice since arriving — and that is when I have been in a boiling hot bath.
Fortunately, the Brits are good at baths. Giant tubs full of bubbles. Makes a nice change from sitting in a shallow tray at the bottom of a shower!
However, although there is a roaring log fire about 30 feet away, I am actually sitting in the hall on the stairwell.
My mum lives in a gorgeous but tiny village and the wireless is a little patchy. In fact, all the services are a little patchy — there is not even a pub!
Does it count as a village if there is no pub? I am not sure that is very British?
But while there is not very much wi-fi, there is a lot of calm.
Sheep, birdsong, rain (obviously), and calm. The girls are with their dad for a few days so the peace is especially peaceful.
I am desperate to see them, but it is also given me a few days to gather myself and take a few deep breaths.
There is a lot to plan next year for Natural but it can only be done with a clear head. Ironically, this means taking some time to not plan, to shake the last few crazy months from my system and just be.
So, the past few days all I have done is catch up with my family, do a little running, and help with Christmas errands.
I have made lots of cups of tea, pottered around the house and spent an hour just wandering the aisles of Waitrose!
Now admittedly, Waitrose is a little bit of work (always on the lookout for what we need back in BDA!) but being surrounded by affordable berries and a thousand options for gluten-free bread is therapeutic for a nutrition geek like me.
I left with their Christmas Food magazine, too, and have since earmarked every page.
I is packed with incredible real-food recipes, most of them healthy and I have a long list of things to experiment with!
There is one recipe that sent me running straight to the kitchen though.
It is for mulled wine truffles that are naturally dairy-free. I have a truffle recipe I love, but there is a huge amount of coconut oil in it.
That is not necessarily bad (a little extra-virgin coconut oil can be positively healthy in fact) but I was interested in this different method.
And I love red wine and Christmas spices so I had to try it!
This turned out to be an incredibly easy recipe. It is super quick to make, although there are two wait times — once for the mulled wine to mull and once for the ganache to chill.
Aside from that, the prep is easy and you probably already have most of the ingredients in your cupboard.
I am sure you can find the original online, but I made a few changes to the recipe. I reduced the sugar by 40 per cent, I amped up the spices and added some zest.
I also added some coconut milk to mellow out the density of the dark chocolate (but that's optional).
Oh, and I added some spices to the sugar used for dusting, too.
That means that these taste Christmassy from the very first moment they hit your lips! So delicious.
Give them a try this weekend and either keep them for the big day or give them as gifts.
This is a great example of how to do chocolate in a natural and real-food way — a good compromise for this time of year.
Christmas Mulled Wine Truffles
(makes approximately 15)
75ml robust red wine (something like a cabernet sauvignon but my wine-loving mum gave me an affogato from Puglia and that seemed to do the trick!)
1 cinnamon stick
2 black peppercorns
30g light brown muscovado sugar
1 small, or half a large, clementine
Half of a different clementine for zest
Half a lemon, wedge and zest
200g quality dark chocolate (dairy-free if need be)
2tbs full-fat coconut milk (tinned, refrigerated) — optional
50g golden caster sugar
Dashes of cinnamon and ginger
1, If you think you will use it, put your coconut milk in the fridge at least three hours before you make the truffles.
2, In a small pan, make the mulled wine. Add in the wine, muscovado sugar, cinnamon stick, black pepper, cloves and the clementine (give it a little squeeze into the wine first, so some of the juice is released.
If you are using a whole small clementine, cut it in half before using it). Add a tiny wedge of lemon too (say one square inch), just squeeze it and then drop it in.
Heat to boiling just for a second, then reduce to a simmer until the sugar is melted. Set to one side and allow spices to mull for up to an hour.
3, Zest half a large clementine or the whole of a small one onto a plate. Add a sprinkling (a pinch) of lemon zest too.
4, Pop the golden caster sugar in a bowl. Add ¼ tsp cinnamon and a dash of ground ginger. Mix well. Set to one side.
5, Time this stage well as you will want the chocolate to be melted just as your hour is up from the mulled wine.
Break the chocolate up into small pieces and put it in a pan to melt gradually over a very low heat.
Use a pan that's small enough so the chocolate easily covers the bottom. Some cooks say you should do this in a glass bowl over hot water.
I think it's fine in a pan so long as your pan is 100 per cent dry when you start. Any water in the pan, from your hands or on a utensil, may cause the chocolate to curdle.
6, Once an hour has gone by, take the melted chocolate off the heat and heat up the mulled wine so it's very warm again.
Strain your wine into a small jug. Then, stirring quickly, gradually pour the warm wine into the melted chocolate.
If the mix looks like it may curdle, just have faith, keep mixing (fast) and keep adding the fluid gently.
I got a great glossy result that didn't curdle — and I was amazed!
7, Taste your ganache mix. At this point, I added the zest and an extra dash of cinnamon so I could really get the flavours.
But my wine had mulled for a shorter length of time and my chocolate was very dark. You can add in the zest, or not!
I also added 2tbs of the top layer of coconut cream from the top of the refrigerated can (it separates when it's in the fridge and you just want to use the thick part).
This mellowed out the flavour nicely, but it's optional!
Use the rest of the coconut milk in a Thai curry with all that leftover turkey, or add it to smoothies.
8, Whisk your ganache mix again well, and then set in the fridge for an hour.
Once it's set, use a teaspoon to remove small amounts at a time and roll the ganache into small balls. Create all the balls first and set to one side on a plate.
9, Then, in a bowl with a flat bottom or on a rimmed plate, roll your ganache balls in the golden caster sugar to give them a sparkly coat of crystals.
(Tip: agitate the sugar immediately before you do this to make sure the sugar and spices are well mixed.)
Store in an airtight container in the fridge!
• Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, on Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda