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Mulled wine

Mulled wine & Christmas cookies

Alex and I became positively addicted to mulled wine in 2011 when we went to the German Christmas markets in Stuttgart, Nuremberg, and Munich for the first time. In the freezing weather, a hot mug of mulled wine was just the trick to stay warm. After a couple of markets, we also realised we didn’t have to return the mugs to get our deposit back – we could keep these cute little mugs as souvenirs! Every market had its own mug with a unique design, and the year and place inscribed.

Since then, every year I’ve been making my own mulled wine in December and putting them in these mugs. Last year we also made a trip to Denmark to check out the Christmas scene there…and decided that we liked the German version of mulled wine so much better. So this year we’re headed back to Germany soon, for another round of markets and gluhwein before Christmas! However, since it’s already getting cold and dark in London, I’ve been dying to make some mulled wine at home anyway. This weekend was the perfect time. We spent Sunday baking up Christmas cookies, drinking mulled wine, and decorating our little Christmas tree in front of our (real!) fireplace. The cookies are mainly going to work with me tomorrow, as an office-warming present…what’s left of them anyway!

And because I cannot stop raving about this lovely winter drink, here’s my recipe for mulled wine (adapted from the Jamie Oliver magazine from November 2012).

Mulled wine – serves 2-3; double the recipe if you’ve got company!

  • 50 mL orange juice
  • 50g brown sugar
  • Quarter of an orange
  • 2 cloves
  • Half a star anise
  • A small cinnamon stick
  • Half a vanilla pod
  • 1/2 bottle of red wine – not too expensive, but drinkable red wine!
  • 1 tbsp of port, spiced rum, or something else spiced/flavoured. I typically use an apple-infused vodka that I made in the autumn when apples were everywhere in my kitchen
  1. Warm up the orange juice and sugar in a heavy bottomed pot until sugar dissolves
  2. Put the cloves in the orange, and put orange, star anise, cinnamon, and vanilla into the orange juice mixture to infuse. You can do this step a day in advance if you’re planning to serve this drink at a party
  3. Add in the wine and port/rum, and bring to just under a simmer. The drink should be served piping hot, but don’t boil the alcohol!
  4. Garnish the mugs with cinnamon sticks and orange slices as you see fit. Enjoy!

If I’m really on top of things this December, maybe I’ll get around to sharing this recipe too…

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May Desktop Wallpaper

Udaipur, India

That pesky May update…

I’m very conscious of the fact that the month is more than half over, and I haven’t updated anything on this blog. I did post a recipe for my coconut lemongrass tea cake earlier this month. The post may have gone un-noticed, but definitely check it out when you’ve got a minute because it’s the best afternoon indulgence I’ve made in recent days.

So, what’s new in May?

Our lives have been rather consumed with a multitude of things life- and work-related. We’ve spent every Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) since before Easter trying to find a new place to live. Our lease expires in July at a very inconvenient time, so we thought we’d get be on top of things and start looking early. So far, I’m just bitter that our weekends have been consumed with no end result! Some of the areas have just ended up being a lot more expensive than we’re willing to pay for, and some of the homes have been left to shambles with no house pride whatsoever that I don’t even want to bother. Properties also come and go very quickly, and extremely competitively. (We actually queued outside with 18(!) other couples/people waiting to view a flat one weekend.) So it’s been anxiety-inducing with no real results.

Another funny thing about London is just how big it is, and how many “pockets” there could be within London itself. It takes me about 45 minutes to get to work. We live in Zone 2, considered quite central London, and I work right in the heart of Soho. Yet because of how massive this city is, my commute takes me 45 minutes. However, if I lived out in Zone 4 or 5 near a National Rail train (how suburban), I could have a shorter commute due to the fast trains. It’s just bizarre. Don’t worry, not compromising to move out to the shires yet, but we’re definitely in the middle of the classic dilemma of having too many choices for where we could live.

Work has also gotten really busy for both me and Alex. I am really loving my job and all that I do daily – no complaints there – but I am also finding myself rushing out the door in the mornings and stumbling home late at night. I can definitely be Spanish these days, if we were to purely judge me by the time I eat dinner every night. (And those who know me know that I enjoy my dinners at 6pm on the dot.) Haven’t gotten back into exercising or running, but I have a couple of runs coming up in June and July, so all I’ve been doing is fretting about the lack of running everyday while not having time to do it at all.

Another thing that’s totally new in May is that we’ve been following the paleo diet for a few weeks now since late April. At first I thought it was going to be hard and I wouldn’t really like it. Now I am going to sound like a cliché when I say that I actually don’t miss bread and I feel great. It’s very unexpected, but now even when I’m really hungry, I don’t crave bread or noodles or anything like that. I might think about getting pizza once in a while, but when it comes to actually committing myself to eating something that has a lot of carbs, I find myself turning away from that option. I haven’t been able to resist a bite of cake or brownie once in a while, but overall I have changed my palette. I’ve also noticed my body slimming down from this, which is totally unexpected. Initially I wanted to try paleo because I’ve heard great things about how much more energetic people feel when they’re eating paleo, and for a while there in late April I was really living a blurry dream from day to night, so I thought I’d give it a try while cleaning up my eating habits. I never thought that I would actually notice a difference in how my clothes fit. Weird, but definitely a welcome side effect!

So that’s why the baking has slowed down a bit, too. I’m dreaming up my birthday cake for the end of the month, though, so stay tuned on that one!

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Coconut & Lemongrass Tea Cake

Over Easter long weekend, Alex and I took a day out to the sort-of suburbs of Richmond, in Southwest London, for a stroll along the Thames. We came across Petersham Nurseries, a gardening centre with a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a little café for those of us a little less inclined to dine constantly at Michelin-starred establishments. Inside the café, we were first faced with a huge selection of cakes before getting to the lunch mains – just my type of place! There were some fun flavours like chocolate pear, but the most unique of them all caught my eye – coconut lemongrass. It looked like a dense cake with big crumbs, not something I typically go for, but the flavouring sounded so different that we just had to have a slice. Thank goodness, because not only could I not forget about this lovely cake after we ate it, but I also went on during the week to re-invent it in my kitchen so now you can try it at home too!

The cake has a rustic quality to it – big crumbs, no-fuss decoration (just a light dusting of icing sugar will do), and seriously good with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon. Also, it takes me about 30 minutes to throw everything together and pop it into the oven. I’d know, because I made the recipe twice in a week! Taste-wise, it is remarkably light and coconut-y. Although there’s coconut milk, the cake isn’t actually creamy or rich like an indulgent dessert might be. The little slices you cut off to accompany your tea might go quicker than you expect! Therefore, I’ve doubled the recipe here to make a bigger cake – always the best solution to the over-eating problem.


  • 160g butter
  • 150g white sugar
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, chopped into 2″ sections
  • 200g coconut milk
  • vanilla (optional)
  • grated zest from 1 lime (optional)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g polenta (cornmeal)
  • 6g baking powder
  • 50g shredded coconuts (a finer shred is probably better, and sweetened makes it a bit nicer to taste)
  1. Infuse the coconut milk by warming it up in a small pot with the chopped lemongrass segments. Bring to just under a boil, and turn off the heat. Keep covered and let steep for about 30 minutes
  2. Butter and flour an 8″ square pan or a 9″ round pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. With the paddle attachment in an electric mixer, cream butter until softened
  4. Add in sugars, and beat well until combined
  5. Add in eggs, beating until well emulsified. If using, add in 1 tsp vanilla extract or a small tip-of-the-knife dot of vanilla paste
  6. Add in the dry ingredients. If using, add in the lime zest as well. The mixture will be very dry, so you can start adding in a splash of coconut milk at a time, taking care to remove the lemongrass stalks first.
  7. Once all the liquid has been added, beat well for 10-15 seconds until everything is well mixed. Do not overmix
  8. Scrape batter into prepared pan, bake until golden on top, and the cake is springy (about 30 minutes)
  9. Let cool in pan for a few minutes before taking out of pan, removing parchment paper, and cooling on a rack.
  10. Lightly dust with icing sugar just before serving with a large cup of tea!