Spice and all things nice!

 

Spice, traditionally, has been associated with luxury and feasting which are words also linked with Christmas, when we like to treat ourselves. As the weather turns colder, here on the farm it is fun to dream up new flavours for our ice creams with a little natural heat to them and there is nothing like the smell of mulled wine to put you in the mood for a carol or two! Have you tried our Mulled Wine Sorbet?


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One of the most highly prized spices in ancient times, and a vital ingredient for a good mulled wine, is cinnamon. Those early folks knew a thing or two because it turns out cinnamon has some amazing health benefits. The spice comes from the inner bark of the stems of cinnamon trees and is full of antioxidants and essential oil. To harvest it, the outer bark is removed and the inner strips left to dry which is when they naturally curl into the rolls we know as cinnamon sticks. We were delighted when our cinnamon ice cream collected a Great Taste Award Gold 2* a few years ago as it is one of our favourites, especially at this time of the year because it goes so well with mince pies.

It’s hard to believe but for centuries, black pepper was the most expensive spice. Now it appears on almost every dinner table. It too was revered for its medicinal properties and was once worth its weight in gold. It is the berry of a vine that originated from south India but today Vietnam is the largest producer. We make a black pepper ice cream which is a great one to tease your taste buds and surprise your friends

One spice that has kept its high price is saffron because even though it is grown more widely than it once was, it will always, we imagine, be fiddly to harvest. It comes from the stigma of a crocus and each flower only has three. These have to be handled with real care. We certainly treat it with respect and match it with cardamom, a delicate supporting act that makes this exotic ice cream a dreamy, blissful marriage.


If it is heat you are after, we do have another spice up our sleeve and that is ginger which is a member of the same plant family as cardamom and turmeric. Fiery yet sweet, it has been used to flavour food since forever and was presumably a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I who is said to have come up with the gingerbread man, a popular Christmas treat. Which brings us neatly back to Christmas and a recipe for mulled wine. We think the secret, as we do with everything we make, is to use the best ingredients so don’t be tempted to buy the cheapest wine and think it will not matter since you are heating it and adding spices. As we have seen, spices add to the pleasure of a taste, they shouldn’t dominate. The choice of spice is up to you but usually recipes include cinnamon, star anise, cloves and nutmeg. You could add cardamom or ginger.



Method: For each bottle of red wine in your pan, add a large cinnamon stick, a couple of star anise, three cloves, a twist or two of lemon zest and about four tablespoons of sugar (or to taste). Cook over a low heat for ten minutes and then leave it to cool so the wine takes up the flavour fully before you warm it slowly to serve. In the old days the preferred method was to plunge a red hot poker into it!

Enjoy.


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