Last night, there was a Halloween Ghost Walk on Bidston Hill. About 60 people assembled at Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm and proceeded along the hill, lit by a waxing gibbous moon two nights off full. Ghost stories were told along the way. The evening was cold and dry.
Meanwhile back at the Lighthouse, Mandy had baked two carrot cakes, a Dorset apple cake, and a batch of Anzac biscuits, and was preparing hot chocolate. I’d lit a fire and had a big pot of mulled wine simmering. When the party arrived, Mandy served hot chocolate, I served mulled wine, and the walkers helped themselves to cake and warmed themselves by the fire.
Thanks to ranger Nic Harding for organising the event and acting as guide, to the Friends of Bidston Hill for providing story tellers and marshalls, and to Tom Slemen for letting the tellers adapt his stories. The proceeds from the event will go to the Friends of Bidston Hill.
Stephen’s Mulled Wine Recipe
Several people asked for the mulled wine recipe. I made it up as I went, but it was something like this:
- 5 bottles of red wine. I used Tesco’s French red wine at £3.59 a bottle. Any decent, cheap claret will do.
- About a pint of orange juice, no bits (they spoil the texture).
- 2-3 sachets of mulled wine spices. I used a couple of different brands, but Schwarz’s are fine.
- 1 apple, sliced.
- 1 orange, peeled and studded with cloves.
- 1 large cinnamon stick.
- 1 handful of green cardamom pods.
- Ground cinnamon, maybe a teaspoon or two.
- Ground ginger (optional), a teaspoon or two.
- A little brandy.
- About a pint of tap water.
- 1 small tin of golden syrup.
- A tablespoon or two of soft brown sugar.
Serves about thirty.
Put the spice sachets, cinnamon stick, slices of apple, and the clove-studded orange into the pan. Pour in 3-4 bottles of wine, most of the orange juice, and a little water. Heat the pan until the mixture begins to steam, then keep the temperature steady. Its OK to let it simmer a little, but don’t let it boil. While the mixture is heating, add the golden syrup and a tablespoon of brown sugar, sprinkle a little ground cinnamon and maybe ginger on top (not too much), and throw in the cardamom pods. Stir gently. Splash some brandy into the pan about 10 minutes before serving.
The longer the spices and fruits have to blend, the better. I started about an hour before serving.
I had to serve outside, so I transferred the pan to a gas barbeque to keep it on heat while serving. My pan wasn’t big enough to hold all the wine, so I had to add more wine, orange juice, and maybe a little brown sugar after every ten servings or so. Do this little by little, so that the temperature doesn’t drop too fast. You rarely need to add more spices. I served using a ladle into plastic cups (Tesco value cups, doubled up for insulation, are quite economical). If you have more time, you could strain and decant before serving.
The recipe is very tolerant of variations of quantity. Let your own taste be the judge. Other spices such as nutmeg and ginger work well too. Probably the most unusual aspects of my recipe are the cardamom pods, and the use of golden syrup instead of sugar, but I do think these work well. If you can arrange that your guests are cold, they’ll appreciate it all the more!