It's very nearly the time of year most of us look forward to. I for one love Christmas. Not just Christmas day but I really do make the most of the twelve days of Christmas... or I try to anyway. Religiously speaking, the Christmas season goes from Christmas day right through to Epiphany on the 6th of January. That's when my tree comes down but I still keep the Nativity scene up until the 2nd February which is when the Catholic Church celebrates the Presentation of Jesus in the temple.
Religion aside, for me, Christmas is Christmas day until the 2nd or 3rd of January. Everyone (in the house) is off work and we spend time together; going out, staying in, playing games, going on long walks or drives... the point is, it's the one time of the year where we relax and spend some time enjoying each other's company.
This past year has been incredibly busy. Between organising a wedding, setting up a business and even a bit of house hunting, we haven't really had much free time to do things just the two of us and I find myself thinking back to last Christmas when Michael and I went for lunch in a little cafe in York and then stayed to have hot chocolate and read our books. I think that was my favourite day of 2017. This year we are driving down to the Isle of Wight to visit some of my family so that will give us a chance to get out of York and enjoy some sea air.
And by the way this winter is already going, I imagine it will be pretty cold sea air too. When I have to leave for work in the morning it always shocks me how much colder it is outside than in the flat. Bear in mind there's still no snow and we don't have the heating on overnight. So pretty cold. That first cup of coffee when I get into work is very, very welcome.
One thing I love about the cold weather, and let's face it, there aren't many things, is that it gives me a chance to make interesting hot drinks. In the summer, we all like fresh, summery cocktails and coolers, but what about winter warming drinks? We have mulled wine - always a winner in my book - and Americans have apple cider. Apple cider here is alcoholic. Yes, dear American readers, if you order cider here, you need ID.
But why can't we mull apple juice? It's already sweet so no sugar needed and apple goes so well with winter spices and other winter fruits. So I did. And it was delicious. This recipe serves 4 so if you're having a host of non-alcohol drinking guests, multiply the recipe at will.
Spiced Mulled Apple Juice
1 litre cloudy apple juice
3 star anise
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
This recipe could not be simpler. Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan and heat it on a very low heat, gradually raising the temperature. This will mean you're able to keep an eye on it and prevent it from boiling. If you boil the juice the sugars burn.
Once the juice starts to foam, test the temperature. If it's hot enough for you, serve up. If not, leave it just a little bit longer to heat through to your preferred temperature.
Serve in pretty, heat proof glasses.