CHRISTMAS TIME MULLED WINE (IMPROVED)

Nursing a warm glass of mulled wine, and get cosy with loved ones during this festive season.
Holiday-Mulled-Wine.gif
11.jpg

Christmas wouldn’t be completed without hugging a steaming mug of mulled wine, watching Lord Of The Rings trilogy after dinner time, on the leather couch. That’s how the Kirwans celebrate Christmas every year in Aberdeenshire. Before we returned for Christmas in 2017, Ryan introduced his signature home brew mulled wine to my family. When they first sipped it, it tasted like herbaceous cranberry juice muddled with heirloom naval oranges and a tickling hint of cayenne pepper. This undeniable warmth stolen their hearts. My parents nods were in synced, they have never been happier and approved this son-in-law to be right after, lol.

As I am leaning towards sustainability this year, I’ll be using RNW Cape Blend South Africa from TTG wines to brew my first batch of holiday mulled wine. Today’s post is one of the holiday wine-pairing series TTG wines and I created using their sustainably produced and organic wines from vineyards around the world. Blessed by cooling mornings and diffused sun rays a few Sundays ago, I seized the chance to head into the woods and capture a simple picnic session with my dearest friend, Odelia.

4.jpg
9.jpg
15.jpg
8.jpg
1.jpg

Emma and Mags are two lovely, and enthusiastic wine experts behind TTG wines, their eye to source and introduce handcrafted wines at an affordable price has distinguished themselves from others in Singapore. They offer a diverse range of sustainably produced red wines, white wines, rose wines and champagne you can consider for a Christmas gift or simply pair with what you served for every day dinners. Check out these carefully sourced wines under $45 here, and enjoy a 10% discount using my code “Pout10” 😘

13.jpg

Let’s talk a bit about the RNW Cape Blend. It possesses a faint bouquet of violet and blueberry, combined with elegant oak notes, earthy minerality, leading to an enticing sniff when I’m pouring out. It’s fruity, juicy entry complements with the lusciousness of the pithy orange, and enhanced a prolonged pleasant aftertaste of a mulled wine.

Here are a few tips for brewing your mulled wine:

  • Look out for purely cranberry juice, not those that are mixed with triple berries or pomegranate, they are juices enhanced with artificial sweeteners, meh. If you can’t find cranberry juice, orange juice with pulp works well too.

  • Gently crushed fresh cranberries using the back of a ladle till they “popped” open. This creates an exit for their juices to flow into the wines under a rolling boil later.

  • Using the Jamie-Oliver’s way of kicking off with a syrup base first, pour cranberry juice, followed by orange, cranberries cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, dark chocolate under medium high heat. Once it starts boiling, pour in red wine and port to cover. Then bring to a rolling boil at medium heat, we do not want to boil off all the alcohol, such a waste!

  • After adding star anise, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, cover the lid to keep the mulled wine from evaporating.

  • Strain the fruits and spices and ladle warm mulled wine in a microwave oven-safe mug to serve. Alternatively, what I’ll do is to cover filtered mulled wine with a beeswax seal and let the cool overnight for a denser flavour.

14.jpg

The power of mulled wine extends to its unexpected health benefits. There’s certainly no harm indulging it over other sugary cocktails or fortified wines during this festive season. As age is catching up every year, the more we ought to drink responsibly, and sensibly to protect our health.

Here are the benefits of sipping mulled wine:

  • Improves digestion and eases constipation: Too much good food with low intake of fibre this season may cause you a higher chance in experiencing indigestion or constipation. You’re in good hands hun, the presence of cloves in mulled wine may increase gut mobility and improve the digestion power through gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions with their antibacterial, antispasmodic and anaesthetic properties. Whole cloves stimulates digestion with its fibre content, and relieves constipation.

  • Boosts immune system: The mulled wine contains orange, cranberries and cloves, they are high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in our bodies and helps to protect our body from oxidative damage by fighting against infections and free radicals. Meanwhile, it prevents us from catching in this cold season. A festive season is also a season prone to sniffles.

  • Decrease the amount of glucose: With cinnamon sticks in the mulled wine, it has shown to lower the level of glucose that enters our bloodstream by 10-29% after savoury, and sugar laden meals at high frequency this season.

  • Reduces chances of having a stroke: Red wine tannins contains resveratrol, which come from the skins of grapes used to make the glowy ruby red liquid. As grape skins are fermented longer in red than white wines, the resveratrol content is higher, and they help to reduce “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and remove chemicals causing blood clots. Hence they say a glass of red a day is good for your heart, but don’t get carried away.

Enjoy this warm winter sangria clutched in your hands and put on Michael Bublé Christmas album on loop mode :D

6.jpg
12.jpg
3.jpg

This is a collaboration for the holiday season, not a sponsored post. All the words, snd perspectives came from me.

CHRISTMAS TIME MULLED WINE

(Serves 6)

Time: 35 mins

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bottle RNW Cape Blend

  • 375ml fine ruby port, Taylor’s

  • 750ml cranberry juice, Ocean Spray

  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries

  • 1 large heirloom naval orange

  • 10g 70% dark chocolate, Lindt

  • 3 dashes cayenne pepper

  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 2 star anise

  • 2 tbsp cloves

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

DIRECTIONS

  • Slice away both ends of orange, and slice remaining in five parts. Gently crushed fresh cranberries with the back of a ladle.

  • Pour cranberry juice, fruits, dark chocolate, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon sticks in a medium-sized pot over medium high heat. Bring it to rolling boil for 5 minutes.

  • Turn hear to low, pour red wine, port, and add star anise, cayenne pepper into the pot. Put the lid on, simmer for 30 minutes, till you hear all the cranberries “pop” and softened.

  • Strain solids from the wine, and ladle it into heatproof glasses/ microwave oven safe mugs to serve. Alternatively, leave the pot out to cool overnight, and ladle into air tight glass jars. Refrigerate and store up to 3 days for a richer taste. Reheat in a microwave oven for 2 minutes to serve.

Happy holidays!Xx

-Ally

8 TIPS & TRICKS TO NAIL YOUR HOLIDAY GATHERING | RECIPE + GIVEAWAY!

1_edit.jpg

Hello December! This long-awaited holiday season is finally here. Time flies, and I am getting hitched in just a few days! You may call me Mrs Alicia Chow Kirwan by 10 December.*squeals*

Putting personal news announcement aside, this month is dedicated to spending quality time with enviable companies over bountiful of festive dishes. One of the best parts I remembered was hosting my family to the place where Ryan and I lived last year. It was a stressful experience being a host for the first time. In all honesty, I was slightly overwhelmed by my overachiever self. There were unforeseen challenges in planning a gathering that led me running around like a headless chicken last year. I could still feel that self-inflicted pressure and my heart palpitating wildly when I served just in time for my family.

By this point, I bethought to myself of my mistakes, and refined them by putting together “8 tips & tricks to nail your holiday gathering’’! It is a simple guide for you to refrain from my pitfalls, be organised and efficacious.

Download this FREE GUIDE here, if you’re considering to host your first holiday gathering, and still figuring out where to start.

This is a summarised version for you to print out and refer to anytime in an old fashioned way (instead of checking on your phone all the time).

I am a huge believer in taking achievable baby steps. The crux of planning a gathering is to be realistic with how much you can handle in terms the space, budget, and time. Once you’ve sorted that out, you can proceed to this ultimate guide below:

8 TIPS & TRICKS TO NAIL YOUR HOLIDAY GATHERING

25.jpg

  1. Consider the scale

  • The space in your house plays a determining role in the scale of your gathering. Are you thinking of an intimate dinner with a closed group of friends, or a massive party? The scale adds to your stress level. Remember, you want to enjoy the process of planning your gathering for not just one time. A comfortable number of guests will be between 4-6 pax for a good start. In this post, I’ve prepared for 4 pax including Ryan and I.

2. Colours set the mood

  • Colours set the mood and vibes of your gathering. Be it warm and rustic or cool and minimalistic, choose a scheme from the Pinterest universe that matches your home interior. Once you are set, it makes buying decisions for your table styling much easier and efficient later.

24.jpg
21.jpg

3. Plates are essential

  • Plates are the canvases to our home cook masterpieces, especially the ceramic ones. They play a long supporting role to our food stories over several occasions which we will reminisce and retell in future. So scrap the idea of using disposable plastic plates and utensils for temporary convenience. We are hopping onto the sustainability train to reduce waste and our carbon footprints this holiday. So where do we start? For myself, I invested a lean set of Luzerne’s tableware for four last year. You may call it my starter kit.

  • What affirmed my buying decision were two key aspects of sustainability this home-grown brand commits to; the environment and a long product lifetime.

    • The environment: Luzerne complies to global green initiatives to reduce carbon emissions by employing smarter manufacturing practices, and utilising more energy-efficient and environmentally- friendly materials.

    • Product lifetime: Luzerne’s tablewares are made from refined quality of Kaolin clay that contains no animal bone ash to resemble bone china. A sturdy touch displays it’s stronger quality than bone china, and its lasting craftsmanship promises excellence in heat resistance and chip resistance at extreme temperatures. Such conditions consist of freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher. This means that their products will not crack even when removed from the oven (180°C) and remained shine resilient for 5 years, with proper care and handling.

  • As for the price, they are actually not expensive when you’re paying for the intangibilities— supporting efforts of tackling climate change, religious concerns, animal welfare, safety and optimal hygiene as the plates are non-porous and do not absorb stubborn stains, grease, odours and bacteria. To throw the raddest gathering, you don’t need a ton of them of tableware. What you need are primarily the individual plates for the number of mouths to feed, and two to three communal plates for a good start.

  • If you’re a fellow Miss/Mr Practical like me, you would gravitate towards white plates for their practicality and versatility to match most colour schemes, special occasions or, even better, every day use! But wait, let’s go beyond some boundaries by selecting diverse textured or patterned white plates instead. After all, our homes are designed to be casual and tranquilise, solid white plates embody a rigid, and formal setting like in a hotel or fine dining restaurant. This is not what we are aiming for an intimate gathering. Also, the choice of a neutral palette creates a brilliant contrast with the foods plated on them, highlighting their textures, colours, and depth.

  • In this post, I’ve handpicked individual show plates and sharing platters from the Marble, Knit, and Urban collection to correspond with my minimalistic approach.

    • Individual plates: To achieve a soothing pleasure to the eyes, I picked a 16.5cm Round Couple Plate from the Urban Collection in Grey Web as show plate and layered with a 21 cm plate in Matt White from the Knit Collection.

    • Communal plates: If you’re looking for a “one size fits all” type of tableware, go for the 26cm Bowl from the Marble Collection. The bowl‘s unique structure caught my attention, it was love at first sight. Despite the shallow depth and wide circumference, it is unexpectedly appropriate and acceptable to serve stews, pasta, salads, roasts and chips!

    • Cup & Saucer: Holding a mug of steaming mulled wine in a cooling home enhances the Christmas atmosphere. My ideal taste of a home-brewed mulled wine has to be refrigerated for at least a night from the day of brewing and reheated before serving. Pouring the mulled wine into 170ml Cup & Saucer from the Marble Collection, followed by reheating them in a microwave ovens is a safe and convenient solution for me, as opposed to glassware.

17.jpg
4_edit.jpg
6_edit.jpg

4. Sharing is caring

  • Food tastes better when they are shared. For a intimate gathering, having guests to help themselves and pass around communal plates are primal and authentic acts of togetherness. Also, platters make your food looks good and presentable. 1 cheeseboard, 1 main, 2 sides, and 1 dessert should suffice for 6 pax. Don’t forget your wine and spirits to pair along.

5. Be a smart superwoman

  • If you’re preparing everything by yourself, time management is key. Learn about the dietary requirements from your guests first. Select recipes that you can cook without an oven because some of us don’t own one:/ Pre-cut some ingredients a night before to cut down preparation time on the next day.

  • Don’t feel embarrassed to purchase store-bought sauce for pasta or salad dressing. You’ve got to serve maybe 6 hard-to-please guests on time. You don’t have to make them hangry just because the idea of making everything from scratch is romantic.

22.jpg

6. Set only what you’ll use

  • Think about washing the dishes. Don’t set extra cutlery, plates and glassware, just because they look pretty. You will ended up confusing your guests. Only put necessary things on the table that will be used throughout. Set forks on the left, while spoons, knives and glassware on the right. Spend less time washing and more time chit-chatting with your guests.

23_edit.jpg
19_edit.jpg

7. Less is more

  • Mealtimes aren’t supposed to overwhelm everyone with clutter on the table. We are no playing Candy Crush here to clear the table. Avoid adding more wine bottles if your table can’t handle them. Everybody needs space to dine and relax. Put a trolley by the table, stack your stash of spirits, and ice buckets.

Presents 8.jpg
Presents 5.jpg
Presents 2.jpg

8. All about the details

  • Keep your flower centrepiece small to maintain eye contact with the person opposite, or you can set it aside on the table. If you’re feeling crafty, place a small gift and a handwritten card for your guests to take home. Intricacy gives you more brownie points for a host.

7_edit.jpg

Before I end this post, here’s a recipe of Poached Salmon Gift boxes with Orange and Rose Wine! For extra festive vibes, these salmon are wrapped into little gift boxes, and soaked in a herbaceous, umami bath. Level up! Within 20 minutes, you can serve your guests with sturdy, rosy pink salmon confidently without the fear that they crumble.

Thank you Luzerne for sponsoring this post and be part of my annual humble holiday gathering planning. Before I forget, we will be giving out a Luzerne matching set of tableware for a family of 2! Check out my instagram page @poutandchow for all the details to win!

POACHED SALMON GIFT BOXES WITH ORANGE AND ROSE WINE

(Serves 6)

Preparation time: 10 min

Cooking time: 18 min

INGREDIENTS

  • 710g fresh salmon, sliced into 10cm chunks

  • 250ml rose wine

  • 300ml organic white miso broth (1 heaping tsp miso paste dissolve in hot water)

  • 2 star anise

  • 3 small oranges, sliced

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 6 fresh chives

  • 2 pink radishes, sliced

  • Roast garlic and Cornish sea salt 

  • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine wine, miso broth, orange, 1 sprig thyme, star anise and pink peppercorns in a wide 28cm frying pan. Bring it to simmer over medium high heat. Add chives into cooking liquid to cook for 1 minute until just softened. Take them out and set aside while cooking liquid is still simmering.

  2. Season and rub both sides of salmon chunks with sea salt. Take a salmon and lay on one piece of chive. Take both ends of the chive and tie a ribbon over salmon. Repeat for the rest of the salmon chunks.

  3. Gently slide salmon chunks into cooking liquid and poach until flesh turn rosy pink, for 17 minutes over medium heat. When poaching at the 12 minute, scoop cooking liquid over the surfaces of salmon for them to fully absorb the flavours. 

  4. Cut the remaining thyme in 6 pieces. Gently slot radish slice and thyme to each salmon gift box. Lay orange slices at the base of the platter bowl, use a kitchen tong to place salmon gift boxes on top. Ladle cooking liquid over and serve.


Happy Holidays!Xx

-Ally

FORGET ME NOT + CHRYSANTHEMUM FLOWER TEA

10_edit.jpg

Hello rainy Monday! Let’s start this brand new week with a home brew flower tea shall we?

Within this aromatic flower tea mix, I’d combined Chrysanthemum and Myosotis Sylvantica (aka Forget-Me-Not) mainly for the functionality they serve in helping me to combat a bad flu last week.

Chrysanthemum is long known and used for treating respiratory problems in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and Forget-Me-Not is high in Vitamin C and boosts immunity.

Apart from their health properties, the delicate purple bloom is a beauty secret weapon. They support in skin nourishment and said to be an effective skin-whitening agent in lightening dark spots and wrinkles.

1_edit.jpg

Having a cup of home brewed tea from the flower buds infuses a round-bodied, and appealingly clean flavour as compared to tea bags in my opinion. It is absolutely soul-soothing to drink tea at 3-4pm, when it is time to walk around even if I am sedentary, when I completed my chores, when I return home from a big grocery trip.

For a refreshingly sweet and lively taste preference, pour hot flower tea brew over dried longans and a teaspoon of Chinese wolf berries. They are both great to boost “Qi”, our energy levels in another words. Allow them to steep for a couple of minutes, and you’ll get busy drinking and chewing on these natural sweeteners to perk you up!

3_edit.jpg
7_edit.jpg
8_edit.jpg
11_edit.jpg

Before I introduce the Myosotis Slyvatica + Chrysanthemum Beauty Tea recipe, I want to share with you about how I learned to have a true, loving relationship with myself by being acutely aware of what I eat currently.

It all started from my journey of self-employment; solely manning this blog and working on food styling jobs at the start of this year. Being my own system, I was preoccupied to getting things done and neglected myself. Even though my working hours are flexible, having irregular meals and poor quality of sleep were the stumbling blocks I have encountered for myself.

When food and sleep were poorly managed, my health paid a price. I was ill for a full week in February. Everything was put on hold and I had to turn down jobs. It was a massive bummer😔

I panicked, and I felt horrible and guilty for not taking responsibility over my health. Essentially, it’s a self-love and time-management problem to fix.

Ever since that mini lesson, I realised I couldn’t sabotage myself again. I started a routine to ensure I eat better at regular timings, and even forced myself to hit slumberland by 11pm.

We are what we eat, and our faces reflect how well we sleep.

If we want to look sharp, radiant, and beautiful from inside out, we ought to eat and drink fresh, natural, diverse foods, and have at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep a day. They definitely have an impact on our entire lives, our attitudes, our energy and emotions. Crazy huh? But very true.

With that said, I am going through a self-examination process, learning what foods allow me to perform better, think clearer and what foods to avoid another episode of sickness. Eating more leafy greens, removing red meats to unleash the vital goddess certainly takes a little practice. The more we practice to bring awareness of the foods we eat, the more we will eat intuitively!

After all, it is still a work in progress and I finally know what it means to feel a connection with my body- how to heal myself when it shuts down on me and how to nourish myself. I hope to share with all of you my journey in the upcoming recipes! Leave your comments or any recipe suggestions you’re hoping to learn for your overall well-being!

12_edit.jpg
9-2_edit.jpg

Have a lovely week!Xx

-Ally

FORGET ME NOT + CHRYSANTHEMUM FLOWER TEA  (1 litre pot of tea)


Brewing time: 8 mins 

INGREDIENTS

  • 5g dried white chrysanthemums (Tai Ju 胎菊)

  • 5g Myosotis Sylvantica (Forget-Me-Not 勿忘我)

  • 2 tsp Chinese wolf berry (goji berries 枸杞子)

  • 4 Thai dried longan flesh(龙眼肉)

  • 1 litre filtered water


DIRECTIONS

  • Boil water and allow it to cool for a minute to around 90-95℃.

  • Pour dried flower buds into the teapot and fill with hot water. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes till the buds bloom.

  • Add 2 longan and 1 tsp Chinese wolf berry into each mug. Pour flower tea mix, and let them steep for another 3 minutes. Enjoy! 

TIPS

  • For iced tea lovers, follow the same brewing directions and add in ice cubes. Always drink tea that is freshly brewed, best within half an hour. Do not leave it sitting around overnight as tea darkens and becomes sour and undrinkable.

  • All the above ingredients are available at Hock Hua Tonic #notsponsored

LION'S MANE MUSHROOM STIR-FRY WITH GINGER 姜丝炒猴头菇

4.jpg

Throughout my teenage years, I ate mostly at home to save extra more pocket money for shopping and movies 🤫. Also, when period strikes, I definitely head back for the home-cooked meals to assuage my menstrual cramps (aka primary dysmenorrhea) and bloated-ness. Every time mummy chow seems to keep a mental calendar of our period dates and prepare nourishing dishes to ease our discomfort and crankiness. Psst… she is more accurate than the ovulation tracker app!

One of the very effective dishes was Stir-Fry Pork and Liver with ginger. Pork liver is an iron replenishing food source and ginger is a natural pain relief. Putting them together in a dish is pure genius for healing isn’t it?

1.jpg

Why take ginger instead of painkillers to ease the cramps?

Ginger is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, and it is incredible in pain relief and stomach discomfort. Gingerol is the bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for some of its medical properties. Being a natural remedy loaded with nutrients supported by scientific research, ginger managed to reduce pain as effectively as the common painkiller ibuprofen (the pink pills). This is the reason why my mum emphasises on exposing me to ginger at a young age, and has never resort to taking painkillers for the temporary relief.

Now that I’m finally ruling my own kitchen, I took plenty of mental notes from my mother so that I can recreate her signature dish to heal myself at home. Instead of using pork and liver, I replaced them with Lion’s Mane mushrooms and a store bought vegetarian, mock liver made from yam. In my previous post, I’ve shared the nutrient profile of Lion’s Mane mushrooms and the reasons why they are perfect replacement of animal protein in cooking due to its texture.

This Lion’s Mane Mushroom Stir-fry with Ginger is an uber easy recipe you can cook on your own. If you have been shying away from ginger, don’t fret. Choose young ginger, they are juicy, less pungent and fleshy. The old counterpart is inevitably spicier and fibrous. Slice ginger like thin matchsticks and stir fry them in toasted sesame oil. This combination emanates a nutty aroma!

My family loves adding sauce in plain rice porridge, especially when it helps to gulp down the last few mouthfuls that we avoid to waste. Adding 1 cup of water into the mushroom and liver mixture, then let it simmer will form a thick, gingery sweet sauce. I dare to say that people are out to snatch the sauce first, before they serve themselves with the ingredients.

3.jpg
2.jpg
5.jpg

LION’S MANE MUSHROOM STIR FRY WITH GINGER  (Serves 2)

Preparation time: 5 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins 

INGREDIENTS

  • 300g frozen Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

  • 200g Vegetarian Mock Liver

  • 2 thumbs young ginger

  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

  • 3 tsp sweet dark soy sauce

  • ½ tsp white pepper

  • 1tsp light soy sauce

  • 2 tbsp Chinese shao xing wine

  • 1 sprig Chinese celery (aka Nan Ling)

  • 1½ cup Thai basmati rice grains

PREPARATION

  • Thaw Lion’s Mane mushrooms, soak them in a bowl of warm water to remove excess oil (if it comes marinated in a packet). Slice mushrooms and mock liver. 

  • Use a spoon to scrap off ginger skin. Slice them and cut them in thin matchsticks. 

  • Wash Chinese celery base thoroughly until soil bits are removed. Remove celery root and cut the rest in quarters. 

  • Rinse rice grains thoroughly by rubbing them in one palm in a clockwise direction. Drain the murky rice water, rinse the grains twice to remove as much arsenic in them. *Arsenic (As) accumulation in rice grains is a threat to human health and marketability of rice products, according to a scientific study. 

DIRECTIONS

  • To cook thin rice porridge, fill 9½ cups of filtered water in a stock pot. Pour washed basmati rice in and cook for 25-30 minutes over medium heat. The grains should be soft and slightly broken. There will be a layer of rice soup formed over porridge. Do not dispose away.  

  • While porridge is cooking, heat the non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Pour toasted sesame oil and ginger over. Cook ginger for 3-4 minutes, until they are lightly browned.

  • Add Lion’s Mane mushrooms and mock liver to the pan. Stir fry for 3 minutes. 

  • Add dark soy sauce, pepper, light soy sauce and shaoxing wine to the mixture. Toss and combine for 2 minutes till all ingredients are coated evenly with the sauce. Add 1 cup water over the mixture, turn heat down to low. Simmer, and let the mushrooms and liver absorb the sauce for 5 minutes. 

  • Add Chinese Celery over the mixture, toss and mix for 2 minutes and serve with rice porridge. 


NOTES

  • The consistency of rice porridge is dependent on the volume of water. Start with 9½ cups of water first for medium consistency, as water evaporates over time while boiling. Then add extra cup of boiling water to the porridge. Do not add room temperature water as it stops the boiling process. 

  • Thick consistency: 1½ cup rice to 8½ cup water

  • Medium consistency: 1½ cup rice to 9½ cup water

  • Thin consistency: 1½ cup rice to 10½ cup water

Enjoy!Xx

- Ally