When I studied abroad in North Carolina, the coffee shops on campus started selling hot apple cider around this time of year. Was feeling ill one day on the way to class and decided to try one, thinking it was strange the teetotal campus was selling cider in the cafe. But American cider is essentially warmed apple juice mixed with a concoction of spices. I felt myself becoming better the more I drank. There was something so wintery and American about the sweet spicy drink, I tried to recreate it at home in Deal.
As the fruit and spices are heated throughout the day, the house becomes infused with warm christmassy smells. If we could bottle the smell, we’d probably make a fortune this time of year. The only downside is the colour it turned out to be, but don't let that put you off. The drink turned out to be a pretty good attempt at the hot cider, refreshing and warming we’ll be keeping a batch on hand throughout the winter.
Wash the fruit and roughly chop into quarters, remove orange peel. Place the fruit into slow cooker with the spices, cover with water but allow a small gap at the top.
Cook on a high heat for 3-4 hours or a low heat for 6-8 hours. An hour before the end, use a potato masher to mash up the fruit. Finish cooking for another hour.
Pour the liquid through a strainer. Serve the cider warm and sweetened with honey or syrup to your taste. The cider can be stored in the fridge for up to five days.
Bare with us on this one. You wouldn't necessarily think these two things would go, but the chocolate compliments the mince meat flavours really nicely, and brings out the richness in each element. The recipe calls for you to make way more brownie mix than is needed for the mince pies, but we just baked the rest in a tin. I think we’ve now found our perfect brownie recipe, they're so gooey and chocolatey. The best texture, incredible taste and of course very bad for you.
Preheat the oven to 175C/155C for fan ovens and chill the cases in the fridge while you make the brownie mix.
Roll the chilled pastry onto a floured surface about 3mm thick. Cut out discs using a pastry cutter or a cup. Then grease a 12 hole muffin tin, and place the discs inside. There should be a little pastry sticking out.
Melt the butter and syrup in a pan, then stir in the golden caster sugar. Stir for a while making sure the sugar is dissolved. Then take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate, mix in the eggs thoroughly and add the flour slowly.
Add a teaspoon of mincemeat to all pastry cases, then spoon in a teaspoon of your brownie mix and push gently till flat.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the brownie has formed a dry topping.
Allow to cool a little and then turn out, serve with a dusting of icing sugar and a mug of warm cider!