Orange wine for dark days
The apricot wine is more of an after-dinner drink, a ‘digestif’, made with dried apricots—if you can find them, use the luscious dried Afghan apricots
We’re heading towards the turn of the year when the days in Delhi can be very similar to the days in Edinburgh—gloomy, damp, dark; lacking in light and colour. The Scots have a wonderful word for it—dreich—a moniker so perfectly descriptive and onomatopoeic that when the writer Robert Macfarlane put it on Twitter as his word of the day recently, it went viral. I’m not sure if Indian languages have a similar word but the one I hear most at this time of the year is “smog”.
It’s hard to stay upbeat when the weather is so grim, especially if you catch some of the coughs and sniffles that love to strike at this time. It’s hugely tempting to wrap yourself in a duvet with several box sets and hide away until spring. Another way, and the one I embrace at this time, is to focus on the joy that the end of the year can bring—Christmas (if you celebrate it) and New Year, generally a time for family gatherings, feasting and merry-making.
It helps to get into a festive frame of mind if you make some treats now, store them away and then produce them with a flourish when time has worked its magic on them. Like the Christmas pudding which should be made at the end of November and fed with brandy every week until it makes its grand entrance on Christmas Day.
This year I’ve also made some special drinks that will hopefully keep the festive season fizzing with little honeyed, fruity mouthfuls. They are a great way to capture the fruits of the season, like the oranges that are at their best right now. You could use kinnow oranges or sweet lime, the lovely green skin contrasting with the orange flesh as the fruits macerate.
The apricot wine is more of an after-dinner drink, a “digestif”, made with dried apricots—if you can find them, use the luscious dried Afghan apricots. Both drinks take minutes to assemble, followed by some time on a shelf. The magic happens while your back is turned and every time you catch a glimpse of them quietly waiting on the shelf, jars crammed with sunshine and sweetness that are guaranteed to brighten even the worst smoggy, dreich days.
Come the appointed moment, they should be sipped from tiny glasses (they are quite potent) while reflecting on good food, friends and good fortune.
1 bottle of dry white wine, 750ml
500g sweet limes
1/2 a glass of brandy
You will need a large, sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid and bottles for storing the wine.
Wash and dry the sweet limes and lemons thoroughly. Cut them into pieces and put them in a large jar. Pour the wine over it. Put the lid on the jar and leave for two weeks to macerate.
Then tip the contents of the jar into a large pan and add the sugar. Gently heat over a low flame—the wine shouldn’t boil. When it is almost boiling, add the brandy.
Pour through a sieve, decant into bottles and cool completely, then use a lid or cork to seal.
Leave the wine for at least a week before tasting. Serve very cold with a twist of sweet lime zest.
Spiced apricot liqueur
350g dried apricots
3 star anise
5 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon quills broken in half
Small bottle of sweet white wine, like Muscat, about 375ml
3 tbsp brandy
You will need a large, sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Put the apricots in a large pan with the star anise, cardamom pods and cinnamon. Add the sugar and 200ml water. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Pour the apricots, spices and water into a large sterilized jar. Pour in the sweet wine and brandy, then seal with a tight-fitting lid. Leave in a cool, dark place for a month. The drink will last for a good few months. And when the liqueur is finished, the remaining boozy apricots will make a great treat with some yogurt, ice cream or panna cotta.
The Way We Eat Now is a fortnightly column on new ways of cooking seasonal fruits, vegetables and grains.
Pamela Timms tweets @eatanddust