Smell is one of our most evocative senses. Imagine the smell of Crayola crayons and jelly babies, and you are transported to the Junior Infants classroom in your local primary school, or the odour of wet dog that will make you crave a 99 like you’re in the back of the car after a day at the beach. There’s a reason for this; our olfactory system, which processes smells, is unique in that it is directly linked to the limbic system, where emotions are created in the brain. This means that the link between scent and emotion is particularly strong. And there’s nothing more distinctive than the smells we associate with Christmas; cloves and clementine, cinnamon and ginger, wafting out from a warm kitchen in December.
The scent of Christmas floods us with nostalgia, giving us that warm fuzzy feeling as you curl up on the couch in front of a good Christmas film. Although you can use a sickly-sweet candle to imitate these aromas, I prefer the real thing, be it in a bubbling saucepan of glossy mincemeat, or this gorgeous mulled wine, adapted from Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles book. I encourage you to give it a go; most of the spices are easily found in the supermarket at this time of year, and the lingering fragrance in your kitchen will be well worth it. This recipe serves six people, but obviously can be adjusted for however many people are in your household. If you would prefer to make this non-alcoholic, simply omit the vodka, be a bit more generous with the lemon and orange juice and replace the red wine with a non-alcoholic grape juice alternative like Shloer.
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
750ml bottle of red wine
1 tbsp honey or sugar
- Put the ingredients into a large pot. You can juice the lemon and orange, or simply just add a slice or the peel. The choice is yours.
- Heat the mixture slowly; do not allow to boil.
- Leave heated on the hob until you want to serve it. You can then ladle it into cups or glasses, leaving in or omitting the spices and fruit as desired.