At the start of the festive season, I always fly to Munich to see my father. He is 98 years old, still going strong and still telling me off, which is a good sign.
After my mother passed away, he married Tina who comes from a long line of great Bavarian bakers. Every Christmas she bakes different varieties of traditional German Christmas biscuits including lebkuchen which she stores in tins before my arrival. We package them together, in boxes, tied with ribbons, and delivery them in person to the local community including doctors, nurses and the fire brigade. It’s a wonderful tradition to continue.
I adore the German markets and always visit them at this time. The town looks like a fairy tale, surrounded with wooden chalets that remind me of gingerbread houses of Hansel and Gretel. Each little chalet is packed to the rafters with all sorts of sweets, marzipans, sheepskin rugs and anything you could want to make Christmas a little cosier back home. The scent of Gluhwein, the warm sweet wine, is ever present in the markets.
Bavaria has endless snow-capped villages and is truly picture perfect! My father has a huge outdoor Christmas tree by the gate, decorated with gold lights and a wonderful roaring fire inside to keep us warm. My bed is very old and too comfortable to get out of. Church bells wake you up at 6 am which is lovely to listen to. My stepmother , Tina, cooks everything from scratch and offers delectable treats so I am very fortunate in that department. She is an excellent caring gardener and grows all her own vegetables and berries, makes jams and lovely fresh vegetable soup most nights with her own baked bread. I like to pick up some trinkets to take back every year to my home and family in London be it a bauble or decoration. This is great little memorabilia to look back on events and travels. Life can be very beautiful if we focus on the positives and the small pleasures in life.
Gluhwein Recipe for those who are interested:
The German Gluhwein is traditionally from Germany and it means glow wine, a feeling of glowing inside. You drink it in porcelain cups all through December. It has eight ingredients.
1/2 medium orange
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar
20 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole star anise
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine
Rum or amaretto, for serving (optional)
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in wide strips, taking care to avoid the white pith; set aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside.
Combine the water and sugar in a large, nonreactive saucepan and boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and add the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, and orange juice. Simmer until a fragrant syrup forms, about 1 minute.
Reduce the heat further and add the wine. Let it barely simmer for at least 20 minutes but up to a few hours. Keep an eye out so that it doesn't reach a full simmer.
Strain and serve in small mugs, adding a shot of rum or amaretto and garnishing with the orange peel and star anise if desired.
Zum Wohl as they say in Germany