My sty-mate The Tippler's cup is running over this week, so it's my role to report on the soft drink overflow. An unintoxicating alternative to mulled wine is Belvoir Winter Berries cordial, a blend of elderberry (20 per cent), blackberry and orange juices with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to give it a seasonally spicy appeal. Just add hot water. It's suggested you can add it to whisky or rum for a hot toddy, but I'll save it for non-drinkers, and drivers, or to have with mince pies in the middle of the afternoon just before the first sherry of the day. A 37.5cl bottle for £2.50 from independent food stores (01476 870286 for stockists) makes four litres.
Also purple, refreshing and non-alcoholic, Blueberry Juice from The Dorset Blueberry Company, is made with berries from Dorset and apples from Kent, with no added sugars, additives or preservatives. It costs around £2.99 for a 75cl bottle. Drink it on its own, add to champagne or vodka, pour some into mulling wine, or add spices and sugar and warm on its own. However you use it, it's healthy. Blueberries, like elderberries, are high in vitamin C and antioxidants – call it purple pros. Can't see any cons. Except that it's not in Waitrose until January. Until then, look up stockists on www.dorset-blueberry.co.uk or ring 01202 579342.
Talking of The Tippler, Michael Jackson has won two more awards to add to this year's collection. In the 2001 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, in France, his Scotland and its Whiskies (photographs by Harry Cory Wright) won the category for the Best Book on Spirits written in English. He has also won the Pewter Tankard of the British Guild of Beer Writers for stories in The Independent, bar magazine Class and the Beerhunter website. Earlier this year, he won awards in Finland and Italy.
Chestnuts are a pain to peel; they play havoc with fingernails or trotters, which means we don't appreciate – or cook with – them as much as we should. Buy them ready-peeled and you may find more uses for them than adding to stuffings and distracting from the sprouts. Sierra Rica, based near ancient, organic chestnut woods in southern Spain, sells cooked and peeled chestnuts in jars. You'll find them in Waitrose and Planet Organic at £2.29 for a 200g jar. Another source of easy-to-use chestnuts: Somerfield have Porters Foods' vacuum-packed whole, peeled and cooked Spanish chestnuts in 250g boxes for £2.30.
As the lights twinkle in the gloaming, the steamy breath issues from under traders' bobble hats, and the Salvation Army's choir and mournful brass section reaches their crescendo, food shopping in a street market is part of the essence of Christmas. At Borough Market, off Borough High Street, London SE1, the Thames Philharmonic Choir sing carols at lunchtime today. To spread the stampede of foodies shopping between now and Christmas, next week the market is open on Thursday, 20 December as well as the usual Friday and Saturday. There will be stalls on 23 and 24 December, too. Traders include Ginger Pig meat, Wyndham Farm Poultry, Brindisa Spanish produce and Turnips fruit and veg all these days, and more on Fridays and Saturdays.Reuse content