By Deepa Alfano –
My favorite time of the year is undoubtably the Fall and Winter holiday seasons. Coming from a climate which is almost frozen and beautifully picturesque at this time of year, I have held onto my lifelong traditions of creating hot mulled wines, steaming Christmas puddings with lashings of hot custard and most importantly, the spices.
There is something special and nostalgic about the woody fragrance of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and star anise which get me in the mood for the holidays. The seasonal produce of earthy vegetables and ripe fruits at this time of year are complemented with these robust spices.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate spices into your holiday cooking…
Brings out a sweet richness to foods, especially creamy desserts and drinks. Grate fresh nutmeg atop your eggnog or latte. Stir into your sweet potato casserole.
Most definitely a festive looking spice! With its licorice undertones, it partners well with poaching syrups such as for mulled wines / ciders. Try adding a couple of stars to a tray of roasted vegetables. See the recipe below for inspiration
During the holidays I like to use cloves in both sweet and savory dishes. Use whole cloves to stud the outside of a ham before baking. Remember to remove before eating though! A clove studded orange also looks beautiful in a fragrant pot pourri or in a pot of steaming mulled wine.
With its sweet, earthy fragrance, cinnamon is used frequently in holiday dishes. Try using a cinnamon stick to stir a hot cup of cider or sprinkle on top of hot chocolate for a festive taste! A bunch of cinnamon sticks tied with a pretty ribbon also makes a pretty addition to your festive decorations!
Spicy roasted squash
Roasting brings out the sweetness of the squash – delicious as an antipasto or blitzed into a soup
1 delicata squash – diced
1 butternut squash – diced
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
3 tablespoons of olive oil salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350f
In a large bowl, toss all of the ingredients together.
Spread in a single layer, onto a baking sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes until tender.
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