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Category Archives: Hot and cold drinks

Guest Post : Claire Maycock’s “Wassail”

Wassail  cups


Whilst English and French cuisine are often separated by more than just a body of water, there is one festive tradition that unites that most British of beverages – ale – with a generous serving of French brandy to achieve a true entente cordiale!

The word ‘wassail’ comes from the Old English ‘waes hael’, meaning ‘be healthy’ or ‘good health to you’, and the wassailing tradition can be traced as far back as the 11th century in the South and West of England.

Groups of villagers (usually women or children, but occasionally rowdy young men) would go door to door visiting the homes of the local gentry and offering them a song and a drink from the wassail bowl in return for a gift or payment. This is the origin of the old carol ‘Here We Come A-Wassailing’ with its beautiful chorus:

“Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.”

The custom was also adopted by some agricultural communities who would pour wassail over the roots of fruit trees to bless them and ensure a healthy harvest for the following year:

“Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a plum, and many a peare:
For more or lesse fruits they will bring
As you doe give them wassailing.”

The exact timing of wassailing parties seems to have varied from Christmas Eve through to Twelfth Night, depending on local practice, so it’s a flexible as well as a jolly tradition that will see you right through to 2014.

Wassail main ingredients


  • Three apples
  • One orange
  • The rind of one lemon
  • 1oz (60g) butter
  • 3oz (90g) brown sugar
  • Two Cinnamon sticks
  • A pinch of Ginger
  • Two whole Nutmegs
  • A pinch of Cloves
  • Two pints of English beer
  • Half a pint of dry white wine (you could use French although I used Italian)
  • One cup of French brandy

Wassail preparation


  • Cut the apples into slices, removing the seeds. Slice the orange and grate the rind from the lemon.
  • Gently melt the butter over a low heat then add the sliced fruit, lemon rind, sugar and spices and stir for a few minutes while the flavours combine.

Wassail prep2

  • Add all of the liquid and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
  • Ladle into serving cups, taking care to remove the nutmeg and cinnamon sticks first.

Wassail pre3

Your wassail will taste even better if made in advance and then gently reheated just before serving. You can vary the spices to suit your taste, try mulling cider or apple juice instead of beer or substitute sherry for wine  if you prefer a sweeter drink. The main thing is that you enjoy your wassail in good company, offering a toast of ‘waes hael’ and receiving the traditional reply of “drinc hael’, meaning drink well!


Claire Maycock is a writer, reiki practitioner and local history enthusiast who moved to Wiltshire at the beginning of 2013. Her blog, ‘Raking the Moon’, is about life in this fascinating county both past and present and looks at country customs, places of interest and current events. To find out more, please visit


One French word: à l’ancienne, a French recipe: chocolat chaud à l’ancienne

Here in Quimper we have a lively cultural season, especially in winter, incuding a series of solo concerts which are entitled “Concerts au chocolat”. We also have one of the best chocolatiers  in France (check out their website, they deliver all over the world). They come to the concert and serve us a cup of chocolat chaud à l’ancienne, and a little saucer with two beautiful chocolates. Their chocolat chaud is thick, rich and creamy, and very hot. Their chocolates are mouthwatering.

 The French language bit:

A l’ancienne (invariable adverbial phrase) = old-style, old-fashioned, traditional (pronounced a laan syenne, one hardly hears the first n at all), 

anything that is made as it was yesteryear, anything that tastes good just as it did in times gone by. It is always nostalgic: ex:  de la moutarde à l’ancienne (usually with whole mustard seeds), and is good marketing. The term is often used in recipes and cooking to denote traditional methods.

My recipe is a real chocolat chaud à l’ancienne = old-fashioned hot chocolate. Nothing like it.

Chocolat chaud à l’ancienne

For two people (two tea-cups) you will need:

  • 325 ml milk of full cream milk (not UHT please)
  • 35gr of dark chocolate squares (I got my cooking chocolate from the Comptoir du Chocolat, see link above)
  • 1 ½ tbs powdered drinking chocolate (slightly sweetened)
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground coriander
  • 1 heaped tbs of thick cream
  • some sweetened whipped cream and a little extra powdered chocolate



  1. In a saucepan which will not be damaged by a whisk, heat the milk with the dark chocolate, powdered chocolate and spices. It is important to use a whisk and not a spoon or a fork.
  2. Whisking vigorously all the time, melt the chocolate and heat the milk to nearly boiling.
  3. Add the thick cream and whisk again. The mixture should be frothy.
  4. Pour into pretty cups with pretty saucers (not old mugs) and top with whipped cream sprinkled with a little powdered chocolate.

I think you will quickly find you are in heaven. But a little goes a very long way.

Chocolat chaud

Chocolat chaud

Bon appétit.

One French word: jus, a (French) recipe: jus vitaminé

Jus, masculine noun (le jus, du jus, des jus) = juice (pronounce with a very soft j and a French u; the s is not heard, of course).

Un jus can also be used colloquially for a coffee, un jus de chaussette is bad coffee (sock juice).

Le jus can mean electric current: prendre un coup de jus = to receive an electric shock.

I felt like juice today. Just juice. Lots of vitamins. Un jus vitaminé. So I’m not inventing anything, but I got my juicer out and experimented. I have a Philips juicer, which although still boring to clean, is the easiest I’ve come across. The Magimix juicer I had before that vibrated so much that it cracked itself (just outside the guarantee period of course…).

Idées d’ingrédients pour le jus

I wanted a pretty juice, which means I could not use the lettuce and other salads I had in the fridge; they don’t look good unless you use them alone (or with ginger and apple), and they don’t taste that good either. So I used a whole large raw beetroot, some apples, and some carrots. Not overly inventive. Although my machine’s instructions tell me I don’t need to peel and core, I don’t fancy that, so I peeled and cored everything. Then I got four glasses out, juiced the vegetables and fruits separately into the juicer jug,  2 apples, then 2 carrots, then the beetroot, so that the colours did not mix, and put the juice in three of the glasses.

Trois jus

You can see how much was produced: the beetroot produced by far the most juice, followed by the apple, the carrot coming in last. I tasted each juice separately, the beetroot was a bit harsh, but sweet at the same time; one could drink it alone. The carrot and the apple were delicious, of course, very sweet. So then I mixed half carrot-half beetroot (very good), and half apple-half beetroot (very good), and then one third beetroot, one third carrot, one third apple (the best). Adding a squeeze of lime didn’t improve it.

Jus vitaminé

My Philips machine’s instructions tell me I can use the residual pulp for making cakes or jam. I’ve never tried that. I should really. Have any of you?

The sun is out, I have deep red juice for my lunch, and I feel very virtuous.

Do you have any good combinations, anything a bit more exotic?

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