Bia Sasta made her own version of sahlab - looks delicious!

Some winter warmers for your tummy

Autumn is truly here and with the recent time change, the evenings are getting dark earlier. Perfect for a cosy time in front of the fire with some warming drinks to enjoy while putting your woollen socks feet up!

Warm drinks don’t have to be limited to tea or coffee – mulled apple juice is just as delicious as mulled cider.

Simply pour some good quality apple juice (Ballyhoura Apple Farm actually sells apple juice already spiced for heating up and it is ever so tasty) in a pan, add cinnamon sticks, apple and orange slices and in case you got a tart apple juice, maybe add some honey.

Heat it over a low heat and let everything in the pan hug each other and infuse their beautiful aromas. Pour into cups and serve.

In case you do like mulled cider, simply swap the juice for cider and add a dash of brandy to the mix. For a mulled cider, I wouldn’t use a sweet cider like Rockwell or Bulmers but a semi dry like Stonewell or – if you prefer a more earthy note – Longueville House cider.

For an alcohol-free mulled wine, I like to mix apple and orange juice in equal measures (again, try to get good quality – it makes all the difference) and like the mulled apple juice, add orange, lemon and apple slices with cinnamon sticks, cloves and honey (if needed).

The result is satisfying, tasty and will give your tummy a big hug.

Last December, when I visited Berlin for a few days, I went to a Christmas market and came across a stall that offered a drink called sahlab (I hope I spelled that correctly) which was a warm milk drink made with orchid root flour.

Now as everyone who knows me will know, I am rather curious about things so I went and got myself a cup. The milk was smooth with a bit of texture but not like a custard sauce with a hint of rose water and spices.

It warmed not only my very cold hands (the air was freezing cold) but also received a warm welcome from my tummy. It was one of the most comforting drinks I ever had.

And since my curiosity got the better of me, I inquired about the drink. So, the original version stems from Middle Eastern countries and orchid root flour is used widely in these countries while people outside who might not be able to get hold of the flour simply use cornstarch (apparently, Turkish shops in Germany sell a ready-made mix for this drink but I was told not to bother with it – although you can buy it online).

The lovely gentleman gave me some pointers and I have to say that his version only tasted slightly more aromatic than mine made with cornflour.

Pour 250g of milk (he said to use full fat milk but I used low fat and it worked just fine), add ¾ teaspoon of cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey, a few drops of vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon (plus extra for later) – instead of vanilla you can use orange blossom water or rose water and instead of cinnamon you could use green cardamon (I don’t like things too floral so vanilla and cinnamon is my preferred choice).

Mix well and heat over a low to medium heat, stirring all the time, and bring it to a boil. Keep stirring while the milk mix starts to become slightly thicker (you don’t want it to become custard). Pour into a cup or glass and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top (you can double the milk for two portions but be careful doubling the aromatics – keep tasting).

Trust me, it’s delicious!