Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Winter smells

I don't know about you, but I love all sorts of smells. In fact, as a perfume lover, I am surprised that I never fell in love sooner. Even as a small child I used to smell everything, and used to embarrass my parents in restaurants when I would lift a plate of food to my face and sniff it in front of everyone! I can seldom not stop when out walking and pull a flower to my nose to sniff, or crush a herb between my figures to savour the aroma. 

Some of you might not be surprised to read that I love food. My parents owned a restaurant when we were growing up and both of them loved to cook. It wasn't fine-dining, Michelin-star stuff, but our family has always appreciated food and drink, some might say to our detriment, shape-wise, from time to time!

I love the smell of the seasons, and the change of seasons. Each has it's own distinct feel, atmosphere and smell. Of course I love the smells of spring, summer and autumn, but seeing as we are entering winter proper now, I thought I would touch on a few smells that I associate with this season.

The two pictures I have uploaded are food-wise some of my favourites of the season. I am no photographer, so I apologise in advance  - these are more appetizing in real life, I promise! Top left is the initial stage of preparing chickpea and chorizo stew, with prawns. Now, I know, I know. Those aren't chickpeas, they are cannellini beans, but I didn't have any chickpeas on this occasion. Admittedly, I eat this dish at any time of year, but there is something about the creaminess of beans, the salty-spicy kick of sausage, the smokiness of paprika and the minerality (is there such a word?) of seafood that just feels right to me on a cold, dark winter evening, washed down with a crisp wine. 

The second picture is of loads of dried fruits steeping or macerating in rum. This is the initial phase of our Christmas cake, which has become somewhat of a tradition in our family. The recipe is somewhat unusual in that it uses rum, calvados and Angostura bitters for the booziness, rather than the usual brandy, but it is delicious! The fruits included raisins, sultanas, prunes, currants, glace cherries and candied orange, lime and lemon peel, which macerate in the rum for 3 to 4 days. Added to this mix thereafter is nutmeg, mixed spice, cinnamon, black treacle, muscovado sugar, flour and eggs. When the cake has baked and cooled, one feeds it with some more rum over the next couple of days, according to taste of course! This lasts for ages and is a great pick-me-up in the new year, once the exuberance of Christmas has passed and one only has those long, cold and dark January nights for company, with a whisky of course!

Speaking of whisky, there is nothing I like more on a cold winter evening than a wee dram of single malt, my choice being Laphroaig, the peaty, iodine-like, smoky whisky that is not to everyone's taste. Those aromas and tastes fit so well with winter to me.

So, there you have it, a little insight into my winter food smells. Of course, there are a lot of other smells I like in winter, such as the clean freshness of snow, pine, orange, woodsmoke, wintersweet and many others. However I mention foods because I find December so intrinsically linked to eating and drinking.

As this is a perfume blog, I wanted to try and link some of these foods and smells to perfume. Well, the boozy fruits remind me of a number of Serge Lutens creations. I struggled to think of any perfume that smells a bit like sausage, seafood and beans! Perhaps you could suggest one? As for smoky whisky, for some reason I think of leathery fragrances, and also of Montale. I think in the case of Laphroaig it might be that medicinal, iodine edge which is similar to the oud openings of many Montales.

So, tell me what you think. Do you also enjoy smelling for the sake of it? What food reminds you most of the winter months, particularly Christmas? Do you enjoy  whisky, or do you have another favourite seasonal tipple?


  1. I love the smell of mulled wine (or anything esle that has cinammon and clove in it) in the winter time, even though I don't drink it much as I don't really like to eat or drink sweet stuff.
    I do love whisky though. :) Not Laphroaig so much (it really is a bit too smoky for my taste) but I don't mind finding a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black or Chivas, or Glenlivet in my cupboard. ;)

  2. Ines, thanks for the comment. I like cinnamon but must admit I find cloves a bit overpowering. Speaked of mulled wine, have you ever tried mulled cider? It is a nice alternative.

    I'm glad you like whisky. There are so many good ones out there that one could blog on that subject probably as extensively as we do on perfume!

  3. Would you share the recipe for chickpea and chorizo stew with prawns, please? :) Sounds just right, right now.

  4. Marina, the stew is quite simple really. I fry onions and garlic with the chorizo, until the red paprika sausage juices run free. I also add a bit of cumin and coriander seeds, and sometimes some cubed carrot. To this I add chopped tomatoes (usually canned in winter) and a bit of chicken stock or water. I add the rice at this point and simmer away with the chickpeas added at the same time. When the rice has cooked (not to a porridgy mush) and the sauce has reduced (but I prefer it a bit more runny) I add the prawns for a couple of minutes to cook and finish with some herbs (perhaps some coriander or thyme) and a squeeze of lime juice. Depending on the intensity of the chorizo, which can vary from mild to spicy-hot, I add a teaspoon or more of smoked paprika at the start, but this can overpower the other flavours, so balance is essential. I suppose in a way it is cooked a bit like paella really. Yum!

  5. your dishes sound fabulous! I adore chorizo. And that cake - fantastic! Smells of the season - well, a freshly cut holiday tree, mostly. I love whiskey too - Jameson's is my top choice. Thanks for this wonderful post.

  6. Michael, sounds so delicious, thank you!

  7. Frida, thank you. I love chorizo too, as you might gather and I love it fried as well, until it goes all crispy, eaten with some rocket (Arigula) on a roll. Jameson's is a good choice!



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