gravy

I was asked how to do ‘real’ gravy recently, and this seemed the right place to put it. It’s somewhat chicken-and-egg – for the perfect gravy you need to have had a previous roast from which to get your stock. And so the cycle continues. If you don’t have a decent home-made stock, and it’s not always possible, I’m a big fan of these two Knorr products: Stock Pots and Touch of Taste. Stock Pots for just pure stock, Touch of Taste for just a splash of intense flavour here and there. They’re both extremely tasty, and definitely the next best thing.

Make sure you cook everything in a decent roasting tray, as it’s going to end up on the hob – a cheap baking tray might not survive. Deep sides will help you out a lot too.

Moving on, the gravy starts when you’re roasting meat. I chuck spare veg in the roasting tray under the meat, which acts as both a flavouring and a trivet to prevent the joint sticking to the pan. As for the veg itself, if I have the luxury of choice I’d have a halved onion, a couple of halved peeled carrots, a couple of broken sticks of celery, a head of garlic separated into cloves, and a bay leaf. Any root veg alongside onions will do, experiment and find the mix that works for you. Anyway, bung the meat on top of the veg and as it cooks the fat will dribble out and gently roast it all.

Once the meat is cooked to your liking, put it to one side, resting in a warm place while you get on with the gravy proper. Put the roasting tray on the hob and whack the heat up high. If you can, spoon off some of the oil floating on top. If you can’t, it’s no big deal. Start pushing and scraping at the veg to start unsticking it from the tray. At this point add a rounded dessert spoon of plain flour and grind it around until you can’t see it. This is the time you need to add stock. If you’re not sure, add more rather than less. What a dismal dinner, to run out of gravy :( I usually use around a pint for about 4 people. This should start bubbling furiously, and will help lift the browned vegetable matter from the dish. Keep having at it with a wooden spoon, pushing at the base of the tray and soon everything will be loose. Dig at the veg occasionally, smashing it a bit so it breaks up. These tiny plant bits will give real body and flavour to the finished gravy.

After a few minutes, it will be bubbly and probably dark in colour. You’ll need to taste it here (carefully, it’s hot!) and add salt and pepper as required. Let it bubble a bit longer if you’d prefer it a little thicker. Note for next time: if this isn’t thick enough for you you could’ve added a spoonful more flour earlier. If it tastes meaty, a little salty and rich, we’re ready!

Sieve it off into a jug, pushing at all the veg matter with your wooden implement. Again that fibrous stuff will give real texture to the meat juice. I often prepare this as soon as the meat is done, then (whisper it) microwave the gravy at the last minute.

All this aside, keep Bisto in the cupboard. You never know when you’ll get caught short.

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