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Basic Recipes > Gravy 10 December 2006

Posted by cath in comfort food, general info, Recipes, specials.
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 Onion Gravy

Onion Gravy

Home made gravy is the best. Much trial and error has gone into my gravy creations over the years, but even my least successful gravy beats those Bisto granules hands down. There are several things to consider when thinking of making your own gravy…

Gravy for a Roast

If you’re making a roast, then making some gravy is quite easy and is definitely worth a try, it’s a good place to start building up your gravy-making skills:

  • A swift de-glaze of the roasting dish (with half a glass of wine, port, a dash of brandy, stock or water)
  • Add a little flour (1-2 tsp) if the juices left in the dish are very fatty (and it will give a thicker gravy)
  • Then add the meat juices from the rested joint and heat well, stirring or whisking to combine
  • Add some fresh or dried herbs such as thyme or rosemary
  • Add more water and continue to boil together rapidly until the consistency is as desired (preferably use water reserved from cooking the vegetables as this will have more flavour)
  • Taste and season with pepper, adding sweetness with a pinch of sugar if necessary.

Your gravy will probably be thinner than the instant stuff, but as long as you keep tasting it and have a good flavour, don’t worry about the thickness too much.
Keep practicing – you’ll soon become the gravy expert.

Advanced Gravy

But what if you want some gravy for sausage and mash, or haggis, neeps and tatties – you have no roasting tray and no meat juices…the answer is that you have to start with a base (i.e. onions), and some freezer store items come in very handy.

Here’s how you do it:

You will need…

  • 1 sliced onion (white or red)
  • A dash of white or red wine, or port, or brandy (or water)
  • 1 ice-cube home made beef stock (all my making stock tips are from Rose Prince and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – so check out their books) dissolved in a few tablespoons water (or a splash of concentrated store-bought stock, more if it’s diluted)
  • 1 teaspoon roast tomato puree (I have 1 tsp portions of homemade tomato puree frozen in ice cube trays for this, you could use shop-bought rather than homemade)
  • Vegetable (cooking) water – if you’re boiling potatoes, reserve some of the starchy water – this is perfect for gravy, but any other vegetable cooking water will also work
  • Pepper, dried herb (thyme or rosemary is best – you can use fresh if you have some)

Method:

  1. Fry the onion on a low-medium heat in a small frying pan with very little oil (1 tablespoon is plenty for a big onion) until soft and browned (at least 10-15 minutes to make sure it is well cooked).
  2. A few minutes before you need the gravy, turn the heat up in the pan and add the alcohol (or water) to de-glaze the pan, and reduce to a thick glaze.
  3. Add the stock and a bit of water and again reduce well on a high heat.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree and allow to bubble.
  5. Sprinkle in some freshly ground pepper and 1 tsp dried herbs.
  6. De-glaze any other frying pans with a splash of water and add this to the gravy (e.g. if you’ve been cooking sausages in a dry frying pan, it’s a good idea to get the caramelised juices from this pan into the gravy).
  7. Taste the gravy. Don’t be tempted to add salt! But test it for flavour and consistency.  As the gravy reduces on the heat, you may need to add more water – use the potato (or vegetable) cooking liquor at this stage if you can – add a few splashes at a time, checking the consistency until it is runny but not watery.
  8. Adding sugar, balsamic vinegar, pepper, more herbs, lemon juice or a very tiny splash of soy sauce can help with flavour if needed – but the more caramelised juices you can add, the less likely this will be necessary.
  9. Pour the finished onion gravy into a jug and serve.

Sausage, mash, veg and onion gravy

Pure winter comfort food:

Sausage, mash, cabbage, carrots and onion gravy!

Other options:

Have you tried cooking sausages in the oven? You can sometimes buy huge Cumberland sausage rings which work best cooked in the oven – and better on a trivet of unpeeled, halved onions. You can also try this with normal sausages – the larger the better.

Adding onions and their skins to the roasting pan gives you another flavour for enriching the gravy and enhancing the colour. Once everything is cooked, remove the sausage and onions from the roasting pan, de-glaze (as above) and then squish and work in some of the roasted onion as you make up the gravy. Roasted garlic similarly imparts a great flavour into gravy.

For roasting joints of meat, onions, garlic and carrot make a good trivet and a fantastic tasting gravy.

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Easy Dinners > Using Home-made Tomato Sauces 6 December 2006

Posted by cath in Recipes.
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Pasta

Pasta with Tomato and Mushroom Sauce

 

In winter, when the local tomatoes have all gone, your roasted tomato sauce and tomato/onion and garlic sauce will come in very handy.

 

Try the following:

1. Just defrost the tomato, onion and garlic sauce overnight. Then add any other ingredients you’d like (i.e. fried mushrooms, or sliced chorizo), heat through and serve with pasta topped with a little cheese and parsley.

2. Try mixing a little of the sauce above with a spoon or two of concentrated roasted tomato sauce for an extra special tomato sauce combination.

3. For the roasted sauce, add a cube or two of homemade chicken stock, a small cup of water and heat for a rich tomato sauce.

4. A big sauce made from roasted tomato puree can begin by frying up some onions and garlic, then adding the sauce and stock or water, followed by the other ingredients.

5. Add your homemade tomato sauce instead of tinned tomatoes in bolognese, curries, stews etc. Just dilute with water where appropriate (particularly for the puree, or for very well reduced sauces in the freezer)

 

Roast Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce – ready to make into a pasta sauce or add to other dishes

 

Remember, you can make this sauce into just about anything. Add any other ingredients you have on hand:

 

  • dried meats such as chorizo or salami
  • sliced up cooked sausages
  • mushrooms – fresh, fried and added, or boiled in the sauce, or dried (re-hydrated, plus the mushroom liquor instead of stock and water)
  • spinach or other seasonal vegetables
  • herbs

A jar of Passatta (sieved tomatoes) can come in handy when you’re running out of your frozen sauce, or can be added to make your sauce go further. Of course, you can always use tinned tomatoes instead.

 

Cooking Chinese 6 December 2006

Posted by cath in Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, shopping notes, stir-fry.
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A Note About Chinese Supermarket Goodies

If you enjoy stir-frying, then you’ll definitely want to pick up a few essentials from the Chinese Supermarket:

Shaoxing rice wine

Shaoxing Rice Wine

You can try using white wine, or if you happen to have some dry sherry, that would be better…but really there is nothing better than the real thing – it keeps well once opened.

Dried Shitake Mushrooms

Shitake Mushrooms - Dried

Really useful for more than just Chinese food…You only need to soak them for around 10 minutes in warm water, then chop and add to the dish. Some cooks suggest removing the more fibrous stalk – but it’s never done me any harm!

I also add chopped, soaked mushrooms them to risotto – and soaking a mixture of dried porcini, chanterelles and shitake for half an hour or so makes a fantastic mushroom stock for the risotto too.

I would also consider them as a substitute for fresh mushrooms in other recipes too.

Sesame oil

Sesame Oil

Also good for marinades and to add some nutty flavour to noodles.

Dried Noodles

Noodles

You can get a vast array of Chinese (and Japanese) style noodles, quick to cook so that always means fast food!

Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Excellent for a variety of marinades and sauces (including Sweet and Sour Sauce). Keeps (for ages, and I mean literally years) in a cold cupboard or in the fridge.

Vegetarians, look out for a mushroom version, which is very similar in style to this sauce and makes a good veggie substitute.

Soy Sauce – Light and Dark

Soy Sauces

A must have – and definitely worth buying these large bottles at the Chinese supermarket they are much cheaper than supermarket equivalents.

The Light version is usually added to cooking and to season the finished dishes.

The Dark version more often used in marinades.