So, we’re onto our ninth tip from –
12 Tips for a gorgeous, no fuss, foodie Christmas
Tip #1 was all about the cake.
Tip #2 was about making a few meals to stash in the freezer for over Christmas
Tip #3 was the joy of handmade food gifts
Tip #4 was the wonders of freezing uncooked mince pies so that they are ready at the drop of a hat
Tip #5 was a prepare-ahead alternative dessert if Christmas pudding just isn’t your thing
Tip #6 was flying the flag for freeze-ahead roast potatoes
Tip #7 was prepare ahead vegetable side dishes
Tip #8 was about making some good choices when you stock up your fridge and cupboards for Christmas and now here’s the next one –
Tip #9 – No need to wait until Christmas dinner to prepare your gravy. Make it days or even weeks beforehand.
Let’s be blunt. This make-ahead gravy is my most significant Christmas dinner game changer. It’s the tip that makes my heart sing – it really is the answer to my ‘no fuss on the day’ prayers.
But before we get into the detail, let’s address the elephant in the room … I know, I know, you may well have confused the photo above for a rather lovely picture of … chocolate sauce. Delicious chocolate sauce I agree. Chocolate sauce served in a gravy boat admittedly, but definitely more chocolate sauce than gravy.
It was only when I went to edit the photos that it struck me and by then the gravy had been sitting in the freezer for a good few hours. Now I realise that I needed a few visual clues in the photo – a sprig of rosemary maybe, even a few slices of turkey or perhaps a sprout or two. Next time I’ll be on it but until then let’s talk gravy … while we secretly dream of chocolate sauce!
I’ve spent all of my adult life not much liking gravy. I don’t like the way it makes everything go soggy and I dislike the way it drowns all the other flavours on the plate.
In the UK, gravy is mostly served with roast dinners – a British institution – but you may remember my confession that roast dinners weren’t a big thing in our family. The closest we got was lamb chops, cauliflower cheese and baked potatoes on a Sunday evening – always watching Howard’s Way. Remember that?! Now I’m showing my age. The sauce on the cauliflower cheese probably acted as a pseudo gravy, in that it provided a bit of extra moisture. Sometimes though, Mum would make her own version of gravy – a stock cube dissolved in boiling water – now that really does make everything soggy! Sorry Mum.
I wouldn’t say that I was scarred by these early gravy experiences, but this lack of gravy in our house has proved to be an annoyance for my lovely husband and children. Because, as every Mum knows, when you’re the main cook in the family, you don’t often cook or serve the things that you don’t much like yourself. Luckily my dislike list is not extensive – fried eggs, beetroot in vinegar, mashed potato and gravy. I can get away with the gravy thing for most of the year but at the Christmas dinner table, a lack of gravy is a complete faux pas. I know this for certain as – SHOCK HORROR – I did it one year and I think it is probably still mentioned in family hushed tones.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve racked up a good number of tips for making sure that Christmas dinner is gorgeous and no fuss, but currently we are still making the gravy on the day, in a hot, steamy, frantic kitchen.
But fear not … here is your Christmas wish granted – you CAN make your gravy days ahead, even weeks ahead – before the turkey has even gobbled into your home. It’s a Christmas miracle to behold.
Get yourself some chicken wings (there is SO much flavour in this part) and a few vegetables and herbs and mix them with a little olive oil in a deep sided roasting tin.
Now let them roast and caramelise in the oven of your empty, calm kitchen which is free of festive frenzy. When they’ve had their time, give the roasted yumminess a good mashing (a bit of umph required here to extract all the flavour) and add some flour and water. Let it bubble on the hob for 30 minutes and then strain through a sieve.
The result? One litre of your loveliest, smooth, meaty, tasty, ready-to-go gravy and all set for the fridge or freezer. On the day you can add the juices from the turkey if you fancy it and also a touch of cranberry sauce for extra depth, but it’s no drama even if you don’t.
Christmas gravy in the bag. Literally.
- 2 celery sticks, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly sliced
- 2 onions, peeled and quartered
- 5 fresh sage leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 star anise (optional - the flavour is quite strong)
- 2 rashers smoked, streaky bacon
- 8 chicken wings
- olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons plain flour
- 60ml sherry or port (optional)
- 2 heaped dessertspoons of cranberry sauce (from a jar is fine)
- a sturdy bottomed, deep roasting tin
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC, 400ºF (gas mark 6).
- Put the vegetables, herbs and star anise into a sturdy bottomed roasting tray. Scatter the bacon on top.
- Break the chicken wings open then put them onto a board and bash the bones up with the end of a rolling pin; this will release more of their flavour. Now add them to the tin, drizzling with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Toss everything together and roast in the oven for 1 hour or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.
- Take the tin out of the oven and put it on the hob over a low heat and use a potato masher to really grind and mash everything up. Keep mashing, moving and scraping all the goodness from the bottom of the pan as you go.
- Gradually mix in the flour to thicken the mixture.
- When the flour is combined, pour in 2 litres of hot water, turn the heat up and bring to the boil for 10 minutes until thickened. Then turn down the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sherry or port now.
- When it's reached the consistency you're looking for, check the seasoning and then push it through a sieve into a large bowl. You will need to really push and mash everything through so that you get as much flavour as possible. Discard the bits that are left behind.
- Allow the gravy to cool to room temperature and then put into containers or freezer bags and pop it into the freezer.
- When you are ready to use the gravy, thoroughly defrost it and then warm gently on the hob in a saucepan. Add any juices from the turkey if you wish and stir through the cranberry sauce for a final flourish.