I think I mentioned already having a mild panic attack about the impendingness of Christmas, back at the start of November. Unfortunately that wasn’t repeated again, and for the past few weeks I’ve been a complete slack-ass who seemed to think that the elves were going to skip down the chimney and do everything on my behalf.
Matters weren’t helped by us all being sick – AGAIN – in turns, so much so that the Boy developed a whole new medical (sort of) lexicon: “Mummy, I’m going to PUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE”; “Mummy, take my temp-a-chure. Is it over 39? Has it gone down?”; and when the Girl had a coughing fit yesterday – “Quick! Get the bucket! She’s going to PUUUUUUUUUUUKE!” (I made it to the sink instead, which she filled with what looked like melted Solero bars. Mmmmm.)
So anyway, nothing continued to get done, until I woke up shrouded in complete terror this morning, and have spent the day thundering about like a Euro-politician on speed. Calendar-watchers amongst you would be quick to point out that I still have ten days left, and why the panic? Because the Man and I go away in the morning for a few days (ALONE!!) and won’t be back until Tuesday, then we head off to the wilds of Sweden on Wednesday. Morning. For Christmas. So you see, I have NO TIME left. A mere day to do some laundry and wrapping and packing, and THAT’S IT.
But I did manage to get around to one (sort of) Christmassy task, at the same time jumping on the blog bandwagon, by making some gravy. Given that I am absolved from all Christmas cooking responsibilities (and even if I wasn’t, we’re having a Swedish Christmas this year, where the dinner table on the 24th [Yes! The 24th! Mad Swedes] will be fairly devoid of anything other than herring in a thousand guises, potatoes and schnapps), gravy and all ancillary Christmas fare is not high on my To Do list. But everybody seems to get in a tizz over gravy for the Big Day so I thought I’d do my bit both for you, dear reader, and for God’s Baby Animals and proffer a very easy, very delicious, meat-free gravy. And for those of you who can’t imagine gravy without meat bits (as the Man spluttered: “It’s not gravy, it’s SAUCE”), don’t fret; it’s easily adapted to your carnivorous ways.
I pinched this off Nigel Slater, and have made it several times, using whatever I have to hand (who has a bottle of Marsala hanging around? Actually, anyone who has ever bought one bottle undoubtedly has the same bottle several years (and tiramisus) later). He pairs it with roast pork, and adds the juices and meaty bits from the roasting dish to the gravy before serving. I can’t testify to its suitability with turkey – or indeed any meat - but I’ve served to others twice with turkey and no one vomited into their shoes, so I think it works fine. And I’d imagine that adding the remnants of the turkey roasting tin to the gravy would ensure the two marry very well.
Also, I’ve eaten it two days after I made it, and it was perfect – in fact it tastes better as it ages – so you can make it somewhat in advance, then, if you’re adding turkey juice, do so just before serving.
Really tho, it’s just a great everyday
gravy SAUCE, perfect for jazzing up mashed potatoes (and, I’d imagine, bangers); and while it takes a bit of cooking time, there’s very little effort involved. Unless, of course, you burn it. Twice. But even then it’s very forgiving. The tip to dealing with a burnt black mess is (a) not to wander off and get sucked into the laundry, having left the heat on high under the pan; (b) pick out any really burnt bits (if your lack of attention occurs during the Onion Cooking phase); and (c) if it occurs during the simmering phase, add some more stock to the pan, swish it gently around, then pour everything into a clean jug, without scraping off any of the burnt bits. If it tastes a bit bitter / burnt, add the juice of a quarter of a lemon (or to taste) and a dash of salt. Seriously. It works. It tasted great. But better really not to let it happen in the first place.
Pretend Gravy (makes enough for 6, generously)
(Apologies for the picture. Having burnt the pan black and rendering it unphotographable, I had to get creative with the visuals.)
· Three medium onions, peeled and chopped into thickish wedges.
· A big slug of olive oil (at least two tablespoons)
· Two tablespoons of plain flour
· Two glasses of wine – preferably marsala, but any type you have to hand works.
· 750ml of water or stock (marigold marigold marigold)
· A teaspoon of mustard powder (just use regular mustard if you don’t have powder)
· A tablespoon of any mustard, preferably grain, but really, any type works.
· Salt and pepper
Put the onions and the oil in a heavy pan, and set over a low heat for half an hour. This will yield a panful of soft, glistening onions. (Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up and wander off, or you’ll be picking out hard, black onion bits and burning your fingers.)
Add the flour to the pan, stir, and leave to cook for five minutes or so.
Add the wine then the stock, bring to the boil, season with salt, pepper and mustard powder (if using) then leave to simmer for about 20 mins or so.
Stir in the rest of the mustard and leave to simmer for another 5 mins.
Eat with pickled herring, smoked herring, preserved herring, fresh herring, putrified herring etc.