Heap high the groaning platter with pink fillets, suckling pig and thick gammon, celestial chef. Be generous with the crackling. Let your hand slip with the gravy trough, dispensing plenty. - George Mann MacBeth
Gravy: surely one of the most memory-laden words in the English language; the nectar of the North. If someone says to you 'would you like sauce with that?' you'll answer 'what kind of sauce?'. But if someone asks ''would you like gravy with that' the only sane retort is 'too right, sunshine. Hi ye hence with a jug of said meaty essences forthwith.'.
Absent the sticky reductions of veal stock available to the professional chef, I'd guess most of us make gravy at home only when we've done a Sunday roast, availing ourselves of the juices and sticky bits in the roasting tray.
I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage. - Erma Bombeck
But what about during the week? What about if you're on your tod and can't be arsed making a roast? Well, here's a quick and delicious gravy for just such an occasion. For this particular one, I've used apple juice, because that's what was in the fridge, and also because I was serving it with a pork chop. But you can just as well use red or white wine, or cider. You could use madeira or marsala, but then I'd leave out the redcurrant jelly.
The only stock I tend make at home is chicken - great for soups, stews, risottos etc., but no good here. So I buy one of those vac-pacs of beef stock from the supermarket (£1.40 for 500 ml), use 125ml, and freeze the other three portions for later use.
a slice of butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
60 ml apple juice
125 ml beef stock
1 heaped tsp of dijon mustard
½ tsp redcurrant jelly
a handful of roughly torn up savoy cabbage leaves
a slice of butter
1 x pork chop, rind removed, at room temperature
½ dessert apple
salt + black pepper
In a small pan, melt a slice of butter over a low heat and gently fry the chopped shallot until it's a deep golden colour. Add the apple juice, stock, mustard and redcurrant jelly. Turn up the heat and boil until reduced by roughly a half. Strain into a bowl or jug and season with pepper; depending on the stock you're using, it may not need any salt.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and throw in the cabbage. Cook for a few minutes until softened. Rinse in cold water, drain dry and roughly chop.
Peel the apple half and slice into segments. Then griddle, or fry in a pan with a little butter, until caramelised.
All the above can, of course, be done well in advance.
When you're ready to eat, season the pork chop. Heat a frying pan to fairly high and add a splash of oil. Hold the chop fat side down in the oil for a minute or two, just to colour. Now fry for approximately 4-5 minutes each side.
While the chop is cooking, heat a pan and melt a slice of butter in it. Add the chopped cabbage, season and stir until heated through. Re-heat the gravy (I put the jug in the microwave on high for 1 minute).
Arrange the chop, cabbage and apple on a plate and serve with the jug of gravy on the side.
Before we start, a vast, unending, tear-soaked avalanche of gratitude to all those of you kind enough to have voted this site as the Best Food Blog in this year's Observer Food Monthly Awards. I'm not going to even try to pretend I'm cool about this. I am absolutely thrilled and astounded. You can all take yesterday off. Now back to the food:
This was an immensely satisfying and comforting plateful and just about exactly what I'm looking for in a home-cooked meal: a few ingredients, a simple recipe and outstanding taste.
The great Marcella Hazan passed away last month, sad to say, aged 89. When I heard the news, I immediately reached for my battered copy of The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (one of my all-time favourite cookbooks) and I've been dipping into it most evenings since. Her influence cannot be overestimated. To quote The Telegraph's obituary: 'Chain smoking, impatient and famously brusque, she introduced recipes that were traditional, tasty and ruthlessly pared-down: her famous tomato sauce contained only a tin of peeled plum tomatoes, five tablespoons of unsalted butter, one small white onion and salt'. Ah yes, that sauce. Have you ever made it? If not, it's all over the internet, but here's her son Giuliano's description. Make it as soon as you possibly can.
Actually, quoting from The Telegraph's obituary column has reminded me of another of my favourite books, their Book of Obituaries: A Celebration of Eccentric Lives. A glorious read. Here's a sample:
'Denisa Lady Newborough, who has died aged 79, was many things: wire-walker, nightclub girl, nude dancer, airpilot. She only refused to be two things - a whore and a spy - "and there were attempts to make me both", she once wrote.
She was also a milliner, a perfumier and an antiques dealer; but her real metier, in early life at least, was what she called "profitable romance". Her opinions on the subject of presents from gentlemen would have done credit to the pen of Anita Loos: "I have never believed that jewels, any more than motor cars, can be called vulgar just because they are gigantic".'
Anyway, there's a recipe in Essentials for Braised Leeks with Parmesan, made with, again, just five ingredients: leeks, butter, salt, parmesan and water. I've used chicken stock and added parsley. And serrano. And an egg.
A stock cube won't do here; as you're reducing the stock to nothing, the end product would be overwhelmingly salty.
approx 275g leeks (after trimming and discarding of tough outer leaves))
25g butter, cubed
250ml home-made chicken stock
2 tbsps grated parmesan
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 slices of serrano or prosciutto (approx. 50g)
1 fresh egg
salt + black pepper
Bring a pan of water to barely simmering and have a bowl of ice cold water ready. Crack the egg into a small cup or ramekin. Whisk the water into a whirlpool effect and carefully lower the egg into the centre. When set, after about 2-3 minutes, lift out the egg and slide into the bowl of icy water.
Cut the leeks in half lengthways and wash under running water, and then cut them widthways into approximately 120mm pieces. Put them into a pan in which they'll all fit snugly in a single layer. Dot the cubes of butter over and pour in the chicken stock. Add a pinch of salt and grind in some black pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat a bit, cover and cook for about ten minutes, turning a couple of times. Remove the cover and turn the heat up to full. Let the stock bubble way to nothing, stirring the leeks a few times. This might take another ten minutes.
Meanwhile, heat up a pan of water (for re-heating the egg) and grill the serrano slices.
When the leeks are just starting to stick to the base of the pan, remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and parsley. Put the egg into the pan of simmering water to re-heat.
Spoon the leeks onto a dinner plate and arrange the serrano on top. Remove the egg from the pan of water, drain, and place on top of the serrano.
Smoked salmon, for obvious reasons, isn't something that tends to find its way onto my weekly shopping list. Smoked salmon trimmings, however, well that's a different story. They're ideal for a Sunday breakfast with scrambled eggs or for a mid-week sandwich. I also like to stir them into a simple salad of new potatoes, spring onions, parsley and mayonnaise.
Not too long ago I could buy 120g of own-brand stuff for 90p from Morrison's. They don't seem to stock that anymore; instead they're selling 'posh cuts' from the Harbour Salmon Co at (I think) £1.49 for 90g. Still, you can get a 120g packet from Tesco for £1.50. Which works out at £5 a kilo cheaper than their cheapest packet of slices. So the 30g of trimmings in the pasta recipe below costs only 37.5p.
Anyway, here's five suggestions for meals to make with the trimmings:
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