Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gravy Train

There is a great divide with gravy lovers, you either like it thick, or you want it thin. With the recipe below, the gravy makes itself while the meat cooks above it. Surplus gravy can be reduced down and frozen in ice-cube trays for later use.

Beef Gravy:
2 large carrots
2 onions
1 leek
sprigs of thyme
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
5 fl.oz (150ml) red wine
1 pint (600ml) beef stock
extra beef stock or water
Roasting joint of beef
Chop the vegetables up roughly. Pour the oil into the roasting pan and scatter over the vegetables, tucking in a few sprigs of thyme. Stir to coat in the oil then roast in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pan containing a little oil, sear the beef on all sides. When the vegetables have begun to caramelise, remove from oven and stand the beef on top. Pour the wine and beef stock into the pan in which the beef was seared and stir well to collect up all the juices, then pour this into the roasting tin around the vegetables.
Roast the meat for the chosen time, basting with the pan juices every fifteen minutes or so (this gives added flavour to the gravy). When the meat is cooked, remove from pan to a plate and let it rest for fifteen minutes. Take the roasting pan to the hob, spoon out excess fat, then add up to half a pint (300ml) more beef stock or water to the pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then pour through a strainer into a jug. You now have your gravy. If you prefer a thicker gravy, it can be reduced down but as the flavours will be more intense start with less wine and stock and make up the balance with water. Otherwise, thicken in the normal way with flour or cornflour.
Tip: if eating the meat rare, then juices may flow from the meat while it is resting. These can be drained off and added to the gravy before the final simmering or reduction.

A short-cut to making beef gravy is to add extra liquid (stock, beer etc) when making a dish such as beef carbonnade. Freeze the excess and use this as an 'instant' gravy (it also makes a good soup). Although it may split on thawing, frozen alone (without added meat), it can be whisked back to smoothness as it is simmering. Always remember to thoroughly re-heat all gravies before serving.

The following is an excellent party dish which mades the most of an inexpensive cut of beef. Although a set amount of meat is given this can be reduced and the loss made up with onions, and even more onions. As it is mainly the gravy that makes the dish, as long as some meat is served to each person, it needn't be that much.
Beef Carbonnade: serves 4
1 lb (450g) stewing steak, diced
1 lb (450g) onions, sliced thinly
2 tblsp plain flour
1 pint (600ml) brown ale
1 pint (600ml) beef stock
2 oz (50g) brown sugar
good pinch dried mixed herbs
Melt a knob of butter with 1 tblsp oil in a large frying pan, and add the onions. Fry over medium heat until turning brown. Drain well, returning any oil back to the pan. Add the beef and stir/turn until brown all over. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon and layer the beef and onions in a casserole dish. Add the sugar to the juices in the pan and stir/cook for two minutes. Stir in the flour, and when it has absorbed the oil, slowly whisk in the brown ale, followed by the stock and herbs. Heat until thickened, then pour over the meat and onions. Cover and cook at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 2 - 3 hours or until the meat is very tender. An interesting way to serve is to spoon into large hot, individual Yorkshire Puddings, with side dishes of carrots and green vegetables. Omit the Y.Pud and include roast or mashed potato.