The Samovar


Gravy drinking zeitgeist
April 18, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: Food, Recipes

OK, this is the last food related post of the evening.

Over the last year or two I’ve been eating at some pretty darn posh restaurants, largely on online poker winnings, including the Fat Duck and Gordon Ramsay. I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon.

At the Fat Duck, they serve their spectacular venison dish with a cup of ‘venison tea’ on the side. This is a sort of venison consomme (clear, thin liquid, intensely flavoured) with (oddly) frankincense. The idea being that you drink this ‘tea’ as you eat the main dish.

Another dish they serve there is lamb with a bowl of cold, jellied, lamb consomme with a ‘salad’ of thinly sliced lambs tongues on top. Again, the idea being that you dip into this cold soup / jelly as you eat the main dish.

When I recently went to Gordon Ramsay, they served the beef dish with a cup of beef consomme at the side. Same idea. They made the point explicitly that this was the same stuff as you were eating in your main dish by bringing an empty cup and a dry plate of food to the table, and then pouring the liquid into both your plate and the cup from the same glass jug.

I know someone (hi Mikey!) that used to – and probably still does – drink the remaining gravy from the gravy boat after a roast dinner. At the time I’m sure that nobody else in the world was drinking gravy, and it seemed a bit self-indulgent and gluttonous, even to me! These days though, it seems to be quite standard in all the best restaurants. 😉 Nice one Mikey, you were ahead of the game there.

Anyway, I bring this to your attention as an interesting (and fashionable) possibility you might like to consider next time you make a roast dinner. I had roast lamb the other day and made a sort of lamb consomme which we used as a gravy, but I couldn’t persuade anyone else to have it in a cup alongside their dinner and I couldn’t quite bring myself to be the only one doing it. It was only ‘sort of’ a lamb consomme because I didn’t go to all the effort of making the liquid clear using egg whites and multiple infusions of meat that seems pointlessly time consuming to me. In hindsight, I should have at least strained the liquid through kitchen paper or something so that it was clearer, and then there might have been more interest in having it in cups.

For reference, the gravy/consomme was made as follows:

Cut off a chunk of your roasting joint, or more sensibly buy a separate piece of cheaper meat, to make the gravy with. To make it strongly flavoured enough, you probably want to use a quarter of the amount of meat to make the gravy as you use for roasting.

Cut up the meat very finely and cook it in a lightly oiled pan at a very high heat until it goes quite dark but doesn’t burn. Now deglaze this pan with some liquid (i.e. pour the liquid in to the very hot pan and dissolve the almost burnt bits of meat in the bottom of the pan). I used red wine for the lamb. If you’re using wine or other alcohol, it will probably reduce and disappear fairly quickly. Now cover with water and bring to the boil. Add some finely chopped vegetables, herbs and maybe some spices. I used what I had to hand which was an onion, lots of rosemary and parsley and some bay leaves. Other good things to put in are carrots, leeks, celery and any appropriate herb. Putting a single star anise or clove in is also great.

Simmer this liquid for an hour or so, then strain it. If you want a thick gravy, you can reduce it further and thicken it by dropping a ball of butter and flour mixed into a paste into the liquid and stirring as it boils until the ball disappears and the gravy thickens. Or, use it as it is as a thin gravy or in a tea cup. Oh, also remember to season with salt and pepper.

It might seem like a lot of effort for gravy, but actually it’s not as much effort as it sounds. A lot of the first steps above can be carried out as you’re preparing the meat and vegetables for your roast dinner,then you can leave it to simmer as everything is cooking, straining it just before serving.

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