About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Something From Nothing
I've heard some restaurant owners say that they like to get a prospective new chef to make an omelette to test their cooking skills. Something so easy but all about basic skills and timing. If I wanted to find out what sort of a home cook you are, I would ask you to make gravy. What could be simpler and harder than turning caramelised pan juices into a flavourful, brown coloured gravy? The only things you need to add are flour, water and seasoning. That's it. So why is this one job that still makes me a bit nervous every time I make it?

It's the dreaded lumps.

Last night I made gravy from the pan juices from a piece of roasted pork shoulder and I really nailed it, a smooth gravy with plenty of flavour and just the right consistency, not too thick but quite runny. However the time before it was out with the tea strainer and those pesky lumps were pushed right through.

Making gravy is one thing that can't be rushed. The faster you try to add the water, the more likely it is that lumps will form. For what it's worth here is how I go about it.

The first thing is to make sure the roasting pan has sufficient caramelised deposits from the roast. If you are low heat roasting a lesser cut of meat in order to tenderise and keep it juicy, chances are you can forget about gravy. But when you roast from about 170 c (340 f) upwards, lovely dark meat deposits will form and these are the basis of the gravy. Remember we are only adding water, so all the flavour comes from these deposits.

If the roasting tin has sufficient caramelised deposits, what I do next is to tip out all the juice into a container, which is a mixture of fat and meat juice. Then I take a couple of spoons of the fat that is floating on top of the saved juices and place that back in the roasting pan and add a heaped tablespoon of flour, turn on the heat and work the fat and flour into a paste with the back of a wooden spoon and let it cook slowly for a few minutes.

When this roux starts to smell nutty and is well coloured, it's time to add the water. For this I boil a kettle and very slowly pour boiling water whilst stirring all the time, adding more water as it incorporates until a very thin gravy has formed. You do need to add extra water as the area of the roasting pan means that evaporation is high. Season with salt and pepper and leave it to simmer for ten minutes.

At this point spoon off the rest of the fat from the saved roasting juices and discard, then pour the meat juices back into the gravy along with any meat juices from the resting roast. You may need to reboil to incorporate the new additions, then leave to simmer. Check the consistency, it should be on the thin side and serve in a sauce boat.

Of course if you are sometimes like me and get it wrong, strain through a fine strainer, pushing any lumps through and scrape the bottom of the strainer for this thick liquid, put back into the gravy and reboil. All will be well.
  posted at 7:28 am

At 9:15 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it the lumps we fear or the fact that it's so easy to get the lumps and everybody expects gravy? My bigger problem is to make good gravy for my veggie only eater.

At 8:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the new look Neil...fantastic!

I've always been the gravy maker in my house..even when I was young...but the only time I've ever had problems with lumps is when I try to mix everything together before I let the pan cool down. If I leave the pan on the heat and add the water to the roux I get lumps every single time.

At 8:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must admit i just can't help myself adding cream and wine (oh, you spotted the chilli flakes?)to gravy! I don't do it often these days (have had a fad on cheese sauce lately though) but am really such a cooking cheat that my views cannot be taken seriously lol ... and wow! what a new look for this blog! Took me by storm, there, laddie! It will take some getting used to ... but it'll be fine ... once it doesn't have lumps ... *grin*

At 3:05 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, either way, the whole thing makes me nervous.

Hi lesley, do you add the water hot or cold? Whatever, it sounds pretty sensible. The new look seems to have gone over pretty well.

Hi shell, you cheat? Me too, sometimes straight out of the packet! I hope there are no lumps in the new look, that would be tragic.

At 4:10 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new look is brill, Neil .. truly so and i have loved reading how it came to be ... it ALSO meant that when i decided, on a whim, to change how my blog looked i could nick your old shirt for it to wear ... lol

At 7:50 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi shell, I hope my old shirt fits you well, it was very comfy!

At 8:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always cold water for me Neil...otherwise I end up with a congealed inedible mass. Not sure why it happens...I know all the books say to add hot water to the hot pan, but it's always a disaster that way for me.

At 11:56 am, Blogger neil said...

Thanks lesley, I'll try that. Maybe chefs always use hot water 'cause they're always in a hurry.


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