Away with that box of gravy!

Forgive me, boxed gravy lovers, for what I am about to say.

Gravy doesn’t – or let me say shouldn’t – come in a box.

The argument for convenience is a very valid one.  Take a few spoonfuls of gravy granules, add some water, and hey presto! you have yourself some gravy.

But (there’s always a but)  the ingredients on the box are enough to put me off using any of them.   Why are E numbers often included?  And what exactly are the ingredients labelled as ”flavour” and ”colour”? If something cannot be openly named, then that’s enough to scare me off ever buying it.  And, I would argue, it’s dishonest – or, at the very least, supremely dodgy.

Besides, home-made gravy is such a cinch and costs next to nothing.  It’s much healthier by default, and you have precise control over what exactly goes into your food and how it’s flavoured.  What’s more, the base thickener can be used for an incredible variety of brown gravies or white sauces.  How wonderfully easy and convenient is that?

Isabella Beeton gives the following base thickener (roux) instructions:

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BROWN ROUX, a French Thickening for Gravies and Sauces.

6 oz. of butter, 9 oz. of flour.

Mode.—Melt the butter in a stewpan over a slow fire {stove}, and dredge in, very gradually, the flour; stir it till of a light-brown colour—to obtain this do it very slowly, otherwise the flour will burn and impart a bitter taste to the sauce it is mixed with. Pour it in a jar, and keep it for use: it will remain good some time.

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WHITE ROUX, for thickening White Sauces.

Allow the same proportions of butter and flour as in the preceding recipe, and proceed in the same manner as for brown roux, but do not keep it on the fire {stove} too long, and take care not to let it colour. This is used for thickening white sauce.

Sufficient,—A dessertspoonful will thicken a pint of gravy.

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To make a fresh and easy brown gravy, for each dessertspoonful of roux, slowly whisk in 1 3/4 cups of stock mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, a couple of good pinches of curry powder, plus salt and pepper to taste.  A 1/2 tablespoon of red wine improves the flavour even more (optional).  Give it an occasional stir for 2-3 minutes until the gravy begins to thicken.  Serve.

The above brown gravy recipe is my own.  For a million variations of white and brown gravies, Household Management is a fabulous source (if you’ll forgive the pun):

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Brown Gravies (Recipes 433 – 444): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/10-chapter10.html#434

White Sauces (Recipes 367-8, 509, 517, 537-9) Same link

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