Thoughts on Gravy from Sausage & Mash by Fiona Becket
What Makes good gravy? The kind you had as a kid is the answer for most of us. It also depends on which side of the channel you stand. For we Brits, it's a question of quantity. For the the French, who aptly use the word 'jus', it's just a few spoonfuls. We favour onions and flour. The French and Italians base theirs on wine.

Sausagewise, I can't help but feel we've got it right. There can be booze (beer is good) but it must be diluted by an equal quantity of stock so the flavour is not too obvious.

The big problem is how to get it sufficiently meaty and savoury without juices from a roast to draw on. Certainly not from gravy granules which are an abomination. I'm also not massively keen on stock cubes or gravy browning. Amazingly the answer - unless you're into making home-made beef stock, and I do use proper stock when the recipe calls for it - is Marmite, which is far cheaper than the fresh stocks they now sell in cartons and surprisingly natural-tasting. Who'd have believed it?

Cauliflower Purée
side veg
This fabulous-tasting dish comes from the brilliant Heston Blumenthal, the three Michelin-starred chef of the Fat Duck in Bray. He sieves it at the end which admittedly makes it even more sublime but if you're short of time or lack the inclination it tastes great as it is.

1 medium to large cauliflower
85g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp best quality curry powder
175-200ml semi-skimmed milk
salt and cayenne pepper
Trim the base off the cauliflower, break into florets and chop them finely.

Place 75g of the butter in a large casserole and place on a medium to high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown (about 12-15 minutes). Stir in the curry powder and cook for another five minutes, stirring until the cauliflower is nicely caramelised. Now add 150ml of the milk, and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat, leave to stand for 5 minutes, then tip into a liquidiser and purée. You may need a little extra milk at this stage.

Scoop the purée out of the blender and return to the pan. W hizz up the remaining milk in the blender to pick up the last bits of the purée and add as much of this milk as you need to the pan to get a soft, slightly sloppy consistency. Season with a fair amount of salt and a little cayenne pepper or chilli powder. Re-heat and serve.

This purée goes particularly well with a sweetish pork sausage, flavoured with apple or apricots and lightly buttered (or olive oiled) greens.
I made this using cardamom and saffron rather than curry powder.
Although the girls seemed to like it, I thought this had an ever-so-slightly unpleasant bitter edge to it.

Perhaps I misunderstood Fiona and thought this was going to be a gravy-like sauce, but it isn't in the least - it's too grainy for that, and doesn't have any of the smooth texture of a gravy.
It's a purée pure and simple.

A Good, Simple Onion Gravy
sauce veg
An easy, straightforward onion gravy to go with plain pork sausages and Good, Everyday Mash. The five spice powder, admittedly, is an unconventional departure but just gives the gravy an edge. Leave it out if you're a traditionalist and use Worcestershire Sauce instead.

1 tbsp olive oil or other cooking oil
200g butter
3 medium onions (about 300-350g), peeled and sliced
a small pinch of five spice powder (optional) or a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce
1 rounded tbsp plain flour
350ml of stock made with boiling water and 1 tsp of Marmite
Freshly ground black pepper and a little salt if needed
Heat a heavy saucepan or casserole over a moderate heat, add the oil, then, a few seconds later, the butter. Tip in the onions, stir well and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Stir in the five spice powder and flour and gradually add the hot stock, stirring it well as you go. Bring to the boil then turn the heat right down and simmer for 5 minutes or until ready to use it. Season with pepper to taste, a little salt if necessary and Worcestershire sauce if using.

To make this a bit ritzier you can add a slosh (3-4 tbsp) of dry Madeira or dry Marsala after you add the flour. To make it a bit sweeter add a tablespoon of tomato ketchup.
I made this frying the onions until they were quite thoroughly, but lightly, coloured.
Then added a generous tablespoon of flour and fried for a few minutes more.
Then a blob of ketchup and again some more frying.
A splash of dry white wine next, and another splash along with some Worcestershire sauce to finish.
The marmite is a very strong flavour, so don't go much further than a teaspoon in the stock.

Although I thought this was quite good for a stock-free gravy, it takes quite a long time in fact, and Rachel said it was "lumpy and gloopy".
I think I might need to wean her off the abomination of gravy granules more gently, perhaps by straining the onions out of this gravy, and using less flour?

Rich Guinness Gravy
sauce meat
2 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
2 large Spanish onions (about 425-450g), peeled and thinly sliced
2 tsp golden granulated sugar
284 ml carton fresh beef stock
2 level tsp plain flour
250 ml original Guinness
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Sea salt
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large grying pan, add the butter and, when it has melted, tip in the onions. Stir them so they're coated with the butter mixture, then cook slowly over a low heat for about 25-30 minutes until completely soft and quite brown. Sprinkle in the sugar and mix in well, then turn the heat up and stir continuously for about 5 minutes until the onions are really brown and caramelised.

Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil and continue to boil rapidly until the volume is reduced by half (about 10 minutes). Stir the flour into the onions and cook for a minute, then add the stock and the Guinness. Bubble up for a minute or two then turn right down and leave to simmer.

Check the seasoning on the onion gravy, adding salt, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and a little water if it has got too thick.

If you're not a big onion fan you can sieve the gravy.
You can use other beers for this - I suggest a robust British ale such as Marston's Pedigree or Coniston Bluebird.