Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Tickling and gravy


“Daddy my want more gaavy!” This demand from our two-and-a-half-year-old underlined the fact that dinner was going down well.

There followed some ‘hmmms’ and ‘ahhhhs’ and I couldn’t help but smile.

It wasn’t that I was taking any special delight in the family enjoying my food (although there is a bit of that) but rather I was breathing a sigh of relief that the off-spring were eating their dinners without making a fuss/fighting at the table/making noise/spilling drinks etc etc.

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And it wasn’t even anything overly fancy either. In this case it was roast chicken, mash and, as Anna would say, “gaavy.” There were no frozen peas left or they’d have been eating those as well.

I purposely made too much gravy as well, so that the girls could have the remnants tonight (Monday) with the left-over chicken; I must remember to buy peas on the way home.

Irrationally though, I was the tinniest bit disappointed too that the girls were making such a big deal of the gravy.

I had wanted to make it from scratch (chicken juices, thyme flour, roux, etc) but Herself insisted I take the easy route and use Bisto. To keep the peace (and because it was the handiest option), I went for the Bisto. And they loved it.

Would they have loved the from scratch version as much? I don’t know.

My version with the Bisto (the powder, not the granules) still uses the juices from the chicken so there’s plenty of deep flavour therein but for me at least, it feels like too much of a cheat.

Still, I suppose this cheaty version is admissible on a Sunday evening if you’ve two young children and you’ve been cooking like a cafe all weekend. God love me anyway.

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One trick I have also started doing when roasting chicken of a Sunday, is to pour an inch of hot water into the roasting dish before the lid goes on and before it goes into the oven. I like to think it steams the chicken tender.

Half way through the roasting, I take the chicken out of the oven and pour off the juices into a separate pan or bowl. Then 15 minutes before the end of the roasting and before the lid comes off the dish to give the chicken a bit of colour, I repeat this process. This results in quite a bit of juice.

When your chicken juices have been sitting in the bowl and they’ve gone cold, the fat will sit on top of the solidified juices. Pour all of this off and you’re left with the flavoursome base. Bingo.

INGREDIENTS (CHEATY VERSION)
* Juices from the chicken
* 3/4 tsps of Bisto powder
* extra water

THE PLAN
Put the chicken juices in a pan and add a scant pint of hot water from the kettle.
Bring this to the boil and as that’s happening, mix the teaspoons of Bisto in a teacup with a dash of COLD water. Stir or mix until smooth.
Now all you have to do is whisk this Bisto mixture through the simmering stock, dripping and whisking until the gravy is thickened to your liking. And that’s it.

INGREDIENTS (FROM SCRATCH VERSION)
* Solidified juices
* 250ml of extra stock
* heaped tbsp of plain flour
* dried thyme, pinch
* salt and pepper

THE PLAN
This makes less gravy but the end product is arguably better.

After you’ve roasted your chicken and poured off the juices to solidify, remove the chicken to let it rest and place the roasting tin on the hob on a low heat.

If you’ve previously poured off all the juices and it looks a little dry, add a tablespoon of the chicken fat.

Now, with a wooden spoon, start scraping all the crispy bits off the tin. When the fat’s bubbling, add the flour and continue to scrape and mix until you have a golden sandy roux.

Add the solidified base and a pinch of thyme to the hot stock and stir well.

Bit by bit, add this to the roasting tin, whisking it in as you go. Keep going until you’ve used all or nearly all of the stock/base mix. Let it bubble for a minute or so and then strain into a clean sauce pan.

Taste and adjust the seasoning and that’s it. If I was pedantic about it I could make two versions some Sunday and do a taste test with the kids. But could you be bothered?

I know I’d rather be tickling the girls than making two gravies.

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