The kitchen can be a pressure cooker on Christmas Day. Why not avoid the last-minute panic and make your gravy in advance?
Ever been tempted by a pot of ready-made turkey gravy in the supermarket? We hear you. Getting the festive meal on the table is a lot of work and anyone tackling it needs a trick or two up their sleeve.
But step away from the chiller cabinet! Good gravy is the crowning glory of a traditional Christmas lunch and should be treated as such. That’s why one of the best Christmas dinner ideas you’ll find is to make your gravy well before 25 December and stick it in the freezer. Then all you have to do is defrost and reheat it on the day.
Flour-based gravies tend to last longest, so you could keep it for three or five days in the fridge or up to 4 months(!) in the freezer. That's some serious Christmas dinner organisation!
You’ll want a great stock on hand and joints of meat to match whatever is on your traditional Christmas dinner menu. Check your deep freeze: are the turkey neck and giblets still sitting there from last December? Now’s the time to use them!
Alternatively, roast some turkey or chicken drumsticks, or beef, and use the meat for sandwiches and salads. What you really want are those lovely pan juices that roasting creates.
The recipe for a perfect Christmas
1. Once you’ve roasted the meat, remove it from the tray and pour off the juices into a jug.
2. Once the liquid settles, if there’s a lot of excess fat simply get rid of it by scooping it off the top, but leave a couple of spoonfuls in the roasting tray to thicken the gravy. Make sure to throw the cooled fat in the bin, not down the sink!
3. Put the roasting tray on the hob and add around 200ml of red wine or port (it's for Christmas after all).
Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the caramelised meat juices from the bottom of the pan and dissolve them in the liquid.
4. Let it boil and sprinkle in 3–5 tablespoons of plain flour, stirring constantly so that it doesn't burn. Then, add the cooking juices from the jug, your stock and enough water – ideally vegetable cooking water – to give a good consistency.
5. Cook for 5–10 minutes until you have a smooth, thickened gravy. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.
6. Add a pinch of paprika for depth of flavour, and some finely chopped herbs such as rosemary and thyme. You could also stir in a spoonful of redcurrant, rowan or cranberry jelly to make it extra festive.
7. Pour the gravy into a suitable tub for the fridge or freezer, let it cool and then store. If you're planning more than one roast over the season, pour the right amount into separate freezer bags or tubs so you don't heat it all up at once. That’s another item ticked off your seasonal to-do list – how’s that for a happier Christmas?