Jane’s Nan’s gravy
Eating at home up in to 50’s was a world away from today. There were no freezers or fridges in a working class home, no large supermarkets or on line shopping. Pasta and garlic were unheard of and olive oil was only available from the chemist for cosmetic or medicinal use. Beef was cheaper than chicken which was only free range and organic. Lamb was seasonal.
My Grandma’s (Nan) kitchen or scullery as it was known was nothing more than a larder sized utility containing merely a sink, stove and kitchen cupboard with a pull-down work surface. There was barely room for two people but this was not an issue. I don’t ever remember helping with the cooking and the only involvement I had in cake making was licking the spoon. And yet, by simply watching I learnt how to cook myself.
Anything needing to be kept cool would be put in the cellar on the cold stone floor. Not too bad in summer but in the winter it meant a trip to the cellar for butter and milk.
Next to the kitchen was the living room where everyone ate (at the table) and two armchairs. Beside the open coal stove that heated the water was a large cupboard built into the alcove, this was where all dried goods and crockery were kept.
Despite the limitations, Nan managed to feed the family with wholesome, nutritious meals. There was very little waste, as left overs would be reinvented into a different dish. Monday was generally minced meat from the Sunday roast. Chops were popular, stews, soups from chicken and turkey carcasses. Chips were a rarity but would have been shallow fried in either dripping or lard.
Every day Nan would walk up one side of the High Street and down the other looking to see what was best value. Having made her decision and purchase the last visit would be to the greengrocer. Potatoes were bought by the stone and dropped, unwashed into the bottom of the shopping bag. The greengrocer was one of the few places to have a freezer and from here could be bought frozen peas weighed loose into a paper bag and for a treat Birds Eye frozen Mousse – lemon or chocolate – which had to be thawed before eating.
Of all the meals I ate at my Nan’s the one thing that makes me nostalgic is Nan’s gravy. The simplest of things to make yet the hardest to get right. The ingredients and method never changed even with the advent of Oxo cubes, Bisto and gravy granules. To my mind Nan’s is still the best, but my efforts to reproduce it never turn out the same.
Here it is;- Place the roasting tray that has had the meat cooked in on the hob. Add one tablespoon of plain flour and mix into the fat and meat juice in the pan stirring continuously. (Nan stirred with a serving spoon I´d love to have today.) When the flour has browned add the water from the cooked vegetable again stirring constantly to ensure no lumps. When you have achieved the desired consistency add one teaspoon Brown & Poulson’s gravy browning liquid. Bring to the boil. Simple and so good you could drink it off the spoon (I often did).
All About Gravy
Only Beef flavour
In the beginning Bisto granuals were only available in Beef flavour so, if you were roasting other meats you had to make do with the meat juices, dripping, flour and water. In contrast to today, beef was then the go-to meat, as it wasn´t too expensive. Chicken was – they didn´t have battery farming then. Which all sounds fine to me.
The gravy was a vital part of the Sunday Roast. This tended to be quite a large cut of meat, as the leftovers were used for several meals during the week.
The Sunday roast was accompanied by all the trimmings: Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and lots of vegetables which were also used during the rest of the week. No Sunday roast was complete without a jug of gravy.
Sunday Roast dinner was often quite a formal affair.
What used to be gravy is now called Jus, essence, or broth, which are much thinner than gravy. I suppose people’s biggest fears are having lumps in their gravy. No danger of that in the more modern thinner options. However, traditional gravy is part of British heritage I would say.
The original latin word grain, was adopted by the French to mean spice. It evolved to grané, which in turn came to England as gravé by means of a miss-spelling. Later it was pronounced and written gravy as we know it today.
Meat and gravy