Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Getting Organised - Bread Sauce

Ten years ago, I did a post-graduate diploma in a subject intended to help my then career.  Part of the diploma was peer-reviewed, and had to be a practical working example of how organised we'd become since starting the course.  Truth time: I've never been renowned for my organisational skills, with the major exception of food.  Like most other people blessed with the food-obsessive gene, if I start thinking about dinner the second I wake up, I already consider that a second too late.  The working example I brought in was the hefty ring binder used by Mum and I every Christmas to do our food planning.

It really is a thing of wonder and one of the things, people aside of course, that I miss the most now I live here.  We'd routinely cook for no less than 10 people, and loved every second of it.  The ring binder held shopping lists, make-ahead lists, photocopied recipes from books that were tattily past their best, and past menus.

Here, our Christmases are quieter, tending to be just the two of us (which actually, for now, is just the way we like it), but we still can't quite break away from the Great British Christmas dinner, even if we do now cook the turkey on the barbecue, last year in 30 degree temperatures.  Still, I can't shake the need to get organised and start everything that can be started nice and early, to be stashed in the freezer, fridge or pantry and served up on December 25th.

So. Bread Sauce.  Not the flashiest name, admittedly, and not even the flashiest sauce.  Its roots are medieval, and it feels like it, not because it tastes dated, but because it is so, so good that as you dollop it on to roast turkey or roast chicken, the scent of cloves, bay and nutmeg so tantalising, that you can understand how it has become such a staple.

I can understand that if you haven't grown up eating it, the concept might be odd, but every year I am torn between persuading people to try it, ever to be converted, or keeping schtum and having the gloriousness, all to myself.  Oh, and it's just fabulous on the mandatory leftover sandwich.  It freezes perfectly, and only needs thawing and gentle reheating, on the big day.  I used leftover baguette this year, and I love the silkiness the texture of that bread gives, but it is just as good made with any good white bread.

But, since I am sharing only a recipe and not my actual bread sauce, give this a go.

Bread Sauce
A Traditional Recipe

1 unsliced white loaf, or 1 baguette
1 litre full-fat milk
2 tablespoons cream
1 onion, peeled and quarter
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
freshly grated nutmeg
30g butter

A couple of hours, at least, before you start the sauce, remove the crusts from the bread (you don't need to be too diligent about this), slice thickly and leave to go stale.

Meanwhile, stud each onion quarter with a clove and put them in a pan with the milk, cream, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt and a good grating of fresh nutmeg.  Over a medium heat, bring nearly to the boil but don't let actually boil.  Put the lid on the pan, and leave it to cool down and infuse with the spices.

You can do both these stages a day before you want to make the sauce.

Fish the onion and spices out of the pan.  Tear the bread into chunks and drop them into the milk.  The bread will swell, soften and break up in the sauce.

If you want to freeze it, do so at this stage.  If you want to serve it straight away, gently reheat it, and, just before serving, stir through the butter until it melts.

If you have frozen your sauce, defrost it and then reheat gently, stirring the butter through as above.

Serve with roast turkey or roast chicken, or with leftover sandwiches.  Decide for yourself whether you want to share.

Serves 10.