IN response to a reader query, gravy in its many forms is our topic for today’s survey.
Gravy is not difficult to make.
Pour off some of the fat from a roast, sprinkle the hot roasting pan with flour or chickpea flour (if coeliac or want a change of flavour), let it dry up as you move it around the pan, allowing it to turn golden while removing all the bits that have stuck to the base or got burnt.
Add water or stock a little at a time (and a splash of wine, cider, or sherry if to hand) to make a tight paste at first, loosening it out gradually with more water or stock for a smooth sauce.
Taste and add salt and pepper, or a dash of soya or a little chilli sauce.
Cook for another minute or two.
If you have no meat, start by cooking half an onion in a knob of butter or dessertspoon of olive oil.
Add a clove of garlic if you fancy more flavour, a chopped carrot and half a stick of celery if available.
Allow to soften, then add a sprinkling of flour to absorb the oil or butter.
Cook until the flour become golden, then add water or stock, stirring to make a smooth sauce.
Strain or mash the vegetables.
This is far nicer than any readymade gravy, but here are some worth trying.
With an extremely low 0.8% salt, with no added chemicals, it has the most impressive ingredients of all samples.
Responsibly sourced palm oil is good to see and the rich, lively flavour comes from onions, yeast extract, beef powder, celery, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, parsley, turmeric, rosemary, pepper and bayleaf. Gluten and lactose free, there is no thickener.
Very good flavour.
We tested two from M&S and liked this one marginally better than the more expensive pouch of Beef Gravy. In a tall jar, this has 81% stock made from beef bones, beef and beef fat, with yeast extract.
An impressively low 0.85% salt allows the beef flavour to dominate and the addition of a little red wine and 10% onions give it depth with a little black pepper kick at the end.
All tasters liked this best. Top marks for ready-made gravy.
Flavourings come from barley, wheat and onion powder and high salt at 13.63%. But there is no mention of beef anywhere. There is, however, a general ‘flavouring’ listed.
When queried, Schwartz replied that roast beef is present in the flavouring preparation. There must be quite a lot of it as it had quite a meaty taste.
The colour is listed as beetroot red, hence no artificial colours or MSG. A smooth, slightly thick texture.
Made in a jug with boiling water, it is easy to prepare. Top of the list here are potato starch and maltodextrin, the latter which is a type of sugar resulting in a high 12.2% sugars.
Colouring E150c is a type of caramel. The flavour enhancers are E621 (monosodium glutamate) and E635 (disodium ribonucelotide), which are often paired to give that ‘umami’ flavour we are attracted to.
The result is a dark, thick, uninterestingly flavoured gravy.
Four pots have 40% beef extract with cornstarch, salt at a high 13%, sugars 8% from added sugar.
There is barley malt extract , yeast extract, gelling agents, onion juice concentrate, spices, palm oil and fat (not listed as sustainable), sunflower oil, thyme and bay leaves.
The result is a very salty gravy which overpowers what could be quite nicely meaty other flavours.
This tub of fine powder has maltodextrin top of the list which yields a high 31.2% sugars. Next on the list is potato starch and there is also wheat flour to thicken.
Salt is high at 10.7%, the dark colours come from sulphite-ammonia caramel and beta-carotene, and there are chemical emulsifiers too. The taste is of a slightly burnt caramel/sugar and there is no hint of meatiness.
The recommended proportion of water to powder makes it too thick.
We went away from beef stock to see what flavour we might get from a vegetable stock.
This does not taste salty, so it is a surprise to read it has 44.6% salt and a high 10.5% sugars which comes from vegetables and lactose.
The palm oil is listed as sustainable and there is also hydrolysed vegetable protein made from soya and maize. Unlike most samples, it is yeast and gluten-free. It tastes fresh and lively.
Easily the cheapest of the selection.The list of ingredients is surprisingly and commendably short with no artificial flavours or colours. There is a decently low 1% salt and 0.1% sugars.
Flavours listed include malt extract, onion powder and onion oil. So far so good, until we added boiling water, stirred and tasted it — there was little or no flavour at all.
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