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Cranberry sauce and bread sauce

These two sauces, one American and one thoroughly, thoroughly English, are an essential part of my Christmas dinner – it’s just not Christmas without them. Cranberries are incredibly tart when raw, and I consider them pretty inedible (despite the Finnish habit of eating them raw, with shaved ice and caramel). This recipe is very easy, and it transforms them; cooked until they pop with sugar and a lovely lemony liqueur, a lot of the bitterness vanishes. The sauce is the perfect accompaniment to your turkey or goose on Christmas day, or to some Christmas Eve ham.

If your only experience of bread sauce so far is the stuff you reconstitute from a packet, you are likely to have read the title of this post, pulled a face and sworn never to make it yourself. You’ll be missing a treat – made properly, it’s a creamy, fragrant cloud that you’ll find yourself slathering all over a good roast dinner, potatoes and all. The trick is in infusing the milk with aromatics like bay, shallots and plenty of cloves for a good long time, so that the sauce is rich with flavour. (A bad bread sauce is a bland nightmare.) I make this year-round, and it’s great with any roast poultry or game birds. It’s also extremely good cold as part of a Boxing Day leftovers sandwich.

The cranberry sauce can be made well in advance, and keeps for weeks, covered, in the fridge. All the preparation for the bread sauce (setting the milk to infuse, making the breadcrumbs) can be done the night before you eat, which means that you won’t be in such a rush to pull the different elements of your meal together on Christmas Day.

To make the cranberry sauce you’ll need:

350g raw cranberries
200g sugar (granulated or caster)
30ml Limoncello liqueur
zest of 1 lemon
60ml water

This is hopelessly easy. Just stick all the ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a brisk simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until all the cranberries have popped. You’ll be able to hear the individual berries pop as they heat up, which is somehow rather pleasing. The cranberries are full of pectin, so the sauce will solidify as it cools. Keep it in the fridge until you need it, and stir through briskly before serving so it doesn’t look like a chunk of jelly.

To make the bread sauce, you’ll need:

1l full-fat milk
200g fresh breadcrumbs (just put 200g of crustless white bread in the food processor and whizz)
3 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
2 shallots
20 cloves
10 black peppercorns
100g salted butter
100ml double cream
1 teaspoon salt

Cut the shallots in halves and press the cloves into them. Put them in a large saucepan with the milk, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns and salt. Warm the milk to the barest simmer – the milk should be shuddering rather than bubbling. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave it in a warm place overnight. (I put mine on top of the boiler.)

About an hour before you plan to eat, sieve the solid ingredients out of the milk and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir in the breadcrumbs and cream. Remove from the heat again and lay a piece of cling film right on top of the sauce (this stops it forming a skin). The breadcrumbs will swell with the milk, stiffening the sauce. When you are ready to serve the bread sauce, bring it up to a simmer again and stir in the butter. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if you think it needs it.

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  4. Parmesan, leek and thyme scone bread
  5. Garlic bread

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