What's the best foolproof gravy recipe?

Good gravy: Follow these steps to avoid lumpy or split gravy.
Good gravy: Follow these steps to avoid lumpy or split gravy. Photo: William Meppem

Do you have a foolproof gravy recipe? B. Dowling

There are many ways to skin this condiment cat, but this method makes two cups of good gravy every time. First, pour off the fat from roasting the bird or joint and set aside. Place the pan over a low flame and deglaze with a little stock or wine. (If it's a festive occasion, it is important to sneak in a few slurps of the wine for the cook, too.) Set aside. Take a heavy-based saucepan and melt 40 grams of butter or fat or a mixture of the two over low heat. Add 15 grams of plain flour, mix and gently cook for several minutes until deep blond in colour. Slowly whisk in 450 millilitres of unseasoned stock plus the contents of the baking pan. (You can take Paul Kelly's advice and add a little tomato sauce for sweetness and umami, if you like.) Slowly cook until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

​Can you explain the difference between the different types of cream? I'm confused by all the different terms: heavy cream, whipping cream, thickened cream, double cream, pure cream etc. O. Klose

One day, when I was young and lived on the farm, the motor that turned the stirrer for the milk vat broke down. We woke up to find a thick layer of buttery yellow fat sitting on top of the milk. I stuck my finger in and it was perhaps the most delicious mouthful of that summer. Milk from a cow is about 4 per cent fat depending on the breed and what they have been eating. Spin off the heavier watery component and you get cream. About 35 per cent fat. Now, modern milk processors manufacture all sorts of cream with different amounts of fat and loads of additives to alter the mouthfeel and texture. Pure cream is what it says on the packet. It is pasteurised cream, about 40-50 per cent fat, depending on the brand. It is naturally thick, has a smooth, cool, creamy texture and rich dairy taste. Great spooned on desserts and fruit. Whipping cream and heavy cream are American terms and refer to cream with about 30 and 36-38 per cent fat, along with thickeners. In Australia, we have thickened cream, about 35 per cent fat. It can be thickened with guar​ gum from legume seeds and carrageenan​ from seaweed. Some brands, according to Dairy Australia, may still use gelatin. These thickeners enable the cream to hold air when whipped and stop the cream from splitting when heated. Double cream is about 48 per cent fat and can contain the aforementioned thickeners. There is also clotted cream. Mum made this by pouring fresh milk into an old baking pan, scalding the milk then allowing the cream to rise at room temperature. It's about 65 per cent fat, incredibly delicious, and still served with jam and scones at afternoon tea time on the Sydney to Melbourne XPT service.  

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