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12 December 2002

People are strange. Ever noticed that? I've just been reading, in a publication that had best remain nameless, a recipe for 'lingonberry and port gravy' for the Xmas bird. Well, I'm sorry, but what we here in Gothic Towers are asking ourselves and each other is, um, why? Double-why, in fact: why do you want it in the first place, and if you must have it, why do you want to call it a gravy when it's blatantly not? Make a lingonberry and port sauce if you must, tho' I don't see the necessity; but leave gravy where it belongs, in the lexicon of English cookery. According to my dictionary, the word means the juices exuded by meat while cooking, or a sauce made from thickening and seasoning those juices. Exactly right. Lingonberries and port do not count as 'seasoning'; sorry, but they just don't. I'm not clear why anybody wants to put wine into gravy, except that it's something you learn to do as a student when, gosh, cooking with alcohol is exotic and - or, more probably, because - your parents never did it. In this instance, there's a reason for that. The gravy don't need it, the gravy don't want it. While your bird is resting after roasting, pour off the juices from the pan and let the fat rise. Put the pan on a low heat and - all right, as it's Xmas - pour in a splash of brandy to deglaze it. Scrape up all those lovely sticky bits, pour in some of the fat and add flour. Work it all together - at this stage you can transfer it to a saucepan, but I like to do it all in the roasting-pan, it's more fun - and start adding the cooking-juices, plus some decent stock (made with the bird's giblets if you have 'em; otherwise, straight chicken stock will do. Not a cube, for God's sake, it's Xmas) until you have it as you like it. Simmer till you can't taste the flour any more, and season to taste. Me, I'll probably add a little fresh tarragon, as Estragon is being so obliging as to send up new shoots in this off-season.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2002
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.