Caro and I have been sharing our festive family food stories in the past week and the one thing that keeps cropping up is one of the simplest sauces to make. It has but a few ingredients and yet a Christmas table would be bereft without it when we were growing up. Now, it’s a but forgotten, although Caro has hinted very strongly that she would really rather like some. A throw back from Medieval times when sauces thickened with bread were popular this is the only one that survives to this day. Growing up my Nana’s table groaned on a Sunday with three or different types of potato, homemade stuffing and bread and onion sauce. It was fabulous and creamy and flavour-filled. The actual preparation couldn’t be simpler but it’s what you add to it to make that taste that transports you back to family Christmas’ past.
Do you just stud an onion with cloves and add a few bay leaves and poach in milk are do you add any other secret ingredients? Do you use fresh bread or slightly stale for the breadcrumbs? I think slightly stale bread adds to the overall texture of the sauce and its also a great way to use up leftover bread. In Turkey, they have a slightly more jazzed up version of our more traditional bread sauce. They add pounded up nuts including hazelnuts and serve it with both chicken as well as their delicious flavours. Bread sauce is traditionally served as part of Christmas Dinner here in Blighty although if Caro had her way I expect we’d be having it with everything. Even sausages ! Here is our version of this undeniably classic winter warmer – Traditional Bread Sauce.
- 1 onion
- 3 whole cloves
- 200ml whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- A pinch of mace
- fresh white breadcrumbs
- A pinch of salt and crushed black pepper
- A dusting of nutmeg
- 50g butter
Firstly peel the onion and stud with the cloves. Place in saucepan and add the milk, mace and bay leaves. Heat gently poaching the onion until soft, this normally takes about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and mace discard. Then using the hand blender, blend the onion, milk and cloves together until you have a smooth sauce then add the breadcrumbs. Just as many as you need to achieve the consistency you like, I like mine slightly stodgy, but that is my personal taste. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the butter to create shine and decorate with grated nutmeg and a bay leaf . Serve warm.