Sunday, 18 December 2011

From Old Rope To Bread Sauce

I’m sure that being December, almost Christmas and ‘tis the season to be busy, you wont have noticed I haven’t blogged much this month. Actually, only once (Oops). I apologise if I’ve let anybody down. Or rather I suspect that this is the part where teacher looks condescendingly down her nose to announce, ‘you have only let yourself down’.

(Mind you I did just spell ‘condescendingly’ correctly first time round without angry red, zig-zaggy underline from Microsoft Word, thus inflating sense of self-worth. And twice at that! Ah, such pride.)

However this time of year on Mariquita is, without sounding ungrateful, a reasonably dull part of her year. In truth it is a duller but better time of year for me in equal measures. We’re not racing in any adrenaline fuelled regattas, winning trophies and exploring the food markets of the Mediterranean (awesome), we’re sanding, varnishing, taping up, removing tape, sanding, varnishing, taping up (you get the drift) on a cold, stationary boat in the same marina for 6 months. It is a time of year that does not make for pretty pictures of our normally exquisite Mariquita. Her ropes and lines are hanging up in a dusty container along with exciting stories worth blogging about.

However, as I may have mentioned in a few earlier blogs; we have weekends off. I sleep in a double bed. And I have some time for ‘My life’. Living in very close quarters on a busy racing classic boat with 6 other people, one ‘heads’ (shower room) and limited water rations tends to render such things as distant memories. Time to indulge in ‘me’ is a 6 month treat I don’t take lightly as I go into my 4th year aboard Mariquita.

And I refuse to blog about nonsense simply to keep my ‘numbers’ up. If I blog I want it to be a story or recipe worth telling.

This recipe is worth telling. This recipe means Christmas to me and I think that if I were to endure a Christmas without eating any, I would cry like a child with no presents under the tree. A proper chin wobble.

I have had actual arguments with at least two people, Bridget and Will Jones, about who loves Bread Sauce the most. Of course I always win hands down. I love bread sauce more than anybody in the world. There, it’s in writing now.

Bread Sauce is not just for Christmas, it’s for life. Really good bangers and mash are upgraded to first class with the addition of some bread sauce at any time of year. But cold, left-over bread sauce scooped out of the bowl with a left-over chipolata on Boxing Day rocks my world. It is a recipe of medieval origins that has stood the test of a time as a way of using up left-over bread and as an accompaniment to domestic fowl; turkey of course but also chicken, pheasant and goose but also as I mentioned before, sausages go beautifully dunked in the white spiced stuff hot or cold.

I guess it’s the addition of infused cloves and onion that make bread sauce particularly festive and I am counting the days before George and I fly home to the UK for Christmas with family and friends. A holiday! Time away from the boat and a great excuse to consume lots of delicious food and pints of bread sauce.

I frequently come across people who have never tried the very British bread sauce before so for you guys here is a solid recipe from none other than good old Delia Smith. Apart from never weighing my ingredients, I have always followed this method of making bread sauce. It works and it is delicious.

This could change your life, certainly your Christmas experience so prepare to be swooned by an ancient, simple sauce and then we can all fight over who loves it the most. What a fun fight that would be!

For a saucepan full of hot bread sauce to serve (me) 6 people you will need;

110g, 4oz freshly made breadcrumbs. A liquidiser/food processor does the best job of this. Stale bread was used because it was easier to grate that way and does make a delicious sauce but do use fresh in a blender if you can.
1 large onion
15-18 whole cloves
1 fresh bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
1 pint, 570 ml milk
50g, 2oz butter
2tbsp double cream (loosely)


  • Cut the onion in half, peel and stud both halves with the cloves. Put the milk into a non-stick saucepan with the clove-studded onion halves, the bay leaf and the peppercorns. Season with a pinch of salt.

  • Bring the milk slowly to boiling point then take off the heat, cover and leave in a warm place to infuse for at least 2 hours (a day is better!). This could be the back of the Aga/Rayburn or hob.

  • When you’re reafy to make the sauce, remove the onion, peppercorns and bay leaf from the milk and put to one side, don’t discard. Stir the breadcrumbs into the milk and add half the butter. Leave on a very low heat stirring now and then till the bread has thickened the sauce – about 15 minutes.

  • Put the onion and bay leaf back into the sauce and leave in a warm place until you are ready to serve. Then simply remove the onion and bay leaf and reheat the bread sauce gently, adding the other half of the butter and the cream. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

My mum would double the amounts Delia gives because my sisters and I would greedily pour unlimited amounts onto our turkey at Christmas. Also brown bread works just as well and you can use semi-skimmed or skimmed milk and omit the cream if you want to be a bit healthier about it but hey, it is Christmas.

I really hope you are all having a great Christmas so far, I hear there has been snow in the UK already and it has definitely got a lot colder here in France. Which is good, I like that. Means there is snow in the Alps for snowboarding!! Yeah!!

Thanks for reading, Merry Christmas everybody and


See, look dull.

A bit more shiny but still pretty dull