If a courier arrives at your door with a box labelled “BRITISH ONIONS” and says ” This stinks like onions” , the last thing you expect is for the box to make a clinking noise as you set it down on the table. Because of course onions don’t clink .
My confusion was settled when I opened the box to find it did in fact contain nestled amongst a mound of onions a range of British Tracklements ; Marmite, Ketchup and Mustard and an invitation to design create the Perfect Onion Gravy.
Now gravy when you have a large roasted joint is pretty easy , combine the juices with a little flour simmer to thicken and serve . Its a little harder if for example you want a gravy to go with your sausages, faggots , liver or even a little extra for your Meat Pie. This is when
knowing how to make a good onion gravy is invaluable.
There are three steps to making an onion gravy
1. Caramalising Onions
I prefer to use white onions I find the red onions nicer raw or lightly picked on salads. Traditionally caramalising the onions takes time and attention , they need to be cooked with butter on a low heat to release sugars and caramalise. But don’t be mistaken that this is a quick fry job, it can be slow , some people saying it can take hours others recommending, adding a few drops of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar or even baking soda to speed up the process to 25 minutes or so. Beware though browning onions requires attention, any blackening of the onions results in a bitter gravy.
Once the onions are browned you need to add something to thicken the gravy. My parents were divided over cornflour vs plain flour debate ( only matched by the brussel sprout single line vs cross debate that raged every Christmas. )
Personally I use whichever I have in stock, flour should be seived and cornflour first mixed with a little of the warm liquid before adding . For both you should ensure tthey cook off , to avoid a floury taste to the gravy.
You are now ready to add a liquid to add volume to your gravy
Thickness of gravy is very personal for my onion it should be 75:25 onions to gravy but some like it runnier
Stock is good , vegetable bullion works fine . But combining stock with 1/3 alcohol is fantastic , dark ale creates a rich gravy for faggots. cider works brilliantly too especially on with pork chops or sausages , masala/sherry for lambs liver. But at a push you can use hot water especially if you have some of the rich flavourings below. Which can be added dissolved in the liquid and more added after thickening to taste.
Looking through the iconic flavourings I would say almost any combination , would work well and there cannot be many kitchens without a least one of them lurking in the cupboards or fridge. Even a long deserted self catering cottage can usually guarantee somehone has abandoned some salt mustard and ketchup, if only becuase they bought it for their chips at the seaside.
It is not surprising these ingredients are so ingrained in the British psyche given that most of them have been around for at least 100 years ( left to right)
As flavours love the unami tastes of Marmite and Mushroom Ketchup for a instant hit of spice Worcestershire Sauce , Tomato Ketchup or Mustard. Dried herbs work well too , you don’t need fresh woody herbs like thyme, rosemary. After adding the flavourings give them time to cook into the gravy.
All this being said , I am feeling super lazy and addicted to my slow cooker at the moment so instead how is this for a minimum effort maximum reward hands off gravy recipe to which sausages, braising steak or faggots can be added.
Slow Cooker Onion Gravy
For 4 people
6 medium white onions finely sliced
1tsp of butter
150ml of boiling water
150ml dark ale ( could be replaced with stock)
2 tbsp of flour
1 tbsp of Marmite
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp of English Mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
- Place the onions with the Butter, Marmite, Worcestershire sauce , Mustard and dried thyme in the preheated slowcooker on the lowest setting
- Cover and leave on the low setting for two hours, You should not need to add any water since the onions will release plenty.
- Returning to the the onions should be softened , transluencent and browning
- Add the flour and stir well.
- If you wish to add sausages, braising steak or faggots. You can add do so at this point ( You can brown them first in a pan,but I find with slow cooking they brown in the gravy with enough cooking
- Add boiling water/beer mixed with Worcestershire Sauce, mustard and dried thyme.
- Cover and leave for a further two hours .
You can find lots of other recipes at British Onions