Taking the Gravy Boat to somewhere, elsewhere that makes you want to sing below the stars in the middle of the night... Just because you are enchanted by a velvety, somptuous sauce which caresses your tongue, lingers in your palate, warms your throat and down goes your meal with the cascade of Paradise. You can only take the plonge with gravies and sauces. They are the deep pool of taste and flavours. They are the add, the plus, the little bit on the edge which can makes it an A+ or the liquid all over the plate that can give it a D-...

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A lovely Pool for Braised Oxtail and Mash Potatoes.

Hence a Gravy Boat is a good idea to give the freedom to any guest to take a step too far or the adequate one for their own taste. They can pour as they want to but also where they want to. Some likes a swimming pool of gravy all over the plate, while others will be quite content to pour a little sauce on the corner of the plate and go for a little more if they happened to like it. It is all down to the three T's Test, Taste and Trial. Then you will know if you have a Titanic song in the voice of your guests and like Celine Dion you can go to Las Vegas or if your sauce is a truly sinking one.

A Boat Sinking in a plate that you will love...

So I will give you that tip: invest in a gravy boat, or a little jug, or /and some pretty pots or dishes to serve either your gravies or sauces. You can mix or match them, for me I do not bother, I go for the usefullness when I see them, but yes I do appreciate a little pretty pot, dish or jug when I find one. So it is rather a mix than a set which is identical. But you can always go along the line to explain your mix of dishes as you went for a trendy Boho style or a Hippy one when in fact you just got what you found was pleasing to the eyes and could be very useful in your kitchen. It is a matter of truth hands up in the air or gloves adding a bit of gloss or it could also be a bit of both... I will let you decide while I will just state 'Pretty Useful does the trick'.

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The Old Gravy Boat. It is part of the Family. Warming our plates, belly and hearts.

Let us go back to our Gravy. We could certainly write books about them which could serve as a blanket, soft and rich to make you sleep, deeply, and warmly. So I have been taught that not all gravies go with everything. The gravy or sauce need adaptation to go well with the ingredients it needs to give a boost to. Personally I love a good Onion and Cider Gravy but I will never ever serve it with Beef. It will only go in my eyes with white Meat, either Pork or Chicken.

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Onion and Sherry Gravy simmering.

Going along those lines, for Beef or Venison, I enjoy putting either Port or Red wine with Red Meat Gravies. Vermouth or Pernot or White Wine can enhance a Gravy or a Sauce for Veal, Chicken, and Fish. You can always try other alcohol like Madeira, Dry Sherry, Kirch, Champagne to flavour Gravies or Sauces. I will advise just a shot for a dish for a couple of person. But quantities can increase with the number of guest with great measure so you need to keep on top of that aspect. I will also mention an important point, some people do not drink alcohol for their own beliefs or religion or their own choices. Some try to quit drinking so to inform them what is in their sauce or dish helps them to make their own decisions. Hence it is useful to have a Gravy Boat or a little sauce dish.

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Sherry and Chicken Gravy Measuring Time.

Another option of course is to create an alcohol free version if you know the request of your guests in advance. Two Gravy Boats upon a table may seem a little bit over the top luxurious but it is not. It is just being thoughtful of everyone. It is all about sharing the love: the Home sweet Home feeling for an evening.

Royal Choral Society: 'Hallelujah Chorus' from Handel's Messiah

Of course the juice gathered from the Meat gives the Gravy its body, its soul. But if you haven't got enough of it, this is why companies like Knorr or Oxo were created. Please don't feel bad to use a stock pot, gravy powder or a cube to have a Gravy that could feed a family. Because it will help to feed the families of those who work in these industries and elsewhere.

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Stock pots. They come in many shapes and forms but are useful when time or proper ingredients are not within your sight or hand.

The Key to the heart warming Safe is the reduction and the addition. Your Safe is your Gravy or your Sauce. Too thin is too thin, it doesn't cover your belly with that warm feeling. However too thick is too thick, the I am going overboard feeling. So a decent Sauce should be balanced. A nice Gravy should be just as well. Think of a velvet scarf around your throat that makes you feel well and smiling. This is what it should be.

Gravies and Sauces can come clear from anything else and be just as rich in taste as some which have the plus factor. The art of it is called Reduction. You reduce your Gravy, your Sauce to the point that its coating will anyway be flavoursome. The process can be done either by simmering or boiling to intensify the taste you require. However the slower method hence simmering tends to give better results whilst boiling can give you bitter burnt results.

The advantage of simmering is that the impurities come to the surface ready to be skimmed off and to clarify your Gravy, Sauce or Consommé. Hence it is all for the better and the greater good. For Sauces especially, Tomato Sauce, Béchamel Sauce, Brown Sauce can do with a long simmer to have a greater taste.

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Home Made Tomato Sauce.

Now for the addition or shall I correct myself and say additions. They do come in all sort yes, but they must sing together in your palate like a choir in a church doing a good interpretation of Hallelujah of Handel. I have the tendency to say less is more, a lesson learnt from my Aunt Marie-Thérése when I put too much salt on a plate one day. The voice of reason...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUZEtVbJT5c

So my tendencies is to get to know good pairings, one plus one equals two and stick with that solution most of the time. For example I told you how I liked an Onion Gravy spiked with a little Cider. Well the Allium familly tend to do good marriages with Gravies and Sauces. I am speaking of Red, White, Brown Onions, Shallots, Spring Onions, Chives, good Lord they make your taste bust sing the Gospell that you will believe that you are in Wales or Louisiana.

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Preparing a Brown Onions.

You need to taste to know your pairing. I tend to associate as I go along. Just experience of what is working and what is not but also listen to others but make my own judgement on my own taste buds. I can tell you that sweet red banana shallots, finely chopped works well with a velvety red wine Gravy to go with your Beef. I can preach you that a White Wine and chopped Chives Sauce goes very well with White Fish. I can tell you anything from my own experiences but you you also need to learn them from yours. Be experimental. If it works it is a keep, if it doesn't, don't give up, be on the road again and try something else. The important thing is to keep the track of your path and trials. The Notepad, the Diary, the what is working or what is not: make your footprints count.

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 Preparing Beef Ribs on a bed of White Onions and Chopped Leefs, with 250ml of Beeef Stock and 2ooml of Bourgogne Red Wine and 75ml of Port Wine. 

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    Finishing the Red Wine,  Port and Onion Beef Gravy, reducing in gathering all the meat juices of the Beef Ribs.

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   The Result on the plate pouring a glossy, velvety Gravy upon the Rib of Beef.               

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Sauces
Sauces

Dare I say that one of the first things I did learn to cook was a Fried Egg. My ones are always sunny side up. I also like them a little crispy around the edges to know that the white has been rendered properly. But the Eggs still need to have that exquisite runny yellow yolk at the centre to run free upon the plate. It is a little magical moment of bliss: A little like singing along to the song "My favourite things" from the Sound of Music Film with Julie Andrews.

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The Breakfast Fry Up with fried Bread, Bacon and Eggs. It is simple yet fulfilling. It is the fuel to start the day or at least one's day. An Egg takes roughly four to five minutes to fry depending on its size, sometimes more, sometimes less.

There is one thing I will confess, which is, to like a Fried Egg with rough edges. When they are done within a ring or device so they do look neat, I think it kills the charm of the good old Egg coming from a proper Farm, from a Farm where the Chicken are roaming outdoors. My Grand Parents (RIP) lived most of their lives in Bourg en Bresse and there in the Bresse area of France the Chicken graze the grass, the green green grass, and you can taste the difference with the Chicken from a battery Chicken and from a Farm Egg from a battery Egg.

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A Poulet de Bresse, de Bourg en Bresse, happy roaming in a field of clovers.

There are a variety of Eggs to be pan fried but being rather conventional I tend to stay in the realm of Chicken Eggs. However I venture very often in the kingdom of the rich Duck Egg with that bountiful dark yellow Yolk. If I do poach a Duck Egg more than I do fry it, I am still doing it often for the ratio between the white and the yolk. There is less white in a Duck Egg. The star there is truly and simply the luscious Yolk. A Duck Egg is full of proteins and different vitamins which is a plus. 

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 Duck Eggs are of course larger than Hen's Eggs. 

If Duck Eggs may be harder to get because they are not the normal standard Egg, they are still worth the while to have and eat. The Fried Duck Egg add a touch of luxury upon an Easter Breakfast of Grilled Asparagus, and Shaved Truffles. Garnish with a little Chives, Black Pepper and Sea Salt as a finish then now we are talking simply of very simple lush Brunch.

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Pan Fried Duck Egg upon Chips served with a good dollop of Lemon Mayonnaise, seasonned and garnished with chopped Parsley. This is a satisfying simple Lunch.

However I tried my hand to cook Quail Eggs as well. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes it was not. Is it that they are too small for my clumsy fingers...? Or is it that the matter of time is seriously reduced when cooking them? Hence you do need to keep an eye upon the clock and upon the Egg. This is a balancing act which one might crack: May it be the Quail Egg or you with a smile upon your face? But Fried Quail Eggs are quaint and definitely suitable to create Canapés and Appetizers.

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Home Made Crostinis with Fried Quail Eggs topped with red Herrring Roe. It is simple and a rustic Canapé to be enjoyed.

They are plenty of ways to taste Fried Quail Eggs. I would say they are dainty but nice; that it is a taste the difference matter. Fried Quail Eggs can make a Bruschetta sing a little bit more for a nice Brunch or even Starter for Dinner time. With very little imagination, you can cover your Olive Oil oven toasted slice of Bread (Sourdough, Ciabatta or Baguette), with a Cream Cheese which is seasoned with added Ingredients of your choice (Chilli Flakes or a little pinch of Cayenne Pepper or a little Chive, or a little Dill, or a little shredded Basil, or a little chopped and roasted Garlic). On top of the whisked Cream Cheese, you can build a layer with a cured or smoked Ham (Prosciutto, Serrano, Parma Ham...even Bacon rashers). But you can also use Fish freshly cooked, smoked or cured. Then add your fried Quail Egg on top. This is an all so simple treat.

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 Mini Pesto Pizza with mini Mozzarella Balls, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Fried Quail Eggs. It can make a nice Starter to an Italian theme Dinner.

Now there is something with most of Eggs you can do to fry them: It is the Scotch Egg. The recipe dates from a long time ago the 1800 plus so has evolved to be ever so different. The principle of it reside, in covering an Egg with Minced Meat then to bread the result in order to Fry it. Initially it was called the scortch Egg because it was fried but enclosed. However it became the Scotch Egg in the end. The history says that it was because Scotland was a big producer of Eggs. 

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Scotch Eggs can be very dry but to have a runny yolk centre is part of the pleasure with them.

They can make a good Brunch or Lunch. Scotch Eggs are not as per say fanciful however you have a room to play there in term of cookery. Which Egg you are going to use? A Hen Egg, a large Duck Egg or a small Quail Egg...?

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Quail Scotch Eggs Salad. You can do it with Lambs Lettuce or Pea Shoots. Serve it with or without Pancetta or Lardons.  Decorate the plate with edible Flowers like Viola. A simple French dressing can accompany everything even some chopped woodland Mushrooms to give the feel of Autumn to the plate.

Then with which minced Meat you are going to wrap your Egg? A spiced Mince most certainly, it could be Sausage Meat, Lamb Mince, Beef Mince, Turkey Mince but it can also be from a Fish as well like a Smoked Salmon or Trout.

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Salmon Mousse Scotch Quail Eggs served with pickled Radishes, Lamb Lettuce and Tartare Sauce.

It can be with Black Pudding, or the stuffing for Haggis... There you have the tools to make your Scotch Egg special. Seasoning the Breadcrumbs also does play a part in the entire making of a Scotch Egg. The result of your combinations usually makes a satisfying Lunch or Starter.

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 Black Pudding Scotch Eggs on a bed of peppery Rocket Salad dressed with a grain Mustard Vinaigrette: A Lunch that is packing a punch on a plate.

Speaking of Eggs there is of course the Eggy Bread. It is also called French Toast, French Fried Bread, Pain Perdu, Gypsy Bread. The concept comes from an old tradition to not loose Bread at any cost. Even if the Bread becomes old and stale, you can revive it with a source of life which is the Egg and another Ingredient which nurtures life which is Milk. Hence the Eggy Bread was born. Then it can become a Dish in itself or a base for either Savoury Dishes or Sweet Ones.

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Eggy Bread Toasts. The principle relies on mixing Eggs and Milk together in order to revive the Bread. Soaking the Bread, usually overnight (in the old days) then Frying it made it all better.

You can turn the Eggy Bread savoury for a full Brunch experience, like with a Croque Monsieur with Ham and Cheese or a Croque Madame with the addition of the Fried Egg. The Croque Monsieur is in effect a Sandwich but a Fried one. It is a bang bang two slices of fried Bread, enclosing a decent slice of Ham and a Cheese with quality of the like of Gruyére or Emmental or Comté Cheese. A Mustard Sauce is usually applied to perk up everything. It could be Dijon Mustard whisked up with a little Mayo. But the result is licking fingers delish... The history of the Croque Monsieur dates from the 1800's. 

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The Croque Monsieur in all its glorious lushness. Before becoming a Bistro or Gastro Pub Treat, it was seen, regarded as a Gentleman's Club Treat.

From the Croque Monsieur to the Croque Madame there are only a few differences. The main one is the addition of the fried Egg on the Croque Madame. The Egg is meant to represent a Lady's wide brimmed hat. Another difference is that the Sauce Béchamel which can be used for the Croque Monsieur can be élévated to the Sauce Mornay for the Croque Madame. The little stamp is the inclusion of Cheese within the Sauce. The Sauce was créated by Philippe de Mornay who also créated the Sauce Béchamel back in the 1500's.

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 Croque Madame. Croque in French means to actually bite into something that has a crunch: Hence Fried Eggy Bread with a difference. 

Then you do have the Croque Mademoiselle: it is an evolution or a variation as per say of the original Croque Monsieur juste like the Croque Madame is a variation as well. This time the main difference is the inclusion of Vegetables within the 'Croque'. It can be totally vegetarian or a bit of a mix. It could be made with the essential Eggy Bread slices but also with sandwiched in between Asparagus, Parma Ham and Parmesan. It could be made with fried Courgettes, melted Mozzarella, Oregano and Espelette Chilli. It is up to the inspiration of the moment. The Croque Mademoiselle is a volatile fried Sandwich. To be blunt it is up to anyone's interpretation apart that it does need to contain a green Veg: Cucumber, Zucchini, Asparagus... For it is the Veg option out of all the Croques.

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Croque Mademoiselle with layers of fried Aubergines, Courgettes, roasted Red Sweet Bell Pepped, Cottage Cheese served with a fried Egg on top just like a Croque Madame. It had a Med Feel to it.

French Toast are not all savoury for some are sweet as well. Different combinations are there to be appreciated. A favourite one is served with fresh Berries: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries... but also with a Jam or Preserve or Compote which could be made with Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries and the Eggy Bread will be accompanied with Custard. It is a yummy number.

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Eggy Bread with Berries. It can be a small tea time treat but it is still special. Another version is made with dried Apricot and fresh ones, (It could be done with Nectarines and Peaches too). The addition of Apricot Jam traditionally done with Almond kernels renders everything lush. Toasted Almonds can add to the decoration in that case.

Similarly Bruschetta is a toasted slice of Bread usually it will be made with Pain de Campagne, Sourdough Bread, Ciabatta or Baguette as a base. The slice will be rubed with Garlic but also dipped in Olive Oil. Then it can be fried within a frying Pan or grilled. The toppings of the Bruschetta are up to you. The traditional ones are with chopped Tomatoes. But additional Ingredients can be added like Basil and, or Organo for Herbs, Capers and, or Olives for a little saltiness, even Anchovies could be considered. Chopped Preseved Lemon could be considered as well. Another combination is the chopped Tomatoes, chopped roasted Sweet Bell Peppers, crispy Shallots with the addition of Mozzarella Pearls or even a little slice or cubed Goat Cheese. 

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Tomato and Sweet Red Bell Pepper Bruschetta with Basil and a little grated Parmesan. It can be a simple Brunch, an Appetizer or a Starter/Entrée. The addition of Kalamata Olives, or Olives stuffed with Anchovies can bring this Bruschetta to another level.

Concerning Dough you do have plenty which we do Fry which are sweet. During my childhood one of my favourites treats were the Croustillons. They came by 6, the dozen or 24. It was just little balls of Dough fried then sugared. They were ever so nice. We could have them and share between us three kids only on the Thursday and Saturday at the Market in Cherbourg. I can tell you that we were looking out for that Van and the Croustillons. They are from Northern Europe especially the coastal areas, from Holland, Belgium and France. 

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Croustillons are like mini Donuts.

Then there is of course the Doughnut also spelled Donut. It feels like Homer Simpson dreaming of Donuts. I must confess to be partial to Sugared Ring Doughnuts. Although I am not a sweet tooth Fried Dough does it for me. For Tyn he loves his Jam Doughnuts. The matter of fact is that Doughnuts are versatile as per say as you can top them up the way you want to but also fill them up the way you like.

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Sugared Ring Doughnuts. One Treat I can't escape from.

In France, a similar Fried Dough is called Beignet. They come in different shapes filled up or not. A Popular one is the Apple Beignet: Le Beignet aux Pommes. My Mum used to do them usually on the Saturday afternoon. It was a treat especially since Oil was expensive, it was important to do the most of it. Hence Fritters (Beignets) were the way to go. Beignets (Fritters) are dipped in French culture and the Italian one but also in the USA, from Louisiana (which was colonised by the French back in the days). It goes with the flow. 

The fillings for Beignets or Fritters are rather varied. Apple is a very popular one coming from areas in France who produces a lot of Apples like Normandy. Pineapple Fritters have their origins from Asian countries like Indonesia (Indochina). French colonists can be blamed for it as well. Then in the Créole Cuisine there are the Banana or, and Plantain Beignets/Fritters.