Bread sauce is my very favourite part of Christmas dinner. Second to none. I always serve myself a gluttonous dollop with dinner, and then go back for seconds (thirds, fourths, fifths) later on in the day. It’s fabulous with cold turkey or stuffing dipped in. It’s delicious smeared over a cold roast potato or parsnip. And it even brightens up a sprout. In fact, I really don’t know why I save it up for one meal a year.
One of the best things about bread sauce is that it can be made a few days in advance, and left in the fridge, and the flavours of the bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg will carry on infusing into the milky bread, providing you with a sauce that is so blinking good, you’ll want to bathe in it. Maybe.
To make bread sauce, you’ll need:
- Milk. I used at least two pints, mainly to ensure there would be enough for the nine people I’m having over for Christmas lunch, and then a fair bit more for myself later on.
- 2-3 Bay leaves.
- 5-6 cloves
- A good grating of nutmeg. Use fresh if you can, the flavour is much better.
- A few whole black peppercorns.
- An onion.
- Approximately half a loaf of white bread. Crusts cut off, blitzed to breadcrumbs.
- Double cream and butter. And because this is Christmas, I wholeheartedly endorse using real, salty butter and real double cream. It’s not like you’re eating this every day.
Firstly, begin to heat the milk on a low heat on the hob. Put the bay leaves, peppercorns and cloves in with the milk. Grate over the nutmeg, about half – 1 teaspoon will be plenty. As it warms, you’ll begin to smell the wonderful, homely, Christmassy aroma of the spices infusing with the milk.
This is where the sauce we make in our family differs to how I’ve had it elsewhere. I finely dice the onion and add it, raw, to the milk. Doing this means you will have onion in your finished sauce, but it also adds a bit of extra texture, and oniony flavour. If you prefer a smoother sauce, stick the cloves in peeled whole onion, and drop it in the milk.
Once the milk is at just under boiling point, add the breadcrumbs. I’m going to stress that you do not need to use fancy bread in a bread sauce, a cheap white loaf will work fine. Stir the crumbs into the milk and leave to thicken and cool. it will begin to look like porridge and this is fine.
If you are making it in advance, that is where you stop. Simply decant to a jug or bowl, cover with clingfilm and pop in the fridge when cooled. On the day you’re using it, you’ll find it’s very thick and almost solid. Gently reheat, add a good slug of cream to slacken, a knob of butter and seasoning, if needed.