christmas bread sauce in a bowl

A rich-tasting gravy or a sauce on the side can make all the difference to your Christmas meal. There are certain flavours that always go together at Christmas. A tart cranberry sauce for the turkey or goose, apple sauce with succulent pork, horseradish or mustard with your perfectly-cooked beef and, of course, the creamy mellow bread sauces which have been served alongside poultry since medieval times.

Firstly, think of good gravy as your roast dinner’s best friend. The best thing to do is to make your own gravy, from scratch, ahead of time, which you can then freeze until the day you want to serve it. This recipe for gravy is very straightforward – you simply roast chicken wings and bacon, along with celery, onions, carrots and fresh herbs, olive oil, and a sprinkling of sea salt for maximum flavour, in a big tray in the oven for an hour. Jamie also adds a star-anise for a little extra kick. Once the chicken wings have cooked and the vegetables have coloured up nicely, finish off the sauce on the stove mashing everything up to release even more flavour, before adding water and a splash or sherry or port. The gravy is then thickened toward the end with a little flour. Once your turkey has cooked, you can also add some of the extra juices to the gravy and a swirl of cranberry sauce for extra sweetness.

Making your own bread sauce is a good way to use up stale chunks of bread, although in this recipe for beautiful bread sauce, Jamie uses ready-to-bake Ciabatta to add an Italian twist and an interesting texture to the sauce. The other ingredients you’ll need to have to hand are an onion, whole cloves, bay leaves (fresh or dried), sea salt, black pepper, nutmeg, milk, butter and a little double cream for extra decadence. You can make your bread sauce a couple of days in advance of needing it, before cooling and leaving it covered in the fridge. Just add an extra splash of milk when gently reheating. If you’re not so keen on the traditionally chunky texture, I recently tried a version that Jamie’s head chef at Fifteen London, Jon Rotherham, had made to serve with some game. Jon had passed his bread sauce through a sieve to create a smoother version of this British classic.

If you’re in the USA, you’ll most likely have eaten cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly with your Thanksgiving turkey, whilst in the UK, you’ll be getting ready to eat your cranberry sauce on Christmas day. An American cranberry sauce is quite often sweetened, whilst elsewhere it’s likely to be a little tarter. Typical flavours alongside fresh or frozen cranberries and sugar might include orange juice or zest, cinnamon, ginger and port. Cranberry sauce is now widely available in the shops, but your guests will be very appreciative of you making your own version. Try this very simple recipe for a cheat’s cranberry sauce which uses cinnamon with the addition of apples for a seasonal British twist. Serve with turkey, goose or duck or use cold as a chutney alongside cold meats and sandwiches.

Check out more delicious festive sauces and condiments below:

A beautiful alternative to traditional Christmas gravy.

Serve it alongside all kinds of curries or with cold ham, chicken or turkey. It’s fantastic in cheese toasties, too.

Master perfectly silky hollandaise sauce to make an amazing Christmas brunch.

Super-tasty and flavoursome, this gravy is just as good as the real thing.

About the author

Ren Behan is a well-known food writer and mum-of-two based in Hertfordshire in the UK. She grew up in a food-loving Polish household and now writes a popular family-friendly and seasonally-inspired blog at Ren enjoys cooking with her two children, aged 6 and 4.

Ren Behan