Darina Allen: Be sure to stock up on gravy for the big holiday meals

You’ll need some really good well-flavoured stock and now is the time to start to build up a stash in your freezer. Stock is a flavoured liquid made from bones and poultry carcasses and giblets when available. 
Darina Allen: Be sure to stock up on gravy for the big holiday meals

Pic: iStock

Twice last week, I got a request for a few tips on how to make really great gravy. 

A super tasty gravy is always part of a roast dinner and certainly an essential part of the magic of a traditional Christmas feast.

So here are a few of my top tips.

The best gravy is made in the roasting tin after the cooked bird or joint of meat has been removed. 

The caramelised juices that accumulate at the bottom of the tin are packed with flavour. 

There will be a little fat too but skim that off carefully and save for making delicious roasties. 

You’ll need some really good well-flavoured stock and now is the time to start to build up a stash in your freezer. Stock is a flavoured liquid made from bones and poultry carcasses and giblets when available. 

Add lots of root vegetables, carrot, celery, onions, the green tops of leeks when you have them, a few peppercorns, no salt, parsley stalks, fresh herb trimmings. 

Fish stock takes just 20 mins to simmer and is made from fish bones, vegetable stock is made from lots of vegetables including mushroom stalks. I love to add a little ginger too, even peelings add a little extra something.

No brassicas (cabbage family) because the flavour taints the stock. No potatoes either because they soak up rather than add flavour.

Neither are beets a good idea, that’s unless you want to make Borsch or don’t mind having a pink gravy.

You’ll also need some roux to thicken the liquid gravy. As you can see from the recipe included, it’s super simple to make and a brilliant standby ingredient to keep in a covered box in the fridge.

Breadcrumbs are also great to have in the freezer, so save every scrap of stale bread, including the crusts to make into crumbs. 

Go the whole hog and make up a few batches of stuffing, freeze and have it ready to pop into your turkey on Christmas Day and also a traditional bread sauce if that floats your boat and it’s certainly a favourite of mine.

Chicken Stock

recipe by:Darina Allen

This recipe makes about 3.5 litres of stock. For cheap containers, use large yogurt cartons or plastic milk bottles, then you can cut them away from frozen stock without a conscience if you need to defrost it in a hurry!

Chicken Stock

Preparation Time

21 mins

Cooking Time

4 hours 0 mins

Total Time

4 hours 21 mins




  • 2-3 raw or cooked chicken, preferably organic carcasses, or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard - save the liver for a different dish)

  • 1 onion, sliced

  • 1 leek, split in two

  • 2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves

  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks

  • a few parsley stalks

  • sprig of thyme

  • 6 peppercorns


  1. Chop up the carcasses as much as possible.

  2. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4 litres (7 pints) cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.

  3. Simmer very gently for 3-4 hours.

  4. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.


recipe by:Darina Allen

For one roast chicken, double or triple the quantity for a turkey or goose.


Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

35 mins

Total Time

45 mins




  • 600-900ml homemade chicken stock

  • flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  • For the roux:

  • 110g butter

  • 110g flour


  1. After the bird or joint has roasted and been removed to a low oven to rest. Tilt the roasting tin to one corner, spoon off the surplus fat from the juices and return the roasting pan to the stove.

  2. Deglaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones (you will need 600-900ml depending on the size of the chicken). Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the roasting pan.

  3. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like the gravy should not be thick. (To make the roux, melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.)

  4. Taste and correct the gravy's seasoning, serve in a hot gravy boat.

December at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Create Your Own Seasonal, Sustainable Christmas Wreath with Fionnuala Fallon at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday, December 18 

Fionnuala, author and gardening correspondent with the Irish Times, is a flower-farmer-florist with a deep love of seasonality and sustainability whose work is inspired by the wild Irish landscape, so she’ll show you how to use Irish-grown foliage along with some foraged elements from the garden and the hedgerows, employing modern sustainable floristry techniques that avoid the use of environmentally harmful floral foam (oasis).

She will also demonstrate how to create your own beautiful, foam-free seasonal centrepiece arrangement for the Christmas table using Irish-grown foliage and foraged elements from the garden and the wild (seedheads, lichen-covered branches, berries), so that you can go home with the skills to create one yourself.

You will make your own festive seasonal wreath to decorate your front door or hang inside your home. A convivial lunch and refreshments are included.

The gift that keeps on giving…

Are you still racking your brain for a special Christmas pressie? How about a Ballymaloe Cookery School Gift Token for an afternoon demonstration, a half day, one day or a Ballymaloe Organic Farm School course. 

Lots of options, could be a bespoke course for your family or work colleagues. Decide on a special course or just choose an amount, your friend can top up the voucher if they fancy.

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