I've often seen people scrabbling around at the last minute trying to make gravy while the rest of the Christmas lunch or dinner is getting cold. But you can very cleverly get ahead of the game by making up your gravy the day before – or even a few days before – and then use it at the last minute to quickly de-glaze your roasting pan: the cooking juices will enhance the flavour.
Rather like in a restaurant, base sauces are made in advance, as they take a long time to cook and to extract the maximum flavour from the bones. So, if you're making this at home, it makes sense to make a large batch in advance – then you can freeze it in small useable quantities so that it's there when you need it.
1kg chicken wings, chopped into small pieces
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
A couple of sticks of celery, roughly chopped
1 large leek, trimmed, roughly chopped and washed
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2tsp tomato purée
1tbsp plain flour
2 litres chicken or beef stock (a couple of good-quality cubes will do)
10 black peppercorns
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Roast the chopped chicken wings and the vegetables for about 15-20 minutes until lightly coloured, giving them a good stir every so often. When they are a nice golden-brown colour, add the tomato purée, then the flour and stir well with the wings and vegetables in the roasting pan.
Return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove the roasting tray from the oven and add a little of the stock and give it a good stir over a low flame. This will remove any residue from the tray and begin the thickening process. Transfer everything into a large saucepan, cover with the rest of the beef or chicken stock and some cold water if the stock doesn't cover the wings and add the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum that forms and simmer very gently for 1 hours. The gravy may need topping up with water to keep the ingredients covered. Skim occasionally as required.
Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and remove any fat with a ladle. Check its consistency and reduce it if necessary. If the gravy is not thick enough, dilute some cornflour in a little cold water and stir in.