This thick meat soup was first concocted in Victorian times, but as a nation we seem to have fallen out of love with it as, with the passage of time, its original robust dimensions were watered down and adulterated until the very name became synonymous with British food as a poor joke, conjuring up the ghost of Hancock saying of his mother’s gravy that ‘at least it moved’.
Perhaps this substantial recipe may help restore its good name. The amounts are for 8, as it hardly seems worth going to all this considerable trouble for 4 and it will, in any case, freeze.
In a heavy casserole, brown the meat in the dripping or butter.
Add the sliced onion and carrots to the casserole, lower the heat and fry them gently until they wilt. Sprinkle over the flour, turn up the heat and brown, stirring.
Add the marrow bone pieces, pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Skim carefully, then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 2 hours, topping up with water as required. Remove the bones and the bouquet garni.
The Victorians would have had a scullery girl to grind the mixture, then work it through a tammy cloth, but you can blitz it to a smooth purée in seconds in a blender or food processor, then push it through a sieve with a wooden spoon.
Return the soup to a clean pan, adjust the seasoning and add the cayenne pepper and sweet sherry or Madeira. If the soup is too thick, add some water.
Heat through gently before serving. If you find the brown expanse too depressing, sprinkle in some chopped chives.
© 1998 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.