The lavish dinner enjoyed on Christmas Eve is a wholesome feast that brings together sweets and savouries on one table and leaves everyone mesmerised by the variety and taste. From baked sweetmeats - like pies and puddings - to meaty roasts - like turkey and duck - you’ll be spoilt for choice. But what is that one condiment that has remained a constant alongside these roasts? Let’s find out…
The Christmas traditions followed across the world differ in terms of culture, beliefs, and practices, as well as the culinary spread. While some cultures may celebrate the day with a roasted turkey and mince pie, others would prefer smoked pork or a feast of seven fish.
Amid all that, the Britons find their comfort in a bowl of bread sauce. Yes, you read that right. While the condiment may not be well-known outside the UK, it continues to hold significance in British Christmas celebrations. No Christmas dinner in a British household is complete without the humble bread sauce, served alongside all the festive roasts.
The journey of the bread sauce
For the unversed, bread sauce is nothing but a bland combination of breadcrumbs, soaked in milk and filled with festive spices like nutmeg, cloves, and mace. The sauce is not very flavoursome, as compared to all the hearty dishes one finds at a Christmas dinner spread, yet it continues to be an integral part of every feast there.
It is said that the bread sauce originated in Medieval England, at a time when the cooks were expected to produce different kinds of thick sauces. Unlike today’s methods of thickening condiments like sauces as well as soups as stews with eggs or cornflour, the cooks in the olden days made use of a cheaper and more accessible ingredient called bread. Since it was easy to use and available conveniently, the bread was dunked in sauces to thicken their consistency.
What makes it so unique?
Although most Christmas traditions have undergone changes and modifications to suit the present-day needs, it is the bread sauce that remains unchanged. A simple mix of soggy bread, mixed with spices gives us a bland and flavourless dish. However, it is the blandness of this sauce that complements the Christmas roasts like turkey, duck and chicken really well.
Not just meat, even vegetarian delights like honey-glazed carrots, brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes get spruced up with the slight pairing of bread sauce. It continues to be one of the heroes at the Christmas table in British households, who enjoy its non-complex flavours and hassle-free method of preparation, balancing their hearty and rich delicacies with a humble and light condiment.