Which bread is best for mopping up gravy

00:00 Mon 31st Dec 2001 The AnswerBank

A.� An exhaustive study had led scientists to believe that the Italian bread ciabatta is best for mopping up British gravy. Dr Len Fisher, an Australian biophysicist and honorary research fellow at Bristol University, has just published research showing tests on various types of bread and gravy.

Q.� How did he work it out

A.� Dr Fisher said he observed that about 20 millilitres of gravy was left on the average dinner plate. An estimated 44 million people last week sat down to a traditional roast turkey lunch - with gravy - which meant around 880,000 litres of wasted gravy. The scientist, who was sponsored by Bisto, relied on some of his previous work, which included a formula for the most effective manner in which to dunk a digestive biscuit in tea. The aim of his research was to find the bread which offered maximum absorption and resistance to excessive sogginess. He tested pre-sliced white and wholemeal bread and uncut white loaves with slices cut normally and lengthwise. A slice of bread weighing 33 grams was placed flat down in gravy. Slices were dunked for two, five and 10 seconds to test soeed and extent of gravy absobency. There was no significant difference with time, indicating that maximum absorption occurs almost immediately upon contact.

Absorbency rates, based on the percentage of a bread slice's weight, were: pre-sliced white 64 per cent, pre-sliced wholemeal 69, whole white (sliced transversely) 79. whote white loaf (sliced elngthwise) 107, and ciabatta 120.

Q.� Where does gravy come from

A.� The first evidence dates back to the 14th century. The French had the word grane in their cooking, and it's thought at some stage, the 'n' was copied as a 'v'. One 14th century cookbook shows oysters stewed 'in their own gravy', meaning in their own juices with wine broth, almonds and rice flour, and similar gravies appeared from there on. The French today have only sauce or jus (juices), while the British have gravy, a sauce made from juices and other ingredients.

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By Katharine MacColl

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