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Getting saucy: Bring your meals to life

The key to making delicious sauces
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As the foundation to so many dishes throughout the world, sauces are an essential part of every cook's repertoire, and can turn even the most basic meal into a culinary extravaganza. Bring to life the simplest of dishes, by giving these quick sauce tricks and tips a go.

Bechamel sauce

What you need:
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 parsley sprig
2-3 cloves
2 onion slices
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 tablespoon (20g) butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
(Makes 1 cup, prep time 5 minutes, cooking time 10 minutes)

What to do:
1. Combine milk in a saucepan with parsley, cloves and onion. Bring to the boil on a medium heat – do not boil (known as scalding). Strain, discarding flavours.
2. Place butter in a medium saucepan. Melt over a medium heat. Blend in flour. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute (known as a ‘roux’). Do not brown.
3. Remove from heat. Gradually blend in milk until smooth.
4. Return to heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce boils and thickens. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Season to taste. Use as directed.

Variations:

  • Parsley sauce – add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (with corned beef)
  • Caper sauce – add 2 tablespoons chopped capers (with fish)
  • Onion sauce (soubise) – add 1 small onion (or 6 sliced green onions), chopped and sautéed (with corned beef, vegetables)
  • Cheese sauce (mornay) – add ½ cup (60g) grated tasty cheese (with pasta, vegetables)

Quick sauce

If you don't have time to make this delicious béchamel following our steps, break all the rules and place all ingredients together into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and process with a hand blender for a good result. Also, you don’t need to infuse the milk with flavours if time is short. Make white sauce in the same way minus milk flavours.

Skin off

Prevent a skin from forming on prepared béchamel by covering the top of the sauce with plastic wrap or baking paper – ensure it touches the surface of the sauce and the sides of the container.

Simmering sauces

Sauces should be simmered for at least 3 after thickening to ensure that the flour is cooked, avoiding a ‘floury’ taste.

Lumpy

If sauce is not stirred well during liquid incorporation into roux or as it comes to the boil, lumps may occur. Don’t panic. Simply push the sauce through a sieve or use a hand blender.

Foundation sauces

Veloute sauce is a foundation sauce made in the same way as béchamel, but uses a blond roux (roux is cooked until golden) and chicken, veal or fish stock and perhaps a little white wine. This is often enriched with an egg yolk or cream. Espagnol is a foundation sauce made with a brown roux (roux is cooked until nut brown) and a beef stock. When combined with stock and reduced and demi-glace is produced.

Which sauce do I need

Pouring (thin)
20g butter, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 1 cup milk. For use in: soups

Medium
40g butter, 2 tablespoons plain flour, 1 cup milk. For use in: gratins, fish, puddings

Thick (masking)
60g butter, 1/4 cup plain flour, 1 cup milk. For use in: soufflés, savoury fillings

Panada (very thick)
80g butter, 1/3 cup plain flour, 1 cup milk. For use in: croquettes, binding

Make a sweet white sauce for puddings by adding 1 tablespoon sugar or 2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey in place of seasonings.

One of the 5 foundation sauces, béchamel sauce is a basic of home cooking. Follow our simple steps to perfect, smooth, glossy results.

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