Sunday, 10 July 2011

Back to Basics: White Sauce

Talking to my friends, many are terrified by the basic "White Sauce", which can be used in a variety of recipes, it really is that versatile. Crack it, and you're repertoire may include Parsley Sauce, Fish Pie, Chicken Supreme, Lasagne etc. Most would rather use a jar or packet on the basis that they won't get a lumpy, tasteless gloop, but really, it's not that difficult.

The key to a good White Sauce, or B├ęchamel if you want to be posh, is patience, however it doesn't take that long to make.

Follow this step by step guide to creating the perfect base for bigger things....

I have not included a list of quantities, as the amount depends upon how much sauce you want to make, and how thick you want it. The ingredients that you will need are:

Salt & pepper to season

The nature of the ingredients means that sometimes you will need more milk than the last time. Or you might need less. I work on the principle of 2 parts flour to 1 part butter. It works for me.

Melt some butter in a pan on a medium heat.
On this occasion, I used a dessert spoon of butter.

I also added my seasoning and some grated nutmeg, as I was making this sauce for a lasagne.
Add the flour; I prefer to use a whisk, as it mixes better. You can buy whisks designed for sauces, but as you can see, I make do with a balloon whisk.

"Cook" for 3-4 minutes or so; this should stop the sauce tasting of flour.

Stir regularly.
Remove the pan from the heat.

Add a small, and I mean small, dash of milk, and stir. The heated flour/butter mix means it will become a congealed blob. This is good.

Continue to add milk, a small amount at a time. If you do it slowly, you won't get any lumps. Trust me.
Keep on whisking in more milk until you have a liquidy mix that is not as thick as you want it. The sauce will thicken when it's returned to the heat.

Don't add too much milk at this stage; you can add it later, if your sauce is too thick.
Return the pan to the heat, and stir until the sauce is close to the desired thickness.

Remove from the heat and keep stirring; the sauce will continue to thicken, which is why you take it off before you get there.

If your sauce is too thick, slowly add more milk until you get the consistency that you want.

Once you've made the sauce, you can add your flavours, be it parsley, cheese, tarragon. And there you have it!

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