Sunday, 15 February 2015

The cheat's way to perfect white sauce

I know so many people who do not even attempt to make their own white sauce. The reason for this; well they see chefs on the TV making a roux, adding warm milk a little at a time and coming up with a perfect lump-free sauce. They try it themselves only to not quite get it right, their confidence plummets and they convince themselves that a basic white sauce is the preserve of the professionals.

Now for me, making a roux based sauce is as natural as breathing, but for friends who have not had my culinary training, it seems daunting. Well there is another way of achieving the same result. All it involves is a saucepan, whisk and a gentle heat. And of course the patience to stand over it while it thickens.

When I'm short of time, normally after a hectic day at work when I need to whip up a variation on the white sauce I put everything in the pan, heat gently and keep whisking. After about 10 minutes of gentle heating you will have a sauce that can then be customised; with cheese for cauliflower, parsley for fish, egg yolks for a moussaka topping, nutmeg to create a bechamel to top lasagna, the list goes on.

The default recipe that I use is therefore:

1 pint/568ml of full fat milk
50grams of unsalted butter
50 grams of plain flour
5 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
half an onion, skin on

Start by combining the milk with the peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and onion. Push the cloves into the onion to make removing easier. Heat until just reaching boiling point and then leave for 30 minutes, to let the flavours infuse. You could do this the day before, strain and chill in the fridge ready for use when you need it.

When you are ready to make your sauce, strain though a sieve into a pan, then add the butter and flour. Heat gently, whisking all the time, over a low heat until the mixture thickens. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes to cook out the flour, after which time add your flavourings and either serve as it is, or use in your chosen recipe.

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