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Sauces

How to use Béchamel sauce

This sauce is the base of so many dishes – do it right

White sauce is a lot like me: it’s got a reputation for being intimidating. It’s also one of the most important and versatile sauces in any kitchen. But treat it right, and it’s effortless. It’s all about working the roux, really whisking your white flour into the melted butter, and adding your milk, bit by bit, so it doesn’t burn.

You don’t need a thick skin to make a beautiful Béchamel. Just a thick-bottomed saucepan. Less chance of the milk burning. And don’t forget the loyal sieve at the end. It will stop any rogue lumps spoiling your dish.

There are lots of other dishes that work well with a Béchamel. Here are my favourite suggestions: 

Macaroni cheese

Take your Béchamel and add cheese, lots of it. Gorgonzola, fontina, grana padana, ricotta – your very own quattro formaggio. Throw in some mustard powder or nutmeg if you like. Then pour over a dish of cooked macaroni before baking to perfection.

Vegetable bake

A great winter warmer. Smother chopped root vegetables in white sauce and top with creamy mash. I add a layer of Parmesan for extra flavour. Some prefer to put the cheese in the sauce; I add mine on top. It looks and tastes delicious after 40 minutes in a hot oven.

Mornay sauce 

Shred some strong Cheddar or any mix of hard and medium cheeses into your Béchamel, and you’ve got a Mornay. Simple. And delicious on pasta, on vegetables, with cod, with seafood… the list goes on. 

Carrots and parsley sauce

Add a drop of cream and chopped parsley into your white sauce, and then stir in your cooked carrots for a seasonal treat.

Fish pie

I’ve shown you my Simple Fish Pie with Peas, now try my classic version – with salmon, pollack, mussels, leeks and Gruyère. Pour some dry vermouth into your white sauce, slather it over your dish of cooked fish and veg and top with chunky mash and grated cheese before baking to golden brown.

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