I first learnt how to make a basic white sauce years ago. I was in my early teens and following one of my mum’s old 70s cookbooks to make macaroni cheese. It’s really very simple once you know how and once you’ve mastered it, you have the foundation for a whole load of sauces for a whole load of meals. So here it is…
1/2 pint milk
Place the butter in a saucepan on a low to medium heat and allow it to melt.
Once it’s fully melted (but not sizzling), add the flour and stir it quickly to combine into a roux (a basic doughy mixture that “rolls” around the pan). Give it a few seconds for the flour to cook in the pan.
Gradually add the milk, a little at a time. Make sure the milk is thoroughly stirred into the roux before adding more.
Keep adding the milk. If at any point you find it becomes lumpy, don’t fret! Just stir vigorously, or take a whisk to it. The lumps will soon dissolve into the milk. And keep stirring. Gradually the sauce will start to thicken.
As soon as it starts simmering, remove from the heat and add a good pinch of black pepper. Et voila! That’s your basic béchamel sauce. From here you can make any of the following with a few extra ingredients:
Bread sauce (breadcrumbs, cloves)
Lasagne/cannelloni sauce (nutmeg)
Cheese sauce (1tsp mustard, 6oz grated cheddar)
Parsley (fresh or dried parsley, bay leaf)
Fish pie (poaching milk from the fish, lemon juice, bay leaf)