This is one of the classic French ‘mother sauces’.
Also known as white sauce, a basic sauce that is used as the base for other sauces, such as Mornay sauce, which is Béchamel with cheese added.
- 450 / 15fl oz. of milk
- a few parsley stalks
- 1 bay leaf
- a pinch of nutmeg
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 of an onion, sliced
- 40g / 1 ½ oz butter
- 20g / ¾ oz plain flour
- salt and pepper, to taste
- First place the milk in a small saucepan and add the parsley stalks, bay leaf, nutmeg, peppercorns and onion.
- Let it very slowly come to simmering. Then remove from the heat and strain the milk, and discard the flavourings.
- Melt the butter gently – don’t over-heat it or let it brown, this will affect the flavour of the sauce. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour and, over a medium heat and using a whisk, stir quite vigorously to make a smooth, glossy paste.
- Now begin adding the infused milk a little at a time – about 2 table spoons at first and stir again vigorously. When incorporated, add the a little more and continue adding each bit of liquid before you add the next. When half the milk is in, start adding large amounts of milk, but keeping whisking briskly.
- Now turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let the sauce cook for 5 minutes, stir from time to time.
- Taste and season with salt and freshly milled black pepper.
If you wish to keep the sauce warm, either pour it into a thermos flask, or pour it into a warmed jug, cover the surface with cling film to stop a skin from forming, and place the jug in a pan of barely simmering water.