This is one of the classic French ‘mother sauces’.

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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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method:

  1. First place the milk in a small saucepan and add the parsley stalks, bay leaf, nutmeg, peppercorns and onion.
  2. Let it very slowly come to simmering. Then remove from the heat and strain the milk, and discard the flavourings.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Now turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let the sauce cook for 5 minutes, stir from time to time.
  6. 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.

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