Making a Bechamel sauce from scratch does take time, and the idea of making a roux is pretty scary if you’ve never made one before, but it is actually pretty easy to do. Infusing the milk takes the longest, but you can wonder off and do something else while that’s happening and it tastes so much better if you give it the full 30mins. As for the roux, you’re just dissolving flour in milk, that’s all. But there are two important things to remember:
1, Once you put that flour into the pan, don’t move! Stay with it and keep whisking until you have a sauce or you risk burning it.
2, Add the milk slowly. A bit at a time and make sure it’s fully dissolved before adding another drop. If you add too much at once it’ll go lumpy.
Whenever I’ve made a sauce that’s gone wrong, it’s because I haven’t done one of the above. If you don’t have cornflour you can use plain flour, the original recipe uses plain flour, but I find that cornflour dissolves much better and creates a much smoother sauce.
Of course, you can buy really good ready made sauces and packet mixes from the shops, but the shop bought sauces contain a lot of salts and sugars. Making your own means you know exactly what’s in it, and once you can make Bechamel, you can make a cheese sauce, a parsley sauce, a white lasagne sauce etc, they all use the same technique. So you wont need to have lots of different sauces in the cupboard, just milk, a bit of butter, a bit of cornflour and a few herbs and spices and you can make any sauce you like in any quantity you need. It’s also pretty impressive too, serve this at a dinner party or on a date night and just wait for the gasps.
This recipe is based on the one in my old Dairy cookery book (see my About page for more info) and I usually serve it with a simple roasted salmon filet and veg. Just wrap the salmon up in foil with a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of dill and black pepper and roast for about 20mins on 200 C / 180 C fan / gas mark 6.
- 500mls of milk
- Half a white onion
- Half a celery stick
- 2 teaspoons of mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 2 whole cloves
- 25g of butter
- 25g of cornflour
- Put the milk, onion, celery, mustard powder, black pepper and cloves into a pan and bring to the boil slowly, stirring every so often. – Pic 1
- When it’s just starting to bubble, take off the heat and cover. Leave to stand for 30mins if possible, then strain. Keep the infused milk and discard the used onion, celery and cloves.
- Put the milk in a jug within reach and put the pan back on a medium heat and add the butter.
- Once the butter has melted, add the cornflour and whisk it in. – Pic 2
- The flour will absorb all the butter and turn into a paste (this is a roux). Keep whisking for a minute to cook out the flour, then start adding the milk, a couple of tablespoons at a time. – Pic 3
- Make sure the milk is well combined before adding the next drop (see clip below)
- Eventually the roux with soften and start looking like a really thick sauce. Keep adding the milk in stages until you have used it all and it’s well combined.
Tip – This sauce stores really well in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days, but it will be incredibly thick once it’s cooled. Just reheat in the microwave to loosen it up, or add a drop of milk or water if it’s still too thick.
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