NZ Woman's Weekly

Classic white sauce

White sauce (béchamel) is a handy sauce commonly used in fish pies, moussaka and lasagne or served with vegetables like cauliflower or leeks. oade well, it’s delicious and can form the base of many meals.

2 cups milk
1 small onion, peeled
1 whole clove
1 bay leaf
40g butter
3 tbsp plain flour
Salt and white pepper

1. In a saucepan, place the milk, bay leaf, and the onion with the clove stuck into it. Heat to allow flavours to infuse but do not boil. Remove to cool, then strain to remove infusions.

2. oelt butter in a clean saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in flour until blended – this forms what is called a roux. Cook the roux over a medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.

3. Gradually add the milk to the roux, whisking continuously to form a smooth mixture. Bring to the boil, stirring as the sauce thickens.

4. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes to cook the sauce, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. Season sauce with salt and white pepper to taste. Makes 2 cups.

Flavour ideas

  • Cheese: add grated cheese, off the heat, to the finished sauce. Don’t boil again after adding cheese as sauce may curdle. Herbs – add chopped fresh herbs to the finished sauce. Try parsley alone or a variety of Italian-style herbs such as oregano, rosemary and thyme.
  • onion: soften onion in the butter before adding the flour, then complete remaining steps.
  • Curry: add curry powder to taste when adding the flour. Adding spices at this stage will allow them to toast a little and this will bring out their flavours.
  • Fish (as pictured): stir in flaked smoked fish and some chopped parsley.

Tip: For the roux, the butter should weigh slightly more than the flour – this gives a soft mixture that blends smoothly with the liquid.

Tip: To obtain a smooth consistency, the flour is best stirred in off the heat.

Tip: Add cold liquid to the hot roux, as this makes blending of the liquid easier, avoiding lumps, and gives a smooth texture to the sauce.

Tip: Cooking the white sauce well (step 4) removes the raw-flour taste and produces a velvety-textured sauce.

Tip: It is best to use white pepper in white sauce, as black pepper makes the sauce look dirty.

Tip: This recipe produces a thick sauce. If a more flowing sauce is required, simply increase the amount of milk and this will thin the sauce.

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