BACK TO BASICS
AFTER THE FOAM HAS GONE
I am amazed how many young chefs come into this business without knowing the very basics of cooking. I watched Andreas, the head chef at Fosh Food, make a perfect Veloute the other day and he was complaining about just the same thing.
You see, once upon a time, you had to know how to make a good Béchamel sauce before going on to master your Velouté. It was one of those benchmark recipes of all good cooks and the base of countless other classic sauces such as Nantua, Soubise and Mornay. These day’s, most young chefs are more concerned about how much lecithin they have to put in their sauces to make their foam stand up for half an hour and a good Roux has practically become obsolete. This is a real shame as a well-made béchamel sauce is truly delicious, and for any home cook, it opens up an endless stream of classic dishes from Gratins, croquettes to lasagnes.
The secret to a well made béchamel is to make your milk as flavoursome as possible. If you infuse your onion, bay leaf, herbs and spices long before you need to make the sauce, the milk will have so much more flavour and you can then worry about your Roux.
A Roux is basically a mixture of melted butter and flour that binds and thickens the sauce. Begin by melting the butter gently - don't over-heat it or let it brown, as this will affect the colour and flavour of the sauce. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour and, over a medium heat and using a small pointed wooden spoon, stir quite vigorously to make a smooth, glossy paste. Now begin adding the warm infused milk a little at a time and stir again vigorously. Then, when this milk is incorporated, add the next amount and continue incorporating each bit of liquid before you add the next. When about half the milk is in, switch to a balloon whisk and start adding large amounts of milk, but always whisking briskly.
Your reward will be a smooth, glossy, creamy sauce. Now turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let the sauce cook for 10-15 minutes, whisking from time to time as a Béchamel is easily burned.
In a world where new technology changes the way we do things, it occasionally makes a pleasant change to pick up a heavy, iron clad pot and an old, battered wooden spoon to prove that they can still be just as handy as they were one hundred years ago. The trusty old Béchamel has been around for about that long and I have sneaky feeling it will still be around long after the foam has gone.
a few parsley stalks
1 bay leaf , torn
6 whole black peppercorns
½ small onion, peeled and studded with 3 cloves
30g plain flour
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Bring the milk just to the boil with the onion pierced with the cloves, bay leaf, parsley stalks and the peppercorns.
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes before straining. Then melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, stir in the flour, and cook over a low heat for five minutes.
When smooth, start adding some of the strained milk. Stir until smooth, and then add more milk until the sauce is thickened.
Cook for 10-15 minutes to ensure the flour is cooked through. Sprinkle with grated nutmeg, if desired, pass through a fine sieve and serve.
Ingredients: serves 4