Béchamel sauce is a classic French white sauce, often used as the basis for many other sauces such as cheese or parsley.
Béchamel sauce is made by the roux method where butter and flour are cooked together then blended with an onion and herb infused milk and gently simmered until smooth and thick. Don’t be tempted to skip the infusing stage – this is when the milk absorbs plenty of flavour. Add a small knob of butter to the finished sauce to give it an extra glossy finish and rich flavour. Originally meant to be a starter course all on its own, but it’s now typically used as the creamy base for other sauces as well as in famous European dishes like lasagne and moussaka.
- 450ml milk
- 1 small onion, peeled and studded with 4 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 black peppercorns
- A few fresh parsley stalks
- 40g butter
- 40g plain flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pour the milk in a pan and add the studded onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Slowly bring the milk to simmering point then remove it from the heat. Cover the pan and set aside for 30 mins to allow the flavours to infuse.
Strain the milk into a jug and set aside. Clean the pan and return to the heat. Add the butter and heat until melted then add the flour and cook over a gentle heat for 1-2 mins, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Gradually add the milk, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk. Once all the milk has been added, simmer gently, for 5-10 mins, still whisking, until you have a smooth and thick sauce. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Tips for making béchamel sauce:
To check the roux has thickened enough, coat the back of a spoon with the sauce and see if a fingertip wipes the mixture away cleanly. If it does, it’s ready for the milk mixture.