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6 sauces you need to master in the kitchen

May 14, 2019

A well-made sauce can elevate even the most humble ingredients, but the thought of making your own from scratch might seem like a stretch too far.

Thankfully, most of the well-known culinary sauces are simple to make and, with a bit of practice, you’ll be able to whip them up in no time.

Many sauces require the process to be started with a roux – a mixture of melted butter and flour heated in a pan to form a paste. This is often used to help thicken the sauce and make it smooth.

Béchamel

This a rich, versatile sauce, central to dishes as diverse as macaroni, cauliflower cheese, lasagne and moussaka. Made at home, it’s a world away from the gloopy shop-bought variety.

Start by making a roux and whisk it with milk to create a thick, creamy consistency. For some Mediterranean-inspired comfort food, try this Hairy Bikers moussaka made with a cinnamon-spiced lamb mince layered with potatoes and aubergine.

Velouté

Another classic French sauce. For a velouté, add a light stock (chicken or fish) to a roux. This sauce is the perfect accompaniment to chicken, pork and fish dishes.

Try adding chopped parsley to the sauce and serving with pan-fried cod, broccoli and new potatoes.

Hollandaise

Up for a challenge? This sauce isn’t thickened with a roux and is the most difficult of the sauces listed here. An emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter thickens this sauce, but this is where the care is required as the emulsion can split quite easily. Here’s a video to help you get an idea of the process.

For the perfect weekend brunch, poach a couple of eggs and serve on toasted English muffins with ham and a generous helping of sauce.

Espagnole

A simple brown sauce similar to a velouté, but thickened with a roux and a dark stock such as beef. It’s also common to add tomato purée, diced carrot, celery and onion, which gives an added aromatic punch.

Espagnole sauce is the ideal companion to beef with roast potatoes and seasonal greens. A richer demi-glace sauce can also be made by reducing the espagnole with a clear stock.

Tomato

An essential throughout Spanish, French and Italian cuisine, tomato sauces can be thickened with a roux or reduced slowly. The French version tends to feature stock, carrots, celery and onion, whilst the Italian version often adds herbs such as basil, garlic and oregano.

Serve with grilled chicken thighs for an Italian-style casserole dish or keep it with simple with some fresh pasta.

Pesto

Rather than buying pre-made jars of pesto, try making your own for a taste of authentic, rustic Italy. Add two cups of basil and a cup of pine nuts to a blender and pulse. Then add mashed garlic and parmesan, before slowly pouring in the olive oil to help the pesto emulsify.

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