You know that floury, lumpy, stodgy white sauce you used to hate, that was always being poured over your vegetables, or oozing out of your lasagna?
This is that sauce … only it is not floury, or lumpy, or stodgy. It is smooth, thick & creamy & has just the right amount of cheese to make it super tasty when you add it to all sorts of foods like steamed or roasted vegetables, sauteed or roasted meats & best of all lasagna.
By mixing milk with a combination of herbs, spice & onion, gently heating, allowing the flavours to release, the permeate the milk, you begin to transform this into a rich & delicious sauce.
Adding cooked flour aids in thickening the bechamel, but it must be cooked well into the butter to ensure it does not leave a floury taste or create lumps in the sauce.
The key to a great bechamel cheese sauce is to;
1. Let the milk steep with the other ingredients for at least 15 minutes so that the flavours develop.
2. Make sure you cook the flour well once you add it to the butter. It should thicken & start to pull away from the sides of the pot.
3. Keep whisking once you add everything back together – it will gradually smooth out – just keep whisking!
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 brown onion, roughly chopped
- 4 fresh parsley stalks
- A pinch of whole black peppercorns
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 4 whole cloves
- 40 grams unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
- Salt & ground pepper to season
- Combine the milk, onion, parsley stalks, peppercorns, bay leaves and cloves in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Remove from heat and set aside for at least 15 minutes to infuse - (I usually leave mine for at least half and hour).
- Strain milk mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug. Discard solids.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to come away from side of pan - (it's important to cook the flour. If you don't the sauce will taste floury and may have a grainy texture).
- Reduce heat to low.
- Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth - (If sauce becomes lumpy, keep working it with the whisk. If this does not work, strain through a fine sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to remove any lumps.)
- Return to medium-high heat and bring sauce to the boil, stirring constantly - (about 5 minutes).
- Sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
- Turn off heat,
- Add the grated cheese & stir gently to combine.
- If using this sauce for making something like lasagna - prepare as above & as soon as you remove from the heat, cover with a sheet of cling wrap, pushing gently over the top & into the rim of your saucepan, sealing in the sauce. This will prevent a 'skin' forming as happens with cooking with dairy products.
- This will give time for the sauce to cool & be added as needed.
- If reheating, do so over a gentle, low heat, stirring regularly until warmed through.
There’s not a lot more I can add about this recipe – it is a fabulous accompaniment to lots of dishes – I have it here mainly for my Beef & Vegetable Lasagna recipe, which you really should try – go HERE to find it, it’s awesome!! ;)
I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!