About this recipe:This classic white sauce is used in a wide variety of dishes. Many flavouring ingredients can be added to make a number of different sauces.
600 ml (1 pint) semi-skimmed milk
1 onion or 2 shallots, halved
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
pinch of grated nutmeg
55 g (2 oz) butter
55 g (2 oz) plain flour
salt and pepper
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Method Prep:15min › Cook:5min › Ready in:20min
Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan and add the onion or shallots, bay leaf, peppercorns and nutmeg. Bring just to the boil over a moderate heat, then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the flavoured milk into a jug.
Melt the butter in the rinsed-out pan. Stir in the flour and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Do not allow the flour to brown.
Remove the pan from the heat and gradually pour in the milk, stirring or whisking constantly. Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil, still stirring or whisking.
Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce gently for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is smooth and thick.
Taste and add salt and pepper. Serve or use immediately.
Some more ideas
For a mushroom sauce, slice 300 g (10 1/2 oz) button mushrooms and cook in the butter for 5 minutes before stirring in the flour. * A one-stage bechamel sauce is quick, and it can be a good way of making a lower-fat sauce as the butter can be reduced or omitted. Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan and gradually whisk in the flour, sprinkling it lightly over the milk as you whisk. Slice the onion or shallots and add with all the remaining ingredients, including the butter, if using. Whisk the sauce over a moderate heat until it comes to the boil and thickens, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Strain the sauce, or use a draining spoon to remove the flavouring ingredients, and add seasoning to taste.