Bechamel, or 'white sauce', has been unfashionable for many years as people worried about the health consequences of combining butter and flour – funny, but we don’t seem so worried about this in baking… I like to use bechamel as a base for my pies because it is soft and creamy and holds the flavour of what ever you mix with it. In this sense, you have a good foundation with which to play around devise your own combination of ingredients.
To be able to make a silky Bechamel, is considered part a good cook’s skill set. If lumps of flour do form, the trick is to pass or sieve the hot, cooked sauce to remove them.
When using Bechamel in pies but it is best made the day before so that it can set in the fridge overnight. This way it will not be too runny for the pastry case and ooze out.
Bechamel is one of those sauces that is easier to extend and make bigger or smaller quantities. In this recipe we have 100g of butter and flour with 1 litre of milk – to make a smaller quantity, halve those; to make bigger, you can double the recipe.
(This recipe will make about 600 grams – enough to fill 6 to 8 Smoked Fish Pies)
- 1litre milk
- 1 slice of onion
- 1 blade mace/nutmeg (optional)
- a few fresh parsley stalks (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 crushed white peppercorns
- 100g butter
- 100g flour
- salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Place the milk, onion, mace, parsley stalks, bay leaf and peppercorns in a pan, and slowly bring to simmering point.
- Remove from the heat and leave for the flavour to infuse for 8 – 10 minutes.
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the flour to make a roux. Allow to cook for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Strain the infused milk and gradually stir into the roux.
- Bring to the boil stirring continuously. This will take 5 – 10 minutes
- Simmer, stirring well for 10 minutes. During this time keep stirring to make sure that it does not catch on the base of the pot.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour into a bowl to cool. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the top.
- If lumps have formed, pass the mixture through a sieve when pouring it into the bowl to cool.