Ah, sauce! The secret weapon of cooks everywhere, with the power to make or break even the tastiest of meals. They’ve been used since cooking began to add flavour, moisture and visual appeal to a dish.
Just think how integral they are to famous pairings: Eggs Benedict and hollandaise sauce, lasagne and bechamel, pasta and tomato sauce, lamb with mint sauce, and peri-peri chicken. The list goes on, with many versions of sauces unique to countries and regions around the world.
Having these 5 basic sauces up your sleeve will take most meals a very long way. Each of them is filled with flavour on their own, but like any recipe, you’re able to add or switch ingredients to make them unique to your kitchen.
- 15g butter
- 15g flour
- 300ml milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat
- Add the flour and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes
- When the mixture starts to bubble, remove from the heat
- Add the milk slowly while continuing to stir until all the milk has been incorporated
- Return the saucepan to the heat and stir for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken and just starts to bubble
- Season with salt and pepper This is a classic white sauce that can be used as a base for a cheese sauce, mushroom sauce, mustard sauce and mornay sauce.
To turn this into a cheese sauce (for macaroni cheese, for example), add 1 cup of grated cheese when the mixture starts to thicken – and do not let the mixture boil. For something extra, try adding half a teaspoon of mustard or a pinch of nutmeg.
Bechamel Sauce (microwave version)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 500ml milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place butter in a 1 litre glass ovenproof jug or bowl
- Microwave on ‘melt’ or at full power for 30 seconds – or if butter is cold, in 30 second bursts until melted
- Stir in the flour and microwave on high for 1 minute until it bubbles
- Add the milk gradually, stirring continuously until all the milk has been added
- Microwave for 4 minutes, stirring each minute to avoid lumps, until thick
- If mixture is too thick, add a little more milk
- Add salt and pepper to taste This recipe is a great quick fix when you need this sauce in a hurry. The time required depends on the power of your microwave, so could take a little longer than indicated.
To make this a cheese sauce, add 1 cup of grated cheese once the sauce has thickened, and microwave for another minute before seasoning to taste.
- 2 egg yolks
- 125g melted butter (clarified)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ teaspoon lightly crushed white peppercorns
- Juice of half a lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste (cracked black pepper is best)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Put the vinegar, water, and crushed peppercorns in a saucepan and bring to the boil
- Lower the heat and simmer for a minute or until reduced by half
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool
- Strain the liquid into a heatproof bowl, then add the egg yolks to the liquid and whisk together
- Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (with the base of the bowl not touching the water) and whisk the mixture for 5 to 6 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick, creamy and ribbon-like in texture
- Slowly add the clarified butter in a slow stream and whisk until the mixture becomes thick and glossy
- Add the lemon juice and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne This is a creamy, tangy sauce best paired with poached eggs, poached fish, and vegetables, such as asparagus.
To enjoy this sauce at its best, serve immediately or keep warm in a bain marie.
- 2 cups fresh mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
- Crush the mint leaves and sugar in a mortar and pestle (or chop very finely, or process just until chopped)
- Add the boiling water and leave to draw for 30 minutes
- Add the vinegar and mix to combine
- Set aside until needed This is a household staple sauce – irresistible when served with roast lamb, lamb chops, rack of lamb, or lamb ribs.
If you prefer the taste, replace the caster sugar with brown sugar, and white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar in place of malt vinegar. Add a bite to the sauce with half a chopped chilli.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
- 2 tins (410g) of chopped tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, or canola)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 6 large basil leaves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brown sugar to taste, if needed to reduce acidity
- In a saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onions until soft
- Add the garlic and basil, and cook for 30 seconds
- Add the chopped tomatoes and water, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened Usually used in pasta dishes such as eggplant parmesan, lasagna, and as a base for bolognese, and pizza.
The sauce can be mashed for a finer consistency or left rustic as is. Do a taste test for seasoning and if too tart, add some sugar.
If preferred, the basil leaves can be replaced with 4 tablespoons of parsley or 2 teaspoons of origanum.
Mozambique Peri Peri Sauce
- 2 red onions peeled and roughly chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup African bird’s eye chillies with stems removed
- 2 red bell peppers seeds removed and roughly chopped
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes skins removed and roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- juice and zest of 3 lemons
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar (or Sherry Vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Combine all the ingredient in the bowl of a food processor/blender and mix until all the ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture is quite saucy.
- Transfer to a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the sauce from burning.
- After 20 minutes, check the seasoning and adjust.
- The sauce should be of well-balanced flavour with a good kick of spice and sourness from the lemon and vinegar.
- Pour into sterilised jars and keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. A hot and fiery favourite. Can be used on roast chicken, chicken wings, chicken livers and prawns. Don’t forget to serve bread with the meal to mop up every last drop of this fabulous sauce.
This sauce improves with time and will get better and more fiery after standing for an hour or even a day.
It keeps very well and you will definitely use it up quickly. To adjust for more or less heat, add or reduce the number or a less fiery variety of chillies used.
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