Tag Archives: roux

B├ęchamel

Let’s go for the easy one. You will need:

  • 500mL milk
  • 25g butter
  • 25g flour
  • a quarter of a nutmeg
  • a bay leaf
  • salt/pepper

Bring the milk almost to the boil in a saucepan, and then turn off the heat, and add the nutmeg and bay leaf. Allow to cool: doesn’t matter if it’s cold, but it won’t work if it’s hot by the time you add it to the roux.

On the business of nutmeg, I would avoid the pre-ground stuff, and buy whole nutmegs instead. You can then grate them on the spot, using the end of the cheese grater you’d normally use for Parmesan. I’d use between a quarter and half a nutmeg for this recipe.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and gradually stir in the flour to make a roux. The roux needs to be cooked gently for about two minutes, stirring gently but constantly. A flat ended wooden spoon is helpful at this point.

Don’t be tempted to cook the roux for more than that, as the flour will release too much starch, and your sauce will resemble concrete. Mind you, an under-cooked roux will cause the sauce to taste floury and horrid. If you see any brown spots appearing, then turn the heat down, and try to pick them out. Black spots really mean you need to start again.

You then need to add the milk to the roux. Start by adding about 50mL and stir like crazy. The contents of the pan will go horrid, but after a bit of stirring, the milk will be absorbed, and the consistency should smooth out. Add more milk, maybe 100mL this time, and again, blend in. Once you’ve gotten as far as having added half the milk, you can add the rest in one go, but the moral of this story is to start out small.

Now, you should have a saucepan of liquid that is – oh dear! – no thicker than ordinary milk, but hopefully the lumps will have been all eliminated in the previous stage. Now turn up the heat and stir: again gently but constantly, scraping the spoon across the bottom to stop anything from catching . It will start to thicken as it comes to the boil. Turn the heat off and keep stirring for about a minute, and then you’re done. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and you end up with something resembling porridge. If you’re putting this into lasagne, nobody will notice.

Fancy Stuff

You could also put a small to medium peeled onion in the hot milk, and even stick a few whole cloves into the onion. Obviously that’s just there to flavour everything, and doesn’t go into the finished sauce!


Beef and Red Wine

Today was vexing for reasons that I couldn’t possibly disclose, save that they involved a great deal of bureaucracy and very little work. Something solid is required to restore the soul.

I wouldn’t dare call this boeuf bourguigon, but certainly in the ballpark. The important thing here is to use interesting tasting ingredients, and to cook them gently for a long time. (Food Science Tip: the acid in the wine helps break down tough meat.)

  • 500g interesting beef (I’m using feather steak that the butcher has cut into one inch thick slices)
  • 500g shallots (I’m using ├ęchallions)
  • 250g portabello mushrooms (or anything but white button mushrooms)
  • two cloves garlic, peeled and squished, more if you like garlic
  • bunch thyme (I’m using half a teaspoon dried, as there seems to be nothing but dill and parsley in the shop today)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 70g pancetta, cubed (more if you like)
  • a pint of red wine
  • a pint of stock (Marigold is fine for this)
  • salt, pepper, flour

Gently fry the pancetta in a pot/casserole until the fat is rendered, scoop out the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add half a glass of wine to the cook.

Cut the beef into cubes, removing any excess fat and gristle, and fry in the pancetta fat, a few pieces at a time, until browned. Set aside.

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Peel the shallots, and halve them if they’re large, and fry them till golden on the outside. A bit of brown won’t hurt.

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Add a knob of butter and stir in enough flour (probably a tablespoon) to make a roux, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the stock gradually (helps if it’s hot) and add the wine.

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Return meat to pot, plus enough water to cover. It’s traditional to use Burgundy, but I’m using Cahors tonight. You may also want to add another half a glass of wine to the cook at this point, but make sure she does not become befuddled.

Add thyme, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, and bring to boil. Reduce heat immediately to as low as it goes, cover, and leave for two hours. You could put the pot in the oven if you fancied. The idea is to keep it below boiling, so a gentle “gloop!” every so often is permissible.

Add the mushrooms, washed and chopped, fifteen minutes before the end.

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The results, as you can see, were dark, gooey and meaty. Rather eighteenth century.

I would advise you to consume this dish with more red wine and some potatoes; preferably to candelight and a harpsichord.