This sauce is crucial to many recipes from macaroni and cheese to vegetables gratin and many other family favourites. Béchamel sauce is also the starting point for many variants: you can add herbs and have a herb sauce. You can add cheese and have a cheese sauce and so on. This recipes will give you more than a liter of sauce but you can easily halve the quantities if you require less. But trust us, when you cook a lasagna, a moussaka, or a free-form Mac-and-cheese, you will need this quantity!
Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add the bay leaves, onion and nutmeg and heat it until it almost boils.
Immediately remove the pan from the heat and set aside for a few minutes so that the bay leaves and onion release their aromatics - then drain the mixture through a sieve, reserving the warm milk and discarding the bay leaves and onion.
In another saucepan melt the butter then add the flour. Mix thoroughly and cook the mixture for half a minute stirring all the time. Now add a little of the warm milk whisking well until the milk has been absorbed then add a little more milk. Continue adding the milk while whisking to prevent lumps from forming. When all the milk is added, stir until it boils and thickens.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper, cook a further half a minute, stirring all the time.
Then remove the pan from the heat and use the sauce as required.
Makes 1,25 litres sauce
By adjusting the quantity of the flour, you can have the sauce a little thinner or even a lot thicker. For instance, using 90 ml flour will give you a thinnish sauce, 125 ml a medium sauce and 150 ml a really thick sauce. And you can also increase or decrease the butter accordingly for a richer or leaner sauce. Ultimately, you're the judge because home cooking is all about you and your own flair with just a few basic recipe rules to guide you!