Never underestimate the value of sauces and sauce making in cookery. They can be hot or cold but they remain an important aspect of cooking for a variety of reasons: they add and enhance flavour to food, provide a contrast of texture and colour to a dish, bind ingredients together, reduce the richness of a dish, add nutritional value but, importantly add interest and variety to meals. Time spent mastering the art of sauces making, by a variety of methods, is a valuable skill to learn. The method used for preparing the sauce (and thereby result) is as important as choosing both the flavour and consistency.

Essentially, a sauce is a liquid which has been thickened by one of the following methods:

A roux

A starch – e.g. cornflour, flour and arrowroot

Beurre manie – butter and flour kneaded together

Egg yolks

A reduction – boiling to reduce the cooking liquid (stock)

Cream/butter added to a reduced stock.

When we serve a sauce we do so as either a coating for vegetables, meat or fish, an integral part of a dish – e.g. a casserole or as an accompaniment to a meal – e.g. mint sauce, custard sauce, compound butters.

All sauces should be smooth and glossy in appearance, definite in taste and light in texture. Think about the purpose of the sauce and how it will effect both the dish and the diners overall appreciation of the complete meal.

Though not a sauce as such I will include compound butters and stuffing in this section as they are generally used for similar purposes in meals.

Compound Butter

A compound butter is the technical term given to softened butter which has been creamed together with flavourings, for example garlic & parsley, walnut & sage or lemon zest.

The flavoured butter is then turned onto either plastic wrap or dampened parchment and shaped into a log about 2cm in diameter. It is then chilled and cut into ½ cm slices when required.

Roux Sauces

A roux is a combination of fat and flour which are cooked together after which a liquid is added. The liquid can be milk, stock or vegetable liquor. Never add a boiling liquid to a roux as it is likely to give a lumpy result.

The consistency, or thickness, of a sauce will depend according to its function with the food. The classification of the three main consistencies of roux sauces are:

A pouring sauce: At boiling point the sauce should just leave a thin coat, or glaze, the back of a spoon and still pour freely.

Pouring Consistency

12.5g fat

12.5g flour

275ml liquid

A coating sauce: At boiling point the sauce will coat the back of a spoon. Use as soon as possible, whilst warm, to ensure an even coating over the dish.

Coating Consistency

25g fat

25g flour

275ml liquid

A binding sauce: This sauce is also known as a panada and should be thick enough to bind dry ingredients together to enable them to be handled for making things such as (fish) cakes and rissoles.

Binding Consistency

25g fat

25g flour

150ml liquid