Cooking with the Senses

Or in other words how to inspire your friend by teaching her a basic white sauce. As you know from my previous post Know Your Onions and Garlic I was teaching my friend Colette the fine art of listening to your food. It got me thinking that every time I cook, I rarely follow a recipe, I rarely weigh ingredients and I ALWAYS add-lib.

This I realised yesterday when I agreed to teach Colette how to make a basic white sauce to add to her fish pie.

She is a great student, but being a novice cook (who has incidentally agreed to cook a 3 course meal for 4 guests tomorrow) was desperate to cling onto a recipe and exact stages of the cooking process. So rather than make this a problem I came up with some steps for her which hopefully lets her anchor onto some rules while also opening her cooking instincts.

Yesterday I taught Colette how to watch the butter melt and not get freaked out by the foam. How a lumpy sauce is only ever lumpy if you add flour at the wrong time or don’t give the sauce time to thicken.

We went through the process of listening to the butter sizzle to know when the flour was cooked through, how to feel the texture (fluffy clouds) to know the base was ready for the addition of milk.

Cooking with all the senses not just by reading a recipe.

Even though we were halving some ingredients and quartering others she could see how cooking is as much an experiment whether or not you have done the dish 1 time or 1000 times.

I really enjoyed the stages of teaching a basic dish and watching as she realised she could let go and experiment a bit and not get hung up on it going wrong. ‘After all’ I reminded her ‘if it goes wrong we can just start again’.

Personally Colette, I think you will smash this dinner party. My only hope is you take time to enjoy the process.

My recipe for the sauce is below. Happy cooking x

Basic White Sauce

You’ll need

  • Flour appx 2 tablespoons
  • Butter appx 100g
  • Milk 1 pint

Melt the butter on a low heat until melted. Do not over cook the butter as we don’t want it going brown.

Add the flour and stir with a whisk until it is absorbed. Cook through so you don’t get an over riding taste of flour in the sauce. This takes about 2 minutes. When you leave it to cook without whisking it should bubble up slightly and when pressed with a whisk should feel soft and fluffy.

At a small splash of milk and whisk in. With WILL turn lumpy don’t panic. Add more milk and stir, then the remainder of the milk.

The gays in the butter ensure that the flour when introduced to the liquid doesn’t get lumpy.

Keep stirring on a low heat until the sauce thickens. Now add your flavours. Start with salt and pepper then if you are making a cheese sauce add grated hard cheese, crumbles Stilton, Brie, whatever you have to hand. Make it cheesy as you like. Continue stirring until cheese has melted. This can be added to pasta and baked, poured over spaghetti, or used as a dip.

Or you can add parsley and lemon to add to a fish pie (include cheese if you want an indulgent sauce).

My favourite is adding freshly chopped tarragon and then using the sauce in a chicken pie.