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How To Make Béchamel Sauce

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Béchamel is that most distinctive of French sauces; creamy, thick, rich and versatile. It is as simple to make as it is delicious.
What you'll need: 
600ml/1½ pints milk
1 Bay leaf
Whole cloves
Whole black peppercorns
1 Onion
50g Butter
50g Flour
1 portion roux (optional)
Whole nutmeg
Salt
1: 
Pour 600ml/1½ pints of fresh milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the bay leaf, halved onion, 10 whole black peppercorns and 3-4 whole cloves.
2: 
Bring the mixture up to boiling point before removing from the heat and allowing the milk to cool for 20-25 minutes to marry with the flavours of the various ingredients. Strain into a large jug, discarding the solid flavouring ingredients.
3: 
If you have followed the roux recipe, add this to the empty pan and place over a low heat. If using raw butter and flour, turn the heat to medium, add the butter to the clean pan and allow it to melt. Add the flour, mix thoroughly and allow the flour and butter to cook gently over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring periodically.
4: 
Turn the heat to medium and begin pouring small amounts (25-35ml at a time) of the milk into the pan while stirring thoroughly. Once well mixed, add more milk and repeat.
5: 
Gradually begin adding larger amounts of milk while using a whisk to ensure the sauce is smooth. Continue until the milk is used up and the sauce has thickened.
6: 
Remove from the heat, grate a small amount of nutmeg over the sauce and serve.
Conclusion: 
A classic element of French cuisine, Béchamel sauce is quick, easy and inexpensive to make.
Tips: 
Keep the sauce moving in the pan at all times to prevent it catching.
If the sauce is not being served immediately, keep it in a jug covered with clingfilm as this will prevent a 'skin' forming on the surface.
If the sauce needs to be reheated, place it in a metal bowl or ceramic jug and either place the jug/bowl in simmering water or above boiling water.

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