1.2 – 1.5KG of Loin or oyster of bacon, rind on
300ml full fat milk
1 small carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 quarter of an onion peeled
1 bay leaf
4 parsley stalks
1 thyme branch
25g plain flour
Salt and pepper
Cover the bacon in a saucepan with cold water and bring to a simmer.
If a white salty froth arises to the surface, it is best to discard this water and start again with fresh cold water.
It is unusual to need to change the water more than once but if when the bacon returns to a simmer for the second time it is again very frothy, it is no harm to repeat the process.
Cook the bacon covered at a simmer allowing 20 minutes for every 450g of raw meat.
If you insert a thin skewer into the meat and it travels through with very little resistance, then you know that the meat is cooked.
Turn off the heat and let the bacon sit in the water until you are ready to serve.
While the bacon is cooking prepare the sauce.
Every cook needs to know how to make a béchamel or white sauce.
Even though, it seems a bit old fashioned, and wont be featuring at your local restaurant that is practising molecular gastronomy, it is still an essential part of the cooks repertoire.
Properly made, this sauce is well flavoured, smooth and shiny and has a silky consistency.
The plain or master version becomes a vehicle for other flavourings such as herbs, mustard, anchovies, capers, spices, vegetables, cheese and so on.
You cant really consider boiled bacon, cauliflower or macaroni cheese or a fish pie without it.
It can be delicious to serve with a poached chicken, in which case a little of the chicken poaching liquid can be added to the sauce to achieve a thinner consistency than you normally expect from this sauce.
So if your memory of white sauce is a miserable one of a lumpy, thick, stodgy, floury and bland non event, perhaps this recipe carefully followed will change your mind and remind you why this classic sauce remains important.
Place the cold milk, carrot, onion and herbs in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Do not allow the milk to boil over as you will loose some of the milk and the proportions of the sauce will be wrong, yielding a sauce that is too thick – exactly what we are trying to avoid.
Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
The vegetables and herbs will add a subtle flavour to the milk.
While the milk is infusing, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour.
Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, and cook on a low heat for 3 minutes, all the time stirring regularly and making sure the mixture does not overheat and burn.
It is crucial that you allow it to cook for the 3 minutes as suggested to remove any raw trace of flour from the sauce.
This slightly odd looking mixture of cooked flour and butter is called a roux, and it will both thicken and enrich the sauce.
(You could make exactly the same mixture to whisk into a gravy to thicken it. )
Strain the milk and whisk on to the roux.
Place on a low heat and all the time whisking, bring the sauce to a simmer.
The sauce will not start to thicken until the liquid reaches a simmer.
At this point, maintain the sauce at a simmer for 2 minutes, still whisking to ensure there are no lumps of roux left floating in the sauce.
You will notice the sauce becoming smooth and shiny.
Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cheddar Cheese and Mustard Sauce
Add 100g and 1-2 tablespoons of French or English mustard to the finished Bechamel Sauce, whisk well and bring back to a simmer before serving.