How to make béchamel or white sauce
Alan Coxon combines 3 ingredients to make a classic white sauce.
A white sauce is the basis of so many recipes and all you'll need to make it is butter, flour and milk.
The secret to getting a smooth, lump-free sauce is to warm the milk first. You can flavour it at this stage, if you like, with an onion wrapped in a bay leaf and studded with cloves - the flavours will infuse into the milk and add a depth to the finished sauce.
While the milk is warming, melt a knob of butter in a saucepan and add an equal quantity of flour. Work the flour into the butter to make a paste (known as a roux) and stir to cook out the raw flour taste without allowing the mixture to colour. This will take 1-2 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and add a ladleful of the warm milk, stirring well. The roux will start to absorb the milk and as the starch cells burst, the sauce will thicken. Continue adding the milk, little by little, over a low heat, stirring until the sauce is the consistency you'd like. Normally you will want a sauce that will just coat the back of a spoon.
Don't panic if you do get lumps, you can always sieve the sauce to get rid of them.