Let’s get saucy!
It is said that no cook can aspire to greatness until they have mastered the knowledge of sauce making. Nikki Bawn looks at key flavours past and present.
It’s hard to imagine a world without sauce – but there was a time when condiments were king. Good old salt and vinegar were some of the earliest additions to food as long ago as Roman times. In fact, vinegar had its ‘heyday’ way before fish and chips were invented. It gets its name from the French ‘vin aigre’, meaning sour wine which doesn’t sound very appealing, but, it’s a staple I wouldn’t be without and it’s always present in my pantry!
Foodies have been preoccupied with developing increasing depths of deliciousness for thousands of years and from as far back as the 1600s, the creation of liquid flavour enhancement has featured in feasting fare across the world. Some of the earliest to take pride of place on plates and tables were soy in the 1600s and mayonnaise in the 1700s.
Us Brits have come a long way since our accidental invention of gravy, when meat was roasted over an open fire and the fat drippings were captured then served to help moisten the meat. Since then, a group of legendary sauces has evolved that no cook worth his, or her apron would be without.
These famous five are: white sauce (béchamel), butter sauce (hollandaise), brown sauce (demi-glace), red sauce (tomato) and blond sauce (veloute). Many of these ‘mother’ sauces have been developed, adapted and experimented with to produce a vast array of sweet and savoury creations that can ‘jazz up’ even the most meagre of ingredients.
It’s no secret that my Boggle Lane signature dishes in the main trace their roots back to Italian and French rustic cookery. I love this style of cooking because of the mouth-watering finish it consistently produces and the freedom it gives to use seasonal, foraged and favourite ingredients. The hours of gentle bubbling always guarantee that the flavours from herbs, wine, spices, or other ingredients, marry and layer together into heavenly, harmonious ‘yumminess’.
But if you’ve had a hard day’s slog or you’re expecting a hoard of hungry dinner guests and don’t have the time or energy to create slow or complex dishes, then there is a solution. A little bit of kitchen ‘saucery’ can transform any dish from zero to hero in a matter of minutes.
For juiciness, visual appeal and chart-topping taste one of my ‘go-tos’ is demi-glace. For me, it’s the backbone sauce of banqueting. It’s fullness, Venetian glass-like colours and rich, glossy texture go with most meat and mushroom based ingredients, and the beauty is you can adapt it to reflect the seasons by adding berries, herbs, foraged preserves or local cheeses.
I add seasonal finds to my sauces to suit the dish I’m making. For example, when making demi-glace, a handful of Stilton, or our local Lincolnshire Cotehill Blue, can be crumbled in towards the end to infuse decadence into any steak dish, or a dollop of hedgerow jam or even some blackberries will dial up the taste levels for duck and game dishes.
This really is effortless culinary creation at its best and is sure to wow you and your diners!
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