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Béchamel Sauce

This basic of European cooking, which may well have started life in Italy, is first mentioned during the reign of Louis XIV in the seventeenth century. It is made by adding milk to a roux. Unlike a basic white sauce, the milk is infused with flavourings such as onions, cloves, bay leaves and nutmeg, with many variations on the theme. Use béchamel as a topping for lasagne, cannelloni and gratin, as a binding sauce for soufflés and pasta bakes, and as a base for onion sauce. Béchamel can be browned under the grill after it has been poured over food, or use it as a pouring sauce for vegetables, fish or chicken. A white sauce is made in exactly the same way, using just flour, butter and milk, and without any flavourings.