Cheese sauce is another one of those most versatile recipes that you can use in so many different ways – in lasagne, moussaka, cauliflower cheese, welsh rarebit, as a sauce for meat or other veg, as a base for a soufflé, and the list goes on… (Watch this space for some of those recipes, by the way.)
You can also leave out the cheese completely and just use it as a plain white sauce, or flavour the white sauce in many different ways e.g. add more mustard to make a mustard sauce, or fresh soft herbs like parsley and basil, or sautéed mushrooms, or tomato paste, and again, the list goes on…
You can make the sauce thicker or thinner by adjusting the amount of flour you use. The choice of thick or thin would depend on what you need it for. If you are using it as a sauce that goes on top e.g. for cauliflower cheese or meat, it’s nice for it to be quite thick, but if it’s going into a dish where it needs to combine with other ingredients e.g. in a lasagne or moussaka, it’s often better if it’s a bit thinner.
The only thing to watch out for in the process is that you need to keep stirring fairly vigorously once you start adding the milk, otherwise you may end up with lumps. Even then it can often be saved if you just keep stirring or, worst case scenario, beat it with an electric beater before you add the cheese.
Flavour-wise, you can adjust the amount of mustard and cheese, or whatever other ingredients you are using, to your taste. Fairly strong cheese, like cheddar (and especially mature cheddar) works well. I personally also like to include some yoghurt or buttermilk as part of the milk quantity as it gives the final product a slightly tangy flavour, which cuts the richness quite nicely. Try experimenting to see what you like.
- 2T butter
- 3T flour (for thick sauce) or 2T (for thinner sauce)
- ½t mustard powder or to taste (or use ready-made)
- Pinch salt
- 1,5c milk (include buttermilk or yoghurt if you like)
- 1c cheese, grated
- Nutmeg, ground or finely grated (optional)
- Pepper (optional)
Melt the butter in a saucepan until it starts foaming.
Add the flour, mustard and salt and mix well to form a thick paste.
Add half a cup of the milk and stir quickly to incorporate it into the flour mix. It may initially look rather lumpy, but just keep stirring until the mix thickens a bit.
Then add another half a cup of milk and stir until the mix thickens again. Finally add the last of the milk and stir again till you see the first bubbles that show it is starting to boil.
Remove the sauce from the heat, and add the cheese, a handful at a time.
Mix each handful in until it has melted before adding more, until you end up with a smooth sauce again.
Finally add the nutmeg and pepper to taste, if you like. Use as required.
Some ways to use cheese (or white) sauce:
- On top of steamed cauliflower and/or broccoli, then grilled
- In a baked potato
- On top of any other veg, then grilled
- As a sauce for meat, chicken or fish
- On top of a slice of toast, then grilled
- In lasagne
- In moussaka
- As a base for a soufflé
© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2014