I was not feeling great, needed something easy for me to cook, that did not require any shopping for ingredients despite the fact we were low on fresh provisions, was going to appeal to my girls and be low on carbs for my PT son. This is what I came up with…
2 x tinned tuna steaks in olive oil, drained and broken up roughly with a fork
a bundle of fresh spring greens
grated Cheddar cheese and last little bit of Parmesan
a small single portion of slightly under-cooked gluten free pasta
seasoned with black pepper ( I figured it would be plenty salty enough already without adding more)
And then all tossed together in a lasagna dish and covered with a béchamel sauce, roughly stirred through, before baking in the oven til it looked yummy (yes…that’s a technical cookery term!)
End result was an evening meal that was full of tasty, cheesey tuna with al dente pasta and spring greens for four with enough leftover for three light lunches the next day – bargain!
When making béchamel sauce I always infuse the milk with bay leaves and fresh black pepper as a minimum requirement, variations on this that I enjoy are as follows:-
600ml/1½ pints milk
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
55g/2oz plain flour
grated nutmeg (optional)
Bring the milk just to the boil with the onion pierced with the bay leaf and cloves, and the peppercorns.
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes before straining.
Then melt the butter in a non-stick pan, stir in the flour, and cook over a low heat for five minutes.
When smooth, start adding some of the strained milk. Stir until smooth, and then add more milk until the sauce is thickened.
Cook for 10-15 minutes to ensure the flour is cooked through.
Sprinkle with grated nutmeg, if desired, and serve
15fl oz/425ml milk
a few parsley stalks
1 bay leaf
1 blade of mace or a pinch of powdered mace (optional)
10 whole black peppercorns
1 slice onion, 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick
¾oz/20g plain flour
salt and freshly milled black pepper
First place the milk in a small saucepan and add the parsley stalks, bay leaf, mace (if using), peppercorns and onion. Then place it over a low heat and let it come very slowly up to simmering point, which will take approximately 5 minutes. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the milk into a jug, discarding the flavourings.
All this can be done ahead of time, but when you want to make the sauce, use the same washed pan and place it over a gentle heat. Begin by melting the butter gently – don’t over-heat it or let it brown, as this will affect the colour and flavour of the sauce. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour and, over a medium heat and using a small pointed wooden spoon, stir quite vigorously to make a smooth, glossy paste. Now begin adding the infused milk a little at a time – about 1fl oz/25ml first of all and stir again vigorously. Then, when this milk is incorporated, add the next amount and continue incorporating each bit of liquid before you add the next. When about half the milk is in, switch to a balloon whisk and start adding large amounts of milk, but always whisking briskly. Your reward will be a smooth, glossy, creamy sauce.
Now turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let the sauce cook for 5 minutes, whisking from time to time. While that’s happening, taste and season with salt and freshly milled black pepper. If you wish to keep the sauce warm, all you do is pour it into a warmed jug and cover the surface with clingfilm to stop a skin from forming, then place the jug in a pan of barely simmering water.
A white sauce given extra flavour by infusing the milk with carrot, onion, celery, black peppercorns, mace and bay leaf for 30 minutes. Like hollandaise, mayonnaise and crème anglaise, béchamel forms the basis of numerous other sauces. It was named after its inventor, Louis XIV’s steward Louis de Béchamel. It’s a versatile sauce for all sorts of dishes including macaroni cheese, lasagne and croque monsieur.