TASTE kitchen: the mother sauces

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TASTE kitchen: the mother sauces

Tips and techniques for the master cook. What are the mother sauces?

The five French mother sauces were included in Escoffier’s Le Guide Cuilinaire in 1903 and were seen as the foundation for many French dishes and meant to be learnt by heart. We don’t expect you to commit them to memory, but we are here to help.


This is the only mother sauce that isn’t thickened by making a roux. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat (usually butter) cooked together and used to thicken sauces. This sauce is thickened using an emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter, and can easily split because of the delicate balance involved. Serve it with classic eggs Benedict or steamed asparagus. Get the recipe here.


This is made by slowly cooking down tomatoes to make a very thick sauce. It’s traditionally flavoured with pork and aromatic vegetables. Find the recipe here.

View our pasta recipe-guide there.


The name “velouté” comes from the French word for “velvet” and refers to a light roux whisked with a clear stock, such as chicken or fish. The sauce takes on the flavour of the stock and it is usually served with steamed or poached chicken or fish.

Makes 1 1⁄2 cups
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Melt 2T butter over low heat. Add 3 T flour and increase the heat. Whisk for 1 minute. Gradually add 1 1⁄2 cups of chicken or fish stock, whisking between each addition. When the stock starts to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and strain for a smooth sauce.

View our chicken recipe-guide here.


A roux usually whisked with milk, béchamel can be a little bland on its own, so is often used in other dishes such as chicken pie or macaroni cheese where you need a thick sauce. Get the recipe here.


A basic brown sauce, espagnole is made from beef or veal stock, tomato purée and browned mirepoix (finely cubed) vegetables, thickened with a very dark roux. It’s the foundation for boeuf bourguignon and demi-glace. Say what? Demi-glaze is a rich, brown sauce used alone or as a base for other sauces. From the French word “glace” which means icing or glaze.

Makes 1 1⁄2 cups
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes

Melt 2 T butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Sauté finely chopped ¼ onion, 1⁄2 carrot and 1⁄2 celery stick until well browned. Add 2 T flour and cook to form a roux. Add 4 cups beef stock and 1 T tomato paste. Add 4 g bouquet garni (or a bay leaf, sprig of thyme, sprig of parsley and a few black peppercorns.)
Simmer for 20–30 minutes. Strain and season to taste, with salt and pepper. Keep warm and covered until ready to use.

Find our stew recipe-guide here.

TASTE Article by: TASTE

The TASTE team is a happy bunch of keen cooks and writers, always on the look out for the next food trend or the next piece of cake.

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