Saucy saviours: 5 classic sauces to bring leftovers to life

Posted by Ella Buchan on 19 August 2016

The right sauce can transform boring veg, grains or leftover meat back to life.

Perfect these five saucy saviours to seriously increase your culinary repertoire.

Béchamel

This creamy white sauce is the basis for mac ‘n’ cheese, for layering in lasagne and casseroles.

The method:

Make a roux with equal parts butter and flour, cooking in a saucepan until the mix turns a bubbly, golden blonde colour. Then whisk in milk and season, simmering and stirring until it coats the back of a spoon. Aim for a custard-like consistency.

Flavour with strong cheese or mustard.

Using hot milk will reduce lumps.

Love your leftovers:

Scraps of ham and odds ‘n’ ends of cheese in the fridge? Make a classic croque-madame.

Use up potatoes and root veg by slicing into a gratin, covering with a cheesy béchamel and baking until brown and bubbling.

Béchamel
The Owl with the Goblet

Velouté

A golden sauce that can be made from roast juices to make the perfect gravy for chicken or pork, or transformed into mushroom or seafood sauce.

The method:

Start with a roux, as above, then whisk in white stock such as chicken, fish or veal, season and simmer, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy.

Combine with sautéed mushrooms for added flavour (soaked porcini mushrooms and juices will ramp up the tastiness), or throw in prawns, mussels and clams for a delicious fish sauce.

Love your leftovers:

Just perfect in pies, such as this one by Homemade, which also uses up roast chicken and veggies.

Or combine with cooked fish and prawns, top with mash and bake until golden.

Velouté
Homemade

Espagnole

Essentially a brown gravy that forms the base for steak sauces, Madeira and mushroom.

The method:

Cook chopped onions, carrots and celery in butter until nicely browned, add tomato purée then sprinkle in a little flour. Cook for a few minutes so the flour isn’t ‘raw’ and stir in beef or veal stock. Simmer for an hour or so until thickened and reduced, for optimal flavour.

Create a bordelaise, ideal for roast meat or steak, by adding red wine and herbs.

Whisk up a quick version in your meat pan by adding a little flour and butter before deglazing with sherry or red wine.

Love your leftovers:

Use to liven up leftover meat from your Sunday roast, yummy with mash - or why not crush up leftover roast spuds?

Stir a few spoonfuls through leftover risotto to loosen and get rid of that claggy texture.

Slice leftover steak, layer on a crusty sub roll with watercress and spinach, and drizzle with this brown sauce for a sandwich worthy of supper time.

Espagnole
Shutterstock via: Robyn Mackenzie

Hollandaise

A classic component of eggs Benedict, the basic recipe can be transformed by adding herbs - tarragon for aniseed-tinted Béarnaise, for example. Or spike with chilli flakes or Sriracha to spice things up.

The method:

Whisk three egg yolks in a small saucepan for about a minute until thick, then whisk in 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice. Add 25g (1oz) butter and place over a low heat, whisking constantly as the butter melts.

Continue whisking until you have the consistency of double cream, remove from heat and beat in another 25g (1oz) of chilled butter. Then whisk in 175g (6oz) of melted butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Love your leftovers:

Drizzle over anything from asparagus to boiled potatoes to turn the contents of your vegetable drawer (or leftover veggies from last night’s dinner) into a simple yet delicious supper.

Liven up leftover cold salmon or other flaky fish. Or make this savoury porridge, using up avocado, scraps of ham and that last spoonful of pesto.

Hollandaise
What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today

Marinara

The mother of the mother sauces, this tomato treasure is the heart of endless pasta dishes, bakes, pizza toppings and more.

The method:

Most people have made a classic tomato sauce, but it’s worth getting it right. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add slivers of garlic and, once sizzling (but not brown), pour in tomatoes. Tinned plum tomatoes, crushed with a wooden spoon (or your hands), work best.

Add a pinch of chilli flakes, torn fresh basil or dried oregano and salt. Simmer for around 10 minutes until thick.

Love your leftovers:

Use in baked eggs - ideal for using up leftover cooked veg, wilting greens, herbs and scraps of cheese.

Mix with lentils, onions and garlic and layer with sliced boiled potatoes for a delicious bake.

Turn less-than-fresh bread into mini ‘pizzas’, spooning on marinara, scattering on whatever veg and/or cooked meat you like and sprinkling with cheese before grilling under a medium heat.

Freeze batches of marinara sauce so you’ll always have something to eat - delicious over pasta in its own right, with a few shavings of parmesan.

Marinara
Shutterstock via: zi3000

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In a pickle: Turn overripe tomatoes into chutney

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Get in a pickle: Easy guide to preserving your leftovers