Nov 23

White onion sauce

Illustration for white onion sauce recipeThis white onion sauce was recommended by Lady Llanover in her 1837 cookbook, ‘First Principles of Good Cookery’, as the ideal accompaniment to salt duck. I have to admit I was doubtful, being that the ingredients consisted solely of onions, water, flour and milk. I read through the paragraph a few times to confirm that there was no use of butter – it was clearly no hedonistic French creation. But, since I had spent three days patiently awaiting my duck to be removed from it’s salt bed as per the Lady’s instructions, I cast my reservations aside and set about making the sauce.

This recipe is now firmly in my repertoire of quick and delicious sauces. It is no worse for the lack of butter and you can feel extremely virtuous even if you eat it to excess. If you enjoy taking deprivation to the extreme you could always make the sauce with skimmed milk but I expect it would lose it’s delectable creaminess and end up tasting like gruel. Your choice.

I have changed some of the methods recommended in the traditional recipe. Firstly, I didn’t use a bain-marie. This was mainly because the author referred to it as ‘a double’ and I dismissed the term as some olde worlde pan size. If I had been educated in 19th century culinary terms at the time of reading, I probably would have ignored it anyway as I can’t see any advantage to using a bain-marie as opposed to a pan in this case. Secondly, the Lady instructs straining the liquid to remove the onion. I did follow her instructions initially, but then tipped all the onion back in for texture as I had cut it all up very finely anyway. I’ll leave both of these options up to you.

Recipe: Surprisingly creamy & delectable white onion sauce

  • 2 – 3 onions, chopped finely (or, if you are removing the onion after cooking to make a smooth sauce you can chop it into rough chunks in a ‘who-cares’ fashion)
  • water
  • 1/2 oz plain flour
  • 1/2 pint of whole milk

Place the chopped onion in a pan and add enough water to just cover.

Cover the pan and cook on a medium heat until the onions are soft.

Strain the onions through a wire sieve and collect the water in a separate container. Set the onions aside if you are using them for the sauce.

Return the water to the pan and stir in the flour. Add the milk and mix well. If you are using the onions, add them to the pan.

Place the pan back on a gentle heat and simmer until thickened. Season well.

Serve with salt duck, any other poultry, or potatoes.

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