Proper Bechamel - Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese A tutorial

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese

One skill that every cook should master is the ability to make a proper Béchamel Sauce.  

To be able to do so will hold every cook in good stead in the kitchen and in all truth a basic béchamel, or cream sauce as it is also called, forms the basis for many other sauces. 

Béchamel is a white sauce which is made by combining hot flavoured or seasoned milk with a roux (which you can see in the photo below). 

One of the basic sauces, the classic recipe calls for milk flavoured by heating it with a bay leaf, slice of onion and a blade of mace of nutmeg.  This is left for about half an hour to infuse and then the sauce is thickened with a roux.

A roux is made from combining equal parts of butter and flour.  

Generally speaking, there are three different kinds of roux:  White, straw-coloured (blond) or brown, depending on the colour you want your finished sauce to be, with the difference in colour having been created by browning the flour (or not) to varying degrees. 

After mixing the melted butter and flour in a saucepan over heat, the roux must be cooked and stirred for a short time to help eliminate the floury taste.  

The longer a roux is cooked, the darker it becomes.  For a basic cream/béchamel sauce you will  not want it to brown at all if you can help it. 

When thickening a preparation with a roux, it is crucial to respect the hot/cold balance of the mix.  A hot roux must always be mixed into a cold liquid, and a cold roux into a hot liquid.  

When using a cold roux (which is made simply by rubbing butter and flour together without heating it) you must allow enough time for the roux to melt and let the thickening liquid to cook for a few minutes.  

Then it should thicken nicely without leaving a floury after-taste. 

I scanned this photo from my original Betty Crocker Cookery Book, which I have had for many years.  It best describes the steps to follow when making a basic béchamel or cream sauce and gives you quantities to use for the various thicknesses.  

Thin sauces are what you will want when you are using it for a garnish for meats, vegetables, etc.  For a bake you will want the sauce to be of a medium thickness and if you are making something like meat or vegetable croquettes, you will want a thick sauce.

Yield: Makes  1 cup

Bechamel Sauce

prep time: cook time: 15 minstotal time: 15 mins
I think this was one of the first things I learnt how to make in home economics at school.   When well made, this simple sauce has a proper place in homey, creamed dishes, often making leftover stretch or giving cooked foods a new life.  A good bechamal is the basis for many dishes such as souffles, or macaroni and cheese.  The foolproof way to achieve a perfectly smooth sauce is to have the milk hot when you add it to the butter and flour.  It uses an extra pot, but perfection is perfection.


2 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
285ml of hot milk (1 1/4 cups)
freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a heavy
bottomed saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook,
whisking constantly until the flour is cooked out and bubbles a bit.  Do
 NOT let it brown.   This will take about 2 minutes.   Whisk in the hot
milk, slowly, whisking constantly until the milk is all whisked in and
the sauce thickens.   Bring to the boil.  Stir in the salt and pepper to
 taste. Lower the heat to very low and continue to cook, whisking, for
an additional 2 to 3 minutes longer.   Remove from the heat.  If you are
 using the sauce later, cover the top with a round of baking parchment
to prevent a skin from forming.  (You can also pour a very thin layer of
 milk over top which works in much the same way.)


 Cream Sauce - Use 3 TBS of flour to 225ml/1 cup of milk.  This is the
consistency needed for souffles and meat, poultry or fish croquettes.

 Cream Sauce - Just before serving, beat in 2 large egg yolks, 6 TBS of
butter (1 TBS at a time) and 1 TBS fresh lemon juice

 Sauce - Stir in 60g/1/2 cup of grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2
minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper.

 Sauce - Add 2 TBS of grated Parmesan Cheese and 2 TBS of grated Swiss
cheese during the last two minutes of cooking.  Stir until blended. 
Just before removing from the heat, beat 2 TBS of the sauce into 1
lightly beaten egg yolk.  Stir the yolk/sauce mixture back into the
sauce and add 2 TBS butter.    Continue to cook, stirring, for one
minute longer.
Note - to make a larger quantity, simply double the ingredients.
Created using The Recipes Generator

One of the most common uses for a béchamel sauce is something you have probably already done if you have ever made a macaroni cheese from scratch, and that is to make a cheese sauce!  

That is what I have done here to make a variation of one of our favourite dishes and that is a Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese!

Basically, it is a very simple dish.  Blanched florets of broccoli and cauliflower, put into a baking dish you have lined with some cheese sauce and then napped all over with the same sauce. 

 I like to add a crispy topping to mine. 

This topping is very easily made by blitzing some bread, butter and strong cheddar together in a small food processor. 

 It makes a lovely crumble that you can then scatter over top of the whole dish. 

As the dish cooks in the oven, the crumbs crisp up beautifully with a lovely golden finish.


One key for success is to make sure that your vegetables are drained really well before adding them to the dish. 

If you don't do this then you could end up with a bit of a watery finish, which is not exactly what you want! 

I could sit down to a dish of this all on its own quite happily!  It also makes a great vegetarian main if you have a veggie coming to supper! 

Whether you enjoy this as a side dish or a vegetarian main there is one thing you can count on for sure and that is that it will be enjoyed by all! 

Make sure you use a well flavoured cheddar for the sauce.  It makes all the difference in the world. 

Yield: 4

Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese

prep time: 25 minscook time: 25 minstotal time: 50 mins
Some people may eat this as a main course, and it certainly makes for a delicious one.  Other's may choose to have it as a side dish.  Whichever way you choose, you will not be disappointed.


1 medium cauliflower, broken into bite sized florets
1 medium broccoli, crown, broken into bite sized florets
1 1/2 pints milk (3 cups)
1 bay leaf
1 onion, halved
a few whole cloves
freshly grated nutmeg
4 TBS butter
4 TBS flour
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon  mustard
120g mature farmhouse cheddar, grated (1 cup)
5 TBS finely grated Parmesan cheese

To finish:
30g strong cheddar cheese (1 ounce)
1 TBS cold butter
1 slice rustic white bread torn


First make the bechamel sauce.  Place the onion, stuck with the cloves
and the bay leaf into a saucepan with the milk.  Bring just to the boil,
 then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 30 minutes to allow
the onion and herbs to infuse the milk with their flavour. At the end of
 half an hour, melt the butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook
 for one minute, then slowly whisk in the infused milk, discarding the
onion, bayleaf and cloves.  Whisk and cook until thickened.  Turn heat
to very low and allow to cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently
as to prevent it from catching.  Remove from the heat and then whisk in
the grated cheddar and Parmesan, along with the mustard.  Flavour with
some grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 4.

 a pot of salted water to the boil and then add the vegetable florets.  Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, until they are crispy
tender.  Drain very well.  Cover the bottom of your baking dish lightly with some of the cheese sauce.  Add the well drained vegetables.  Pour the cheese bechamel sauce over top, covering  it well. 

Blitz the topping ingredients in a small food processor until crumbly.  Scatter these crumbs over top.

Place in the heated oven and bake until it begins to brown in places and the sauce is bubbling.  (20 to 25 minutes) Serve hot.

Created using The Recipes Generator

Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese

You can make a delicious casserole out of almost any cooked vegetable and a cream sauce.  Potatoes, carrots, swede, turnips, etc.  All work very well.  You can add a bit of horseradish to the sauce when cooking potatoes or carrots.  This is delicious.  

Cabbage is really delicious when steamed until crispy tender and then baked in a béchamel sauce with some crumbs on top.  Fish is also lovely when baked with a béchamel.  

Once you have mastered this sauce the world really is your oyster as to the number of ways you can use it!  Bon Appetit! 


  1. This was a GREAT tutorial, Marie! And this all look sooo delicious!! For some reason I've never been very good at making sauces. I think I try to rush them along too, too much, and don't cook them long enough for the flavor to really develop. Well... I'll just keep trying! ;) ((LOVE & HUGS))

    1. You are welcome Tracy! Its all in the timing! You can't rush a really great Bechamel! xo

  2. Replies
    1. I could happily eat this as my whole meal also Monique! xo

  3. Getting to grips with a roux opens up worlds for the home cook - and it's not that hard.

    Home made ac and cheese is a staple in our house and we will add anything and everything to it. No KD for us!

    1. We live in a world where everyone wants instant gratification Pat! You are right , its not that hard, it just takes a bit of patience! Hope you are well! xo


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