Mother sauces… well, I never knew!

Coming from a family who love everything to do with food, and marrying a man who is similarly disposed, it’s probably not that surprising we have children who like not just eating but preparing food too. In a conversation with my son tonight he was talking about ‘mother sauces’ and I nodded knowingly… actually never having heard the term before, but understanding what he meant. Mother sauces, as you might imagine, are the foundation sauces for a whole family of other sauces based on them. If I was in a quiz I might be able to guess some of the sauces, but as I’m just sitting here, writing, I can look it up!

The first sauce I ever learned to cook is a white sauce – so simple, butter melted and mixed with flour and cooked a little, milk and seasoning added and stir like mad! I didn’t know when I learnt how to make it, that this is of course a ‘mother sauce’ béchamel sauce! I have seen recipes which include other flavourings such as mace, bay, parsley, but I just make it simply… and then I create what I now realise are ‘daughter sauces’ by adding something else – such as cheese (its proper name then is Mornay sauce!) Going back to béchamel, it existed before it got its name (from a steward to Louis XIV of France) and was first noted in Italy… however, as with all things, I’m sure there must have been plenty of cooks who hot on a similar idea of thickening by using butter and flour…

The idea of ‘mother’ sauces, and with that name came from the famous French chef  Carême; he had the idea of  foundation sauces, but he had four of them:

  • béchamel – white sauce
  •  espagnole – a very dark brown roux with veal stock or water added as well as roasted browned bones, also beef, vegetables, and  seasoning… eventually after a load of cooking, and reducing and adding more stock, tomatoes or tomato paste is added
  • velouté – made with a roux and light stock
  • allemande – similar to a velouté but thickened with egg yolks and cream, and with lemon juice

One of these mothers was replaced, allemande was replaced by hollandaise and tomato sauce; allemande had its name changed during World war 1, and became Parisienne sauce – no longer a mother, merely a daughter.

  • hollandaise –  a mixture of egg yolks, melted butter, water and lemon juice cooked using a bain-marie
  • tomato sauce – self-explanatory, really!

From these five basic sauces, dozens and dozens of other sauces are made, with every sort of ingredient and flavouring you could imagine, and to accompany every sort of food!








  • Espagnole sauce
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Tomato sauce
  • Velouté sauce

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.