Monday, 30 September 2013

Cheese sauce ~ the easiest and probably lowest-fat recipe ever, with a delicious soft-boiled egg and steamed veges ~

This quick, delicious meal has suddenly become a favourite, and no wonder - it's easy.  It is a simple and substantial meal for one, or for the family - and is no more or no less trouble either way.  

I devised this very simple version of a vegetable and cheese sauce casserole which includes hard-boiled eggs when I was running short of time and feeling hungry.  I was on my own so I didn't feeling like going to much trouble.  Now I much prefer it to the casserole!  When timed carefully all the components are cooked to a bare minimum ensuring maximum flavour and nutritious value, and the eggs are still tender and just slightly melty.  For those who are careful about calories and fat intake there is probably less fat in this sauce than any you'll find in any other and yet it still tastes deliciously cheesy. 

An important ingredient in cheese sauce is mustard.  It amplifies the cheesy flavour wonderfully!  The box of mustard pictured here is powdered.

The success of this meal lies in organisation: 
Line up all the components before you start to cook and get everything prepared, including the water boiling in the saucepan for the eggs, your veges chopped and ready to go into the steamer which is already steaming, and the milk shaken up and cheese grated as described below:  The veges may take a little longer than the ten minutes needed to manage the sauce and the eggs but not by much.  Also before you start: lay the table and get all of that side of things lined up because when the meal is cooked you'll want to sit down to eat it right away!

How to make The Easiest-Ever Cheese Sauce:
For each person you will need:
  • Milk - 1 cup 
  • Flour, plain - 2 tablespoons (level)
  • Mustard powder - 1 teaspoon - or equivilent other sort
  • Salt - I use half a teaspoon per person.  If this seems a lot try starting with less and adjust as desired.
  • Pepper - of whatever quantity you fancy
  • Grated cheese - 25 grams / about an ounce / one third of a cup.  I use an Edam-style cheese which is said to contain about 25% less fat than other cheddar cheeses. 
Starting with the milk put all the ingredients except the cheese into a plastic or glass container which has a secure lid.  Fill it no more than two thirds full, then, after closing the lid and grasping it firmly, shake it vigorously for a bit.  Next, tip the liquid into a saucepan and cook it gently until it thickens, stirring a moderate amount.  Any floury lumps should dissolve.  Cooking may take about ten minutes.  When you are satisfied that it has cooked adequately take it off the heat and stir in the cheese - and you're done!

Tender soft-boiled eggs take between eight and nine minutes to cook - when simmered for the whole length of that time.  Get that water boiling properly before you carefully lower the eggs in on a spoon and then moderate the temperature so that the water continues to simmer.  You don't want it to boil hard - just quietly, but make sure that it is actually boiling.  The egg pictured was boiled for nine minutes.  I prefer mine just a little more tender at eight minutes.  The eggs still peel perfectly easily. Whatever time you pick take the saucepan off the heat at soon as the time is up and put it under the cold tap letting the fresh water gradually cool the water in the saucepan.  I avoid running cold water directly onto the eggs in deference to a vague memory of being instructed to do so.  I don't know if there is any actual benefit in that or not.  Once the eggs have cooled slightly peel and halve them.

Vegetables to go with it:
My favourites are lightly cooked leeks and cauliflour - delicious!  When cooked properly these have a completely different flavour than when they are overcooked.  I like them just tender.  Pumpkin and green vegetables are also good.  
     Short of fresh veges in the garden or pantry?  A bag of frozen mixed vegetables from the supermarket can be reasonably priced and work well providing good quality prepared veges which can be poured directly into a steamer and which take about ten minutes to cook.  

Serving of vegetables per person:
I find about a cupful is a good start.  If you're not sure how much you want tip a cupful into your chosen dinner bowl - in this instance I have tipped my frozen veges into a noodle bowl:  

I like pumpkin as well, and have frozen chunks stored in the freezer:

Into the steamer they go!

Serve up:
Veges on the bottom, egg cut into halves nestling in the middle, then top with your cheese sauce.  
Serve with salad / fresh tomatoes / falafels / steamed potatoes, or have just as is.

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