Cooks' Questions on Sauces and dressings

A picture of Delia's Cooks' Questions on Sauces and dressings  how to cook guide

Q: What is balsamic vinegar and why is it so often used in salad dressings?

Balsamic vinegar is a grape vinegar made from fresh pressed grape juice, which is aged in barrels of oak, ash and cherry wood, mulberry and juniper – all of which contribute to its unique flavour. Each year new grape juice is added and blended over a period of 8–12 years to produce the dark sweet/sour amber liquid that makes one of the best salad dressings I have ever tasted.

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Q: I love your recipe 'Braised Steak in Green Peppercorn Sauce' but can no longer find green peppercorns. Black ones make a rather hot sauce.

You can try The Spice Shop.

Q: Do you have a recipe for sundried-tomato, garlic and caper dressing?

Delia has a recipe for Tapenade of Sun-dried Tomatoes, Olives and Basil. This is the closest we have to what you are wanting but you could always add some more oil to make it less viscous.

Q: Do you have a recipe for a low fat salad dressing?

Delia has a recipe for Almost Mayonnaise on the site. Also you can find other lower fat recipes if you enter lower fat into the search facility on the site.

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Q: Is there a suitable alternative to artificially flavoured stock cubes and granules?

Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder has revolutionised modern cooking. It is made with vegetables and has only pure vegetable flavour, meaning you can have instant stock at any time.

Q: How do I deal with a curdled custard?

This needn't be a problem. With proper custard, a teaspoon of cornflour will prevent curdling happening in the first place. Or, if the sauce has curdled, it can be remedied. With egg-yolk sauces such as hollandaise, just use a fresh yolk and start again, adding the curdled ingredients to it.

Q: Is there any way of rescuing curdled mayonnaise?

If your mayonnaise curdles, don't despair. All you need to do is put a fresh egg yolk into a clean basin, add the curdled mixture to it (drop by drop), then continue adding the rest of the oil as though nothing had happened.

Q: Is there an easy, yet tasty, way to make a 'proper' gravy for sausages?

If you have fried some pork sausages, remove them from the pan and keep warm, then de-glaze by adding 5 fl oz (150 ml) of strong dry cider and a teaspoon of cider vinegar to the pan. Let it bubble and reduce, scraping the base of the pan, until it becomes syrupy.

Q: I prefer my horseradish a bit hotter. What extra ingredient will give me the desired effect?

Wasabi is brilliant mixed into creamed horseradish to give it a kick. Use ¼ teaspoon of wasabi powder to 2 tablespoons of creamed horseradish.

Q: What is the best way to make up powdered mustard?

Always make up mustard 10–15 minutes in advance to allow the flavour to fully develop. The water must be cold – hot water can create a rather bitter flavour.

Q: How can I make my white sauce really creamy and rich?

For extra creaminess, beat in an extra knob of butter at the end, or else a couple of tablespoons of thick cream.

How to make all-in-one white sauce

Q: Is there a quick method for making béchamel sauce?

To make a quick alternative to the classic béchamel, place all the ingredients, ie butter, flour and cold liquid, in a saucepan and whisk continuously and vigourously over the heat until the heat thickens the sauce. By the time the heat penetrates, the butter will have blended with the flour to prevent lumps, and the finished sauce will be silky smooth.

Q: How do I stop a skin from forming on top of white sauce when it is made in advance?

When the sauce is made, place some clingfilm directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Re-heat it by placing it over a pan of barely simmering water, removing the clingfilm when you are ready to serve.

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