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Bechamel-sauceIngredients:
* 315 ml (10 fl oz / 1 1/4 cups) milk
* 1/2 bay leaf
* 60 g (2 oz/6 teaspoons) butter
* 60 g (2 oz / 1/2 cup) plain flour
* salt and pepper

1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and bay leaf to just below boiling point. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf.
2. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, over gentle heat. Remove from heat.
3. Gradually stir in milk. Return pan to heat. Stir until thick and smooth. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If sauce is not to be used immediately, cover surface closely with plastic wrap.

Serves: 4

Variation: For Ham & Mushroom Sauce, put 185g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms and 9 teaspoons dry cider into a saucepan, cover and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add to Bechamel Sauce made with 440 ml (14 fl oz / 1 3/4 cups) milk and 45 g (1 1/2 oz/9 teaspoons) each butter and plain flour. Stir in 125 g (4 oz) shredded ham and grated nutmeg to taste. Serve with pasta.