Sauces come in many forms. There are sauces used to pour over certain foods to bring moisture and extra flavour to the meal, other thicker sauces are added to the side of the plate and accompany a cut or few slices of meat. Then there are the sauces are an integral part of the dish, whilst cold sauces or dressings are used to liven up salads and cold meats.
Sauces are not always savoury. Sweet sauces such as chocolate sauce, butterscotch sauce, brandy sauce or the versatile custard are poured over stodgy desserts in order to add more substance. And, certain fruits are blended and pureed and used to accompany sweet desserts or cooked meats.
Sauces have been around for centuries. During Roman times, sauces were used to hide the flavour and taste of meat that was possibly not as fresh as it should have been. They concocted sauces using an abundance of different spices, seasonings and flavours in order to disguise the real taste of the food.
The base of a sauce is some form of liquid, which could be milk, stock, wine or a vegetable
or fruit juice
. This liquid is then thickened with a thickening agent such as flour, fat, eggs, cream, arrowroot or cornflour. Some sauces are cooked and then reduced until the required consistency and thickness has been formed.
Sauces can be prepared by whisking, blending or cooking.
The majority of sauces are of French origin and the word "sauce" is actually a French word that means a relish that makes food more attractive.
In modern cooking of French origin, there are five basic sauces that are the basis for nearly every other sauce. These are béchamel or white sauce, velouté or blond sauce, Espagnole or brown sauce, Hollandaise or butter sauce and finally tomato or red sauce. Most other sauces are derived from one of these basic sauces that every cook should know how to prepare.
There are other sauces that do not fall into any of the above categories.