Brown sauces

Brown sauces

Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery
500 ml

The basic brown sauce is a simplified version of the elaborate sauce espagnole of classic cuisine, but is still a fine luxury sauce. It and its variations are served with grills and sautés of red meat, and also with browned poultry and game. It is an essential ingredient in French cooking for some of the great savoury meat dishes.


Quantity Ingredient
60g clarified butter
or 3 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 small piece celery, diced
1 tablespoon plain flour
625ml brown stock, warmed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bouquet garni
5 black peppercorns
60ml dry sherry
mushroom trimmings, (optional)
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat clarified butter or oil in a heavy saucepan, add diced vegetables (called a mirepoix) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables shrivel slightly without colouring. Stir in flour and continue to cook very slowly, stirring constantly, until roux is hazelnut brown.
  2. Remove from the heat and cool a little, then add 375 ml of the stock and stir until smoothly blended. Stir in tomato paste and add bouquet garni, peppercorns, sherry and mushroom trimmings, if using. Return to medium heat and stir until boiling. Half-cover with a lid and simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Add half the remaining stock, return to the boil and skim. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add remaining stock, boil up and skim again. The addition of cool stock accelerates the rising of fat and scum and helps to clear the sauce. If the pan is tilted slightly the scum and fat will rise on one side only and can be easily removed.
  4. Simmer for a further 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Strain, pressing vegetables through sieve to extract juice.


  • This sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week. If you want to keep it longer, remove and bring to the boil and return to refrigerator in a clean container. It will keep for 1 week further.


  • Burgundy sauce: Follow recipe for 1 quantity brown sauce but substitute 125 ml dry red wine for the sherry. Serve with steak, roast beef and game.

    Madeira or marsala sauce: Follow recipe for 1 quantity brown sauce but substitute 60 ml Madeira or marsala for the sherry. Serve with beef wellington, ham, or grilled or sautéed kidneys or liver.

    Chasseur sauce: Gently cook 2 finely chopped golden shallots in 15 g butter until soft but not coloured. Turn heat up, add 60 g sliced mushrooms and shake until just coloured. Add 60 ml white wine and boil until reduced to a few tablespoons of liquid. Stir in 1 teaspoon tomato paste and 250 ml brown sauce and simmer for 2–3 minutes. Serve with steaks, cutlets and roasts. Makes 310 ml.

    Sauce Robert: Gently fry 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion in 1 tablespoon butter until softened. Add 60 ml dry white wine and 1 teaspoon wine vinegar and boil until reduced by half. Stir in 250 ml brown sauce and add 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and a pinch or two of sugar to taste. Piquant with lamb, pork or calf liver. Makes 310 ml.
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