James Street South Cookery School: The secret of a great dish is all in the sauce

One of our most popular classes at The Cookery School in Belfast is ‘The Art of Essential Sauces’
Niall McKenna

AS WE roll into September, the weather will invariably start to shift, which means our menus will veer towards the warming comfort of a roast or hearty soups and stews.

One of our most popular classes at The Cookery School is ‘The Art of Essential Sauces’ which is a great class for learning the importance of making a great sauce, jus, or gravy to accompany a meal.

Nothing beats homemade, rather than relying on something out of a jar or pouch or expensive stock cubes. So, for this week’s page I have a fish stock, beef stock and jus, red wine jus and a really easy hollandaise.


(Makes about 2 litres)

1 large onion, sliced

1 leek, sliced

2 celery sticks, sliced

50g butter

Fresh parsley stalks

1 bay leaf

6 black peppercorns

900g washed fish bones (preferably turbot or sole bones)

300ml dry white wine

2.25litres (4 pints) water

Sweat the sliced vegetables in the butter without colouring. Add the parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns. Chop the fish bones, making sure there are no blood clots left on them. Add to the vegetables and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add the wine and boil to reduce until almost dry. Add water and simmer for 20 minutes, then drain through a sieve. Will store in the fridge for a few days.



(Makes 4.5litres stock or 600ml jus)

3 onions, halved

2-3 tbsp water

2.25g beef bones (you can substitute for lamb bones if making a lamb stock)

225g beef trimmings from butcher

225g carrots, coarsely chopped

3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped

1 leek, chopped

3-4 tomatoes, chopped

1 garlic clove, halved

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 pig’s trotter

Pre-heat oven to 150C. Lay onions flat in a roasting try with the water. Place into the oven and allow to caramelise until totally softened and coloured – about 1-2 hours. Once done, put into a large stock pot and leave to the side. Turn oven up to 200C. Place all the bones and trimmings in a roasting tray and roast for about 30 minutes until well coloured. Roast the chopped carrots and celery in another roasting tray for about 20 minutes until lightly coloured.

When ready, add the bones, trimmings and vegetables to the onions in the pot along with leeks, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Fill the pot with cold water – you’ll need about 5.6-6.5 litres. Bring to a simmer and skim. Allow to cook for 6-8 hours. If it appears to be reducing too quickly add more water. When ready drain and discard bones and veg, this is your stock.

For jus – allow liquid to boil and reduce down to 600ml, skimming all the time. The stock should become thick and of a sauce consistency. Making sure to taste all the time.



2 tbsp olive oil

4 button shallots, peeled and chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

80g carrot, peeled and chopped

80g leek, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 sprig thyme

2 bay leaves

100ml red wine

1 litre veal stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Place two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan, add the chopped shallots, celery, carrot and leek, crushed garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the thyme, bay leaf and reduce. Add in red wine and reduce by half. Add beef stock. Season with pinch of salt and pepper and cook on a gentle heat for one hour.



225g butter

2 tbsp malt or white wine vinegar

6 white peppercorns

1 tbsp water

2 egg yolks

Salt and pepper

Melt butter in the pan, leave it to cool slightly – if it’s too hot the sauce will curdle. Discard the solids which form at the bottom of the pan; only use the clarified butter. Boil the vinegar with the peppercorns, reduce by half. Add the cold water to cool and drain through a sieve. Add the egg yolks and whisk together. Place the bowl over a pot of hot water and whisk to a smooth ribbon texture; remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk, slowly adding the warm clarified butter. When all the butter is added and whisked in, the sauce should be a thick consistency which can now be seasoned with salt and pepper.

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