Years ago I spent some time working in France, in the North East. It was a special time, connecting with great foodies. It really was my introduction to French food and cooking, and extraordinarily it was through the homes of those around me that I learned about the regional dishes. My best friend there was the son of a cheese maker, his daughter was studying in another part of France and would bring home delicacies of that region. Work colleagues originated from all parts of the country, and so I experienced cheeses, wine, fruits, sweets and dished from all over.
So much of that time stays with me, the tricks and treats of the French kitchen, and the delicacy and finesse of French food. Here is one of the tricks, and it s a timely one as we move into Winter with its Soups, Braises, Vegetable Stews and hearty sauces. Make a flour and butter thickening agent and store in the fridge or freezer. This mix gives a thick creamy result with a shiny texture. With the butter coating the flour you are able to add it to your soup or sauce without the flour getting thick and clumpy. As the butter melts it distributes the flour evenly as you stir it into your mixture.
Beurre Manie, a French Uncooked Butter and Flour Thickening Agent
60 g butter
4 Tblspn plain flour
Cream together the butter and flour. This can be done by hand, with two spoons or forks, or in a food processor. Do not heat or microwave the butter.
Put the paste into a small jar. Cover and refrigerate. If you prefer to freeze the paste, freeze it in Tblspn amounts – either roll them into balls and freeze in a zip lock bag, or freeze in ice cube trays, then pop the cubes into zip lock bags.
Substitute this paste for water-and-flour mixes in recipes. Add it straight from the fridge, or still frozen, into the hot liquids and stir continuously until it is dissolved and the liquid is thickened to the desired amount.