Sauces have been used in Europe since the arrival of the Ancient Romans, who made a fermented fish sauce, similar to that used in Asian cooking, called garum.
However, sauces have been used worldwide for much longer; soy sauce, for example, has been recorded as far back as 3 B.C., and ketchup originates from a Chinese recipe made of fermented fish, meat by-products and soybeans, which has been found to date from as early as 300 B.C.
The history of using sauce in South American and Southern Asian cooking is not as clear, due to imperialistic influences on the cuisines. ‘Curry’ is not a term from any Asian culture, but a Western word for a multitude of different Asian dishes; many of which are unique to individual families.
Essentially, the word ‘curry’ refers to any Asian-style dish cooked in a sauce or stew. As such, sauces in Southern Asia have likely been used for thousands of years as a method of cooking food, and an enormous variety of spices and ingredients are used in a multitude of combinations – the recipes for which are then passed on from generation to generation.
Sauces have 3 main functions; to bolster the flavour of the food, to cook the central component, and to provide moisture to the dish. For these reasons, and more, many chefs would argue that the sauce is an essential part of any meal.
However, a good sauce often takes time to make, and for many of us, it is simply too easy to slip back into the premade sauce trap.
Premade sauce, while convenient, is often high in sugar and salt, comparatively expensive, and frankly, not as tasty as homemade sauce.
So, if you’re short on time, we’ve collected some simple and interesting recipes to help you enjoy your own homemade sauces!
Quick Sweet and Sour Sauce
If you’re in a rush and want to spice up your meal in as little time as possible, Sweet and Sour sauce is the way to go.
Simply add 50g of rice, wine vinegar (red or white), 150g of ketchup or tomato sauce, a tin of pineapple (including the juice), 50g of brown or palm sugar, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to a pan. Reduce for five minutes.
You can add extra vegetables to this. Cucumbers, peppers, spring onions, tomatoes and beansprouts, all compliment these flavours nicely. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, traditional variations on the dish also include other fruits, such as pears and plums.
Mix it up! To make a similar Hawaiian sauce called Huli Huli, you could add in some garlic, ginger and sherry.
A North African herb sauce, similar to chimichurri, this can be easily made using a blender.
Simply blend 1 cup of fresh coriander, half a cup of parsley, 4 cloves of garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne and saffron, in a food processor. Add half a cup of olive oil and half a cup of lemon juice, then blend to combine. Add some salt (for best results use fleur de sel) to provide extra taste.
This is a lovely way to add fragrant coconut notes to any tropical or spicy desserts, and it’s totally vegan-friendly!
To make a coconut caramel sauce, mix together 1 can of coconut milk, one third of a cup of syrup, one quarter of a cup of brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon of dairy-free butter. Reduce until thick, which should take roughly an hour. Then, add half a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Cover the mixture with clingfilm and leave it to thicken overnight in the fridge.
This sauce is especially good with baked bananas or churros, while you can even add it to a sticky toffee pudding for a Caribbean twist.
All these sauces should be fairly quick and easy to make, not requiring the use of specialist catering equipment, so happy cooking!