A sauce can make a huge difference to a meal with just a little effort and know-how. These four sauces are all very straightforward and with easily available ingredients, that can really make a meal stand out. Plus, all can be made ahead of time and will keep in the fridge or freezer.

I adore the honey and clove sauce with roast duck. I like the sweet and sour combination. It will keep for a week in the fridge, so it is worth making double quantities. You will find it also goes well with chicken or pork.

This Madeira sauce is one that we make absolutely every week without fail in the restaurant. It is a vital part of my loin of lamb recipe and it keeps for up to three days in the fridge, if stored in a rigid plastic container.

Again, the chilli jam is one of my store cupboard essentials. You can use it as a dip or as a dressing. I like it with pasta, or grilled meat or fish or just as a dip with some bread. Put it in a plastic squeeze bottle if you would like to use it to garnish plates and make an impression.

Sauce Diane is a classic that I first learned to make at college. It is one of those sauces that you will never regret learning to make. It’s so versatile. You can use it with steak, lamb chops, chicken or pork. This is a recipe that I got from my mother, Vera. It is fairly rich, so a little goes a long way.

Happy Cooking, Neven

Honey and clove sauce

Makes about 200ml (7fl oz)

225ml (8fl oz) beef stock

4 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp light brown sugar

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

2 tsp whole cloves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Place the stock, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and cloves in a small pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer vigorously for five minutes, until the mixture has thickened to a sauce consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste, then pass through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pan, discarding the cloves. Reheat gently and use as required.

Madeira sauce

Makes 200ml (7fl oz)

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp soft light brown sugar

200ml (7fl oz) Madeira

100ml (3½fl oz) red wine

600ml (1 pint) beef stock

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer on a medium heat for about two minutes, until reduced to a syrup. Add the Madeira and red wine and return to a simmer for 6–8 minutes, until reduced by half. Add the beef stock and thyme and reduce again for about 20 minutes, until thick and glossy and the sauce has become more concentrated in flavour. Season to taste, then pass through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pan. Reheat gently and use as required.

Chilli jam

Makes about 450ml (¾ pint)

2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

2 onions, roughly diced

2 red peppers, cored, deseeded and roughly diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato purée

50g (2oz) light brown sugar

4 ripe tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Heat the olive or rapeseed oil in a heavy-based pan on a medium heat. Add the onions, red peppers and garlic and sauté for two minutes, until just beginning to soften. Stir in the chilli and tomato purée and cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sugar, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce and pour in 300ml (½ pint) of water to just cover. Simmer for 45–50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well reduced and thickened.

2 Remove the chilli jam from the heat and leave to cool completely, then tip into a food processor or liquidiser and blend to a purée. Pass through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and season to taste. Transfer to a rigid plastic container and store in the fridge for up to three weeks. Use as required.

Sauce Diane

Makes about 300ml (½ pint)

2 tbsp olive oil

25g (1oz) butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

150g (5oz) button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

120ml (4fl oz) brandy

150ml (¼ pint) white wine

150ml (¼ pint) beef stock

150ml (¼ pint) cream

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Good pinch of caster sugar

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Heat a pan and add one tablespoon of the oil and the butter, then swirl until the butter has melted and is foaming.

2 Tip in the shallot and mushrooms and sauté for 2–3 minutes, until tender.

3 Pour over the brandy, then use a match or tilt up the pan to catch the flame. It will flare up for 5–10 seconds and then subside when the alcohol burns off. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half.

4 Stir the stock into the pan with the cream, Worcestershire sauce and sugar.

5 Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to a sauce consistency that will coat the back of a wooden spoon.

6 Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste and use immediately or allow to cool down completely and store in a bowl covered with cling film in the fridge for up to two days. Reheat gently in a pan when needed.

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