Rich and dark with a lacquer-like shine, chocolate sauce is a classic and it is easy. The most important ingredient is clearly the chocolate, so search for the best quality you can find. I use Valhrona, a wonderful chocolate from France, and generally use the 62% cocoa solid version. If I need a particularly intensely flavoured sauce I will use 70% cocoa solids. I serve the sauce with ice creams and some chocolate puddings. The sauce is best when freshly made but will keep in the fridge for several weeks. If I have stored it for a while, I always warm it up gently before serving.
Caramel sauce is a very useful dessert sauce with many uses. Clear and shiny and as richly coloured as well-polished mahogany, it needs to be cooked with care. Use a heavy saucepan with medium high sides and cook it on the heat furthermost from the edge of your cooker, so it is safely away from an awkward elbow or a child's inquisitive reach. It is vital to cook the sugar and water enough to achieve a deep 'chestnut brown' colour, as this 'burning' of the sugar tempers the sweetness of the sauce to achieve a balance that is neither too sweet nor too bitter. The sauce will keep for months in the fridge, but will thicken as it chills, so you may need to dilute it with a little warm water when this happens.
Crème Anglaise is one the classic dessert sauces. It is flourless, thin custard. The classic version is flavoured with vanilla but many variations exist. Lemon, orange, chocolate and coffee are some of the many other flavours that might be introduced. If possible use a vanilla pod or bean, but natural vanilla extract can also be used. The vanilla pod will give a superior flavour and the sauce will be flecked with the tiny vanilla seeds whose appearance in the sauce adds visual interest. Best quality eggs make an enormous difference to the colour and flavour of the sauce.
Mayonnaise is an immensely important sauce and if I had to choose a single 'Desert Island' sauce, this would be it. It pairs perfectly with many different ingredients. Some books will terrify you with words of warning before you start making the sauce. Others are perhaps a little casual in their approach, all I will say, is to be a bit careful, take your time and just remember the important rules, as stated below. Once you have made it once or twice, making it won't cause you a second thought and by then you will realise that there is simply no substitute for the real thing. Let us be clear: there is no comparison whatsoever between mayonnaise from a shop bought jar and the real thing. If you use good eggs and oil, this sauce can transform the foods you serve with it.