Sunday, 25 July 2010
Perfect mayo, plus herby potato salad
For years I hated mayonnaise. Well, let me rephrase that. I actually do hate all mayonnaise that comes in a jar. It makes me heave, tasting claggy and processed, leaving a margarine-like taste in the mouth. But about a year ago this old cookbook of my mum's changed everything, after I learned how to make the Roux brothers' mayonnaise. Now I always make my own and it literally takes ten minutes of your time. It tastes like heaven, really fresh, not too eggy, and then you have the perfect foil for making a rocking potato salad.
This is the book where I got the mayo recipe, below. You can still buy it secondhand on Amazon. It's a classic - it has properly retro French dishes in it, as well as some very Eighties ones, and my mum used to make their legendary Tarte Tatin almost every week when I was a teenager:
Don't the brothers look cheerful! Nothing to do with the vin on the photoshoot, I'm sure.
Anyway, here's their recipe which is absolutely classic:
Mayonnaise, from 'At Home with the Roux Brothers'
A classic mayonnaise can be so quickly and easily made nowadays that there is no reason to buy the commercial product. And of course, if you make your own mayonnaise it can be tailored to your own taste. Firstly, you can choose the type of oil you use. For example, a groundnut oil will give a light, clear flavour, an ideal base when other flavours are to be added, as in aioli (flavoured with garlic), sauce tartare (gherkins, capers, tarragon), or sauce remoulade (similar, with the addition of anchovies). Olive oil will give a rich, robust flavour, something of an acquired taste, and mayonnaise made with olive oil is best served plain. As it is expensive to use olive oil in the quantities required for mayonnaise, try using half vegetable oil (for example groundnut, sunflower or safflower oil - not corn oil) with half olive oil, for the best of both worlds.
Again, when you make your own mayonnaise, flavourings can be as varied and as strong as you choose.
To guard against mayonnaise separating, start with everything at room temperature (especially the eggs). If it is a cold day, rinse the bowl and the whisk in hot water just before using. If at all possible, avoid storing the made mayonnaise in the refrigerator; simply keep it, covered, in a cool place. But should refrigerator storage be absolutely necessary, remove the mayonnaise about three hours before you intend to use it and leave it without stirring until it comes up to room temperature; it will then usually survive.
Mayonnaise gets very thick in the final stage, and using a wire whisk can be hard work! You may need to resort to an electric hand whisker.
Note: to prevent discolouration, never allow mayonnaise to come into contact with any metal except stainless steel.
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
600ml oil, of your choice
Juice of 1/2 lemon or 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, mustard, salt and a little freshly ground white pepper. Position the bowl on a tea-towel to hold it steady as you work. Have the oil ready in a measuring jug. Start by whisking together the ingredients in the bowl. Then add the oil, a drop at a time, whisking it into the mixture. This is the critical stage: if the mayonnaise is to curdle it usually does now, so take things very slowly until about 2 tablespoons have been added. The mayonnaise will now be getting very thick and the oil can be added about 1 tablespoon at a time. When about half the oil has been added, whisk in 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice or vinegar, then continue whisking in the oil in a steady stream. When all the oil has been added, stir in the remaining lemon juice or vinegar and any flavourings, if used. Taste and season with additional salt and freshly ground white pepper, if necessary. The finished mayonnaise will be thick, wobbling mass. For a thinner sauce, stir in boiling water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the required consistency. Or you can stir in a tablespoon of double cream to soften the flavour.
If the mixture curdles during making or on standing, try beating in a tablespoon of boiling water. If this has no effect, simply put a fresh egg yolk in a separate bowl and gradually (just as slowly as before - or even more slowly) whisk in the curdled mix, a drop at a time.
Quite right, brothers Roux!
A few notes: I have made successful mayo of the type above using eggs cold from the fridge. I usually use grapeseed, groundnut or sunflower oil; I find that using olive oil is too bitter and rich. I have varied the types of vinegar - red wine or cider vinegar is just as good as white, and I don't even know where to buy freshly ground white pepper. I just use the pre-ground stuff from Natco. And a balloon hand whisk is the best thing to use - an electric whisk would be overkill, I think, and with a hand whisk you have total control. Not once has the recipe ever curdled, how amazing is that?!
So now you have the perfect mayonnaise recipe, you can now make a great potato salad. My version this time...
Herby potato salad
To feed a hungry horde of about 10 at a barbecue
1 x 650ml quantity of mayo, as above. Please use the freshest organic eggs you can buy!
2 kg new potatoes / Charlotte salad potatoes - no need to peel
1 jar capers in vinegar, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 handful of cornichons/gherkins in vinegar, roughly chopped
6 generous handfuls of chopped mixed fresh herbs: basil, parsley, tarragon, coriander
Juice of half a lemon (optional)
Boil your potatoes until tender. Leave aside to cool, then when they are cool enough to touch, chop them into large cubes. Let them cool down completely.
Take a big bowl, put your mayonnaise in, add your herbs, capers, cornichons and seasoning (if needed) and gently mix together. Then mix in the cold potato cubes. Taste, and if it needs a bit more sharpness, add the juice of half a lemon.