Thursday, 22 April 2010

Mayonnaise- not as hard as they said!

Making mayonnaise isn't actually that difficult. As long as you have the right tools, and you're not in a rush.

I haven't made mayonnaise in years- quite literally, as I can tell you that the last time I made it semi-regularly was in 2002, when we were living in New York, and, for the life of me, I couldn't find what we consider "real" mayonnaise.

Hellman's, yes, but that's not real. It's not the right colour, it's not the right texture, and it's not made with the right oil.

As far as I'm concerned, anyway. I didn't grow up with Hellman's, that means that it's just Not Right.

Therefore, rather like the year before, when we were living in the Caribbean and the only bread I could find was steam-baked and tasted sweet, I started to make my own.

With, in this case, a bottle of sunflower oil, tracked down at vast expense. Why it was so expensive, I wouldn't know, but I remember it being something insane like 10$ for a 220ml bottle. Or thereabouts. No doubt that my brain has preferred to wipe the memory from my wallet.

So I made mayonnaise, a few times, and I remember it taking a while, being a bit tricky the first time, but being generally OK. My Larousse Gastronomique told me that everything ought to be room temperature, and I seem to remember that I only read that after making it the first time!

However, having friends staying who were stuck due to Volcano Ejs-something-or-other, I was determined to feed them properly in order to cheer them up. French and Spanish asparagus having finally hit the market, I fed them twice in three days on asparagus for a first course. Once hot, and once cold.

Both times, I made the mayonnaise about an hour or so beforehand. The first time, having forgotten about the room-temperature rule, I had to stick my eggs in warm water for about ten minutes beforehand. It really didn't seem to make much difference.

Mayonnaise for four:
- 3 egg yolks
- olive oil
- sunflower oil
- mustard ("prepared" mustard is, I believe, the technical term)
- salt flakes
- ground pepper

Making mayonnaise easily depends, very much, I think, on being comfortable whilst you work. Therefore, I use a small bowl with a handle, which means that I can hold the bowl without getting cramp in my palm, and also hold the bowl at different heights in order to give my wrist a rest. Also, you really need a whisk with a thick handle. A small whisk, obviously, as you're only whisking three eggs, but you don't want one with a thin handle- it will just give you cramp in your palm and make the whole thing uncomfortable.

Whisk your egg yolks briefly, to mix them and break them up.

Now, all the books say to start with a teensy drop of oil, whisk like mad, and work your way up very slowly from there. I don't hugely agree with this. A drop, yes, whisk, then keep going, but you really don't have to put in the teensiest drop at the start. As long as you whisk hard and fast, you'll be OK.

Take your time. The first five, six times, a small drop, then you can go for a teaspoon at a time. Not that you need to measure it out! Just what looks about right.

The whole thing shouldn't take more than ten minutes. And that includes breaks to rest your shoulder- you don't have to keep going the whole time.

Now, I haven't given measurements for the oils. This is because I have no idea. I taste mine as I go along. Olive oil gives quite a strong flavour, and you may not want this. If you've got to a flavour that's too strong, stick to sunflower oil from then on in. I tend to swap my oils about after 4-5 additions. But my finished product is probably about 2/5 olive, 3/5 sunflower.

At the end, I add mustard, salt, pepper. This dilutes the mayonnaise, and you have to add more oil. I also add the mustard to taste- whatever seems right to me, which seems to end up being about 3 tsp.

That was my basic recipe- however, the last time I made it (I didn't really mean to, but I had four egg yolks from a recipe I was making, so I stopped half-way through and made mayonnaise), I made some changes.

English mayonnaise:
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp English mustard powder (Colman's!)
- 4 tsp white wine vinegar
- olive oil
- sunflower oil
- salt, pepper

This time, I whisked the eggs, added the mustard powder and white wine vinegar, then added the oils. Salt and pepper at the end.

It then went in a labeled jam jar in the fridge, and Peter has been very happily smearing it on bread and eating it like bread-and-butter ever since! It's funny- the olive oil taste shows up first, and it's only after you've swallowed that the mustard sneaks up and whacks you across the back of the throat. Which, I think, makes it fine for sandwiches, fine for eating on bread, but not quite so fine for eating with asparagus.

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