Recipe: Herb Mayonnaise

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I made mayo. It is straightforward and delicious. And yet, I have a really long story to go with it.

I hated mayo most of my life. Hypocritically, I loved it when it was disguised as, or called, something else: aioli, tartar sauce, hollandaise, etc. But I think my problem was that in the USA, mayo was usually that gloopy, greasy Miracle Whip (salad creme for the UK), often folded heavily into places it didn’t belong (that disgusting mid-century jello salad thing?), or with canned tuna, also a hate.

Yes, that is celery floating in jello, topped with Miracle Whip with marshmallows in it.

But in the UK, mayo is almost unavoidable, at the heart of nearly every lunch sandwich you will find. I quickly learned though that it wasn’t usually that gloopy mess, but a much richer, buttery spread, inherited from our proximity to France. I began to experiment, and have learned to love the stuff – which is probably not great since it was one of the few fatty foods I could claim to avoid.

I’m still a snob about it though (like I am with most food, let’s face it). I try not to buy it, but lately I’ve kept a jar of Maille Mayo with a hint of Mustard in the fridge, mostly to use in place of richer hollandaise for a poached egg brunch. But I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find (Brexit? Plague?). So I woke up this morning, Easter Sunday, and having luckily made a gorgeous Nigella’s Carrot Walnut Ginger Cake last night, found I had the creative kitchen energies to make my own mayo for some brunch. For advice, I turned to Samin…

If you haven’t yet seen Samin Nosrat’s ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat‘ on Netflix, do it! It is tantalising and quietly, wonderfully, feminist (and even a little decolonised – nearly all the experts she consults are women, from all over the world). Her accompanying book is also fascinating, a well-written scientific bible on how cooking works (and the illustrations by Wendy MacNoughton are delightful, as above). Even as a fairly knowledgable home cook, I learn something new every time I pick it up. Understanding the ‘why’ of how things brown, emulsify, etc. has made me a better cook. I won’t say Samin has quite surpassed Julia Child in my Kitchen Hero category, but she is getting rather close. Give her a few years.

Anyway – her recipe is simple, and she says the golden ratio is one egg yolk to 175ml oil. I confess, I stopped at about 100ml, for two reasons. First, I was nervous it was going to split and I would ruin my efforts. Second, I lack patience (which is why I’m not a professional cook), and it was looking really good as it was. I don’t know what would have happened if I kept going – would the oil have all just been incorporated for more volume? It was getting rather stiff too, as I was using my lovely Kitchen Aid hand mixer (cause I’m a weakling for beating, and also, any excuse to use it). The lemon juice made it creamier, and I stopped when it all just seemed delicious. I added about 1.5 tbs of lemon juice (a generous pinch of salt dissolved in this as per recipe), and chopped fresh parsley, thyme and chives. Oh! And I combined about 10ml of garlic infused rapeseed oil with 165ml olive oil, but in the end only used about 120ml overall.

All done to the tunes of Django Reinhart for that French feeling.

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