There has got to be something wrong with a world in which people still buy ready-made mayonnaise. Ever since I discovered how stupefyingly easy (and affordable) it is to make your own – far superior to store-bought – my mind has boggled at the idea that anyone actually pays money for the mass-produced variety. All you need to concoct (although that word is misleading as it implies some form of experimentation, of which, I’m sure you’ll find, little is needed) this gorgeously creamy dressing is three everyday ingredients: eggs, vegetable oil, vinegar.
One large egg, two or three tablespoons of white wine vinegar (depending on how tangy you like it), and about 225ml good quality vegetable oil (I prefer sunflower, but canola works as well). Oh, and a hand-held blender. Crack the egg into a container (I have a tall, cup-like one that is almost the same shape as the blender, but that’s not a necessity); add the vinegar and about one third of the oil. Blend together; then, with the blender still, er, blending, add the rest of the oil in a thin stream until the mixture thickens to the consistency of, well, mayonnaise. You may not have to use all the oil, or you may have to use a little extra – that’s all the experimentation required. Add a little more vinegar if you like, and season with sea salt. Store your mayo in a jar in the fridge – it’ll last for about two months (but I guarantee it will be eaten before then).
There's a lot you can do to the basic recipe. Here are some of my favourites:
• Add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard (I do this as a rule).
• Add finely chopped gherkins, capers and some dill or tarragon (perhaps a few chopped anchovies?), and hey presto: tartar sauce that will have seafood singing hymns (especially calamari).
• Stir in a few handfuls chopped dill and parsley, as well as the Dijon mustard and some finely sliced red onion, and use to coat perfectly boiled new potatoes.
• Mix with one teaspoon English mustard and apply generously to hamburgers.
• I know it’s somewhat obvious, but this ingredient lifts your average chicken- or tuna-mayo sandwich into the realm of haute cuisine.
• Combine a few tablespoons mayo with a good squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and Dijon mustard, and you have the makings of a creamy, foliage-friendly salad dressing.
A note on vinegar
As I said, white wine vinegar is perfectly adequate, but making your own flavoured ones is even easier than making mayonnaise, and will give it a real gourmet flavour.
I use two parts white wine vinegar to one part apple cider vinegar (for a little tangy sweetness), and add a handful of any of the following: tarragon; thyme; rosemary and two cloves garlic; parsley, basil, chives, oregano, rosemary, sage and two cloves garlic (for this one I just went into my garden and picked a little of every herb I could find, and the end product was sublime). Just squash the herbs and garlic (if using) into a glass jar or bottle, add the vinegar and leave to infuse for about four days to a week. You’ll appreciate the results when you remove the lid and take a whiff. What’s more, it’ll keep in a dark cupboard for at least six months.
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