Kitchen Essentials: How to make mayonnaise

In our weekly Kitchen Essentials column Laoise Casey reveals the insider tips on how to make one of the best loved condiments

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Mayonnaise has always sparked an irrational fear in me. I would like to think I’m a reasonable person who understands that cooking itself should be taken with a (generous) pinch of salt. Whenever possible I used to avoid making mayonnaise. Give me a vinaigrette any day of the week. But then I started working in restaurants and could no longer hide, although trust me I did try to hang out in the walk–in fridge for as long as possible.

Invariably, every time, I would split it. I’d splutter “honestly I can make this” as the sauce separated out in front of everyone’s eyes. See the thing is, when you make a mistake in the kitchen, that’s when you learn how to cook properly, because you then understand how to fix it.

Finally, after having to whisk up giant vats of it in a gastro pub I was working at, I got over myself, and the mayonnaise. Now forever more I will enjoy beating egg yolks and oil together and, more often than not, turning it into an aioli by the addition of garlic, scooped up with some roast Jersey Royal potatoes. 

You can then make 

Once you’ve got your basic mayonnaise technique you can then start to experiment. A pinch of sweet smoky paprika and lemon juice with a pan fried chicken breast and sweet potatoes. Or make tartare sauce – stir in some finely chopped shallot, capers, gherkins and parsley. A perfect accompaniment for lemon sole and diced sautéed potatoes. 

An aioli is one of my favourites ways, made by mixing through a little raw grated garlic (beware, less is definitely more). I find a safer alternative is roasting the garlic (skin on) in tinfoil with a drizzle of olive oil. Then squeezing the cooked garlic out of the skins and folding through the mayonnaise.  For a quick béarnaise style sauce I like to use (purists, avert your eyes) finely chopped tarragon with a dash of lemon juice. 

Let’s take two classic ways with mayonnaise. Add Dijon mustard, lemon juice and thinly sliced/grated celeriac for celeriac remoulade. This works well with cooked meats, fish or on toast as a snack. Or coronation chicken  – curry powder, apricot chutney, a little tomato puree then stir through some cooked chicken. Then there is potato salad, coleslaw, tuna mayonnaise, shall I go on? 

To make a lighter mayonnaise try using one whole egg along with the egg yolks – the addition of egg whites creates more air. You can also make a surprisingly good vegan mayonnaise using the water from a can of chickpeas. Emulsify the oil into a few tablespoons of the water in a food processor, once it starts to thicken then pour in the rest of the oil. Finish with lemon juice and some extra chickpea water. Try serving it with falafels. 

Ingredients

2 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
200ml vegetable oil (you could also use groundnut, rapeseed, grapeseed)
100ml olive oil
White wine vinegar
Lemon juice
Sea salt, cracked black pepper 

Equipment

Bowl
Tea towel
Spoon
Balloon whisk

How to

Mayonnaise is an emulsion of oil suspended in egg yolk. We are using a combination of vegetable and olive oil as only using olive oil may give it too strong a flavour. But this is a personal preference. You can use a wooden spoon or balloon whisk. Sit the bowl on a damp cloth to hold it steady.

Put the yolks into the bowl with a pinch of salt and the Dijon mustard and beat for a minute to thicken. The start is when you need to add the oil really slowly to stop the sauce splitting. Begin to add the vegetable oil a drop at a time and whisk well after you add each drop. When the mixture has thickened you can start to trickle the rest of the oil into the bowl in a steady stream.

You may not need to use all the oil. Keep whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, white wine vinegar and lemon juice. You can also make this in a food processor or with an electric hand whisk which is best for making large quantities. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.

What to do if

If the mayonnaise splits/separates, then try whisking a drop of water into the mayonnaise first, but if this does not work then whisk a new egg yolk in a clean bowl. Slowly whisk the split mixture into the new egg yolk drop by drop. Add more oil as required. If the mayonnaise is too thick add a drop of water or lemon juice or white wine vinegar and if the mayonnaise is too thin add more oil (oil thickens it).

Next week’s kitchen essentials: How to make vegetable stock

For more tips follow Laoise Casey on Twitter @laoisecooks and Instagram @laoisecooks

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