Thursday, May 31, 2007


An important point in making mayonnaise is to use ingredients at room temperature. If they are cold, the sauce is more likely to split. I get my egg or eggs out of the fridge and put it/them in lukewarm water for 10 minutes or so. But I got overenthusiastic the other day, using water that was too warm. The combined egg and oil did not thicken, merely producing a runny liquid.

I hesitate to say this, because it is asking for trouble: this is the first mayonnaise ever to have gone wrong on me. I have never had one split. I should add that I do not make mayonnaise very often; perhaps for that reason, I am cautious -- usually -- about the temperature of the ingredients, and about the speed with which I add the oil. I always use mustard, which assists in the amalgamation.

I use a pestle and mortar. The heavy mortar stays steady while I work away. But I have also made mayonnaise successfully in a bowl with a small whisk.

1 egg yolk
1/3 tsp Dijon mustard
75 g olive oil and 75 g groundnut or sunflower oil, combined
Lemon juice

Combine the egg, mustard and a few grindings of salt in a mortar. Add the oil a drop or two at a time, stirring vigorously with the pestle to amalgamate it before adding any more. When the mixture gets very stiff, thin it a little with a drop or two of lemon juice -- I keep it to hand in a saucer, and add it with a teaspoon. Continue to add the oil, carefully; once you have used about half of it, you can start pouring it in more generous amounts. Use the lemon juice to bring the mayonnaise to your preferred consistency. I like mine wobbly.


Joanna said...

You shouldn't keep eggs in the fridge, apart from anything else, they pick up the flavours of all the other food in there ...


Nicholas Clee said...

According to Harold McGee, Joanna, eggs deteriorate four times faster at room temperature than they do in the fridge. Salmonella bacteria multiply faster at room temperature, too. The Food Standards Agency also recommends refrigeration.

a.c.t. said...

Nicholas, mayonnaise has always been a bone of contention for me. I have tried to make it before and always found the flavour bitter, maybe because of the quality of the olive oil, I don't know. I've since stopped trying to make it. Any solutions?

Nicholas Clee said...

That may be the oil, a.c.t. I use half olive, half groundnut or sunflower; and I err on the side of less olive. Certainly, mayonnaise made entirely with olive oil is too pungent. You might also try a Spanish oil, which is likely to be milder than the peppery Italian varieties.

Paul said...

Nicholas -

Regarding Pestles and Mortars, I've never settled on one that I like, so I never use them very much. However, I like to think I'm open minded with these things! Can you - or anyone - recommend a good one or a good type?