Wednesday 27 June 2007

Making Mayonnaise....

This post was prompted by the current availability in the market of Globe Artichokes, my preferred complement to which is a rich home-made mayonnaise, flavoured either with Lime, Orange, or Saffron.

Mayonnaise forms because the Oil is broken down into an emulsion made of thousands of tiny droplets separated by Water from the Egg Yolk. Natural emulsifiers found in Egg Yolk and Mustard act to keep the Oil droplets separate. If the Egg is old the emulsion may not form as easily because fresh Egg Yolks are richer in emulsifiers than old ones. (If you want to know more about the science of oil in water emulsions, consult chapter 11 of Harold Magee's 'On Food & Cooking'.)

The Ingredients:

I Egg Yolk
I teaspoon of Mustard - preferably French
180ml Oil - any sort. (Strongly-flavoured Oils, such as Olive, will need the addition of strong flavouring agents such as Citrus Oils or rind, or Spices and will be best with strongly-flavoured dishes.)
12ml Lemon Juice or Vinegar.

NB: In making Mayonnaise, it makes things simpler if you use an oil bottle fitted with a pourer with a narrow spout, so you can control the oil flow precisely while holding the bottle in one hand. Since you need the other hand to mix the sauce, position the bowl (narrow based, with a capacity of between 500 ml and a litre) so that it can't slide about, for example on a damp dishcloth.


1. Using a fork or whisk, mix the Egg Yolk with the Mustard until slightly thickened.

2. Start adding Oil, literally one drop at a time, while mixing. As the Oil drops are absorbed by the egg mixture it will thicken. When, and only when, it does, you can increase the Oil flow to a drizzle.

3. If at any time you can see a pool of Oil which has not been absorbed, stop the Oil flow. Don't try to incorporate all the surplus Oil into the emulsion in one go. Tip the bowl slightly so the surplus Oil flows away from the area you are mixing and start bringing this surplus Oil into the mixture a little at a time. When all the Oil is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is even and thick, go back to adding Oil.

4. You will find by experience that the more emulsion you have in the bowl the faster you can add Oil. I normally use a fork and start by mixing only in one small area of the bowl, occasionally bringing mixture from the rest of the bowl into the emulsion. This reduces the chance of trying to incorporate too much Oil too quickly.

5. When you have added all the Oil, flavour the Mayonnaise with Lemon Juice or Vinegar, and the flavourings of your choice.
( NB.If you are using a flavour agent which is in powder form - such as Saffron or Curry Powder - add this to the Egg Yolk at the beginning, before you start the addition of the Oil. If you add it at the end the powder can form into lumps and be difficult to amalgamate.)
You can thin the Mayonnaise with any liquid such as Lemon Juice, Water or Cream. The whole process should take 5-10 minutes.

6. It can happen that the emulsion 'breaks' because the Oil has been added too quickly. You will know the mixture has broken if it becomes runny, oily and the ingredients have obviously separated. This is more likely at the beginning of the process, hence the importance of starting by adding Oil only one drop at a time. The solution is to start again with fresh ingredients. After you have made ¼ of a cup of Mayonnaise, you can then incorporate the 'failed' mixture instead of the remaining oil. Alternatively bring 2 tablespoons of Vinegar to the boil in a pan or in the microwave and pour it into the mixture while whisking vigorously: the emulsion will re-form.

7. If 1 Egg Yolk and 180ml of Oil doesn't give you enough Mayonnaise, you can add more Oil if you mix in a teaspoon of Water first before adding any more Oil. The Mayonnaise with raw Egg Yolk will keep at least 24 hours in a refrigerator.

Tonight's Dinner:

Globe Artichokes with Saffron Mayonnaise

Pomiane's 'Spanish' Stew, with Fennel slow-cooked with Dill

Apple Strudel

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