There’s nothing wrong with a good ready-made mayonnaise from a jar but there’s also something special and satisfying about making your own: any self-respecting domestic cook should know how to whip one up. Mayonnaise is also the base for countless flavoured sauces, three of which are included here as a riff on the ‘mother sauce’.
Basic mayonnaise recipe
You can make this with just a bowl, a whisk and a lot of patience but an electric hand whisk makes the process much easier and quicker. The recipe below, borrowed from Sophie Grigson’s Fish, makes about 300ml.
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
300 ml oil (avoid anything too strongly flavoured: a mixture of sunflower / groundnut with normal (‘deflowered’) olive oil in a 2:1 proportion is ideal)
Before you begin, make sure that all the ingredients are at room temperature. Whisk the egg yolks with the lemon juice or vinegar, mustard and a little salt. Pour the oil(s) into a jug. Whisking continuously, add the oils drip by drip, at a slow, even pace. If your bowl starts jiggling about, put a damp cloth under it to hold it steady. When about ⅓ of the oil is incorporated, you can increase the flow of oil to a slow, steady trickle, still whisking all the time. Once it is all incorporated, taste and adjust the seasonings, adding a splash more lemon or vinegar if it needs it.
Help! If the worst comes to the worst and your sauce splits and curdles, all is not lost. Get a new egg yolk, put it in a clean bowl and start adding the curdled mayonnaise, again drop by drop, whisking constantly. Carry on as if making uncurdled mayonnaise. A magic fix.
Aïoli (French) / Alioli (Spanish)
To make a garlicky version, add 4 large crushed garlic cloves to the egg yolks, salt and lemon juice at the start, and omit the mustard. Ground pepper can join the mix too.
Sauce Marie Rose / Thousand Island sauce
The prawn cocktail sauce! Mix 300 ml mayonnaise with 2 tbsp tomato ketchup, a few drops of Tabasco, 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce and a dash more lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.
When made freshly, with good mayonnaise (shop-bought is absolutely fine) this is a fabulous sauce. Mix all the ingredients below together, taste and adjust seasoning. It’s pretty much identical to what we stir into boiled, cooled new potatoes to make a classic potato salad.
200 ml mayonnaise
1 shallot, very finely chopped
½ tbsp chopped fresh chives
½ tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1½ tbsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1½ tbsp chopped pickled gherkins or cornichons
Salt and pepper