Hollandaise Sauce

Rosa and Zita are already dab hands at hollandaise sauce but the recipe merits recording because it is a key component of Christmas Day brunch – and indeed gets wheeled out as often as our arteries can stand it when we gather en famille. There are quicker ways to make it than the method detailed here. You can melt the butter and whizz it into the eggs with a food processor but the slow incorporation of solid butter over a bain marie makes for a more contemplative process, with more reliable results too. The quantities are not really set in stone and they’re easy to adjust for smaller / larger numbers.

Serves 6 generously


250g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp water
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper


Whisk the egg yolks and water in a bowl over simmering water and then gradually beat in the butter, adding one cube at a time to start with, more at a time as you progress.  Keep beating for up to 20 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken. If you need to abandon it even briefly, make sure you appoint a stand-in because it can curdle in an instant. (If it does, just start again with another egg yolk and slowly beat in the curdled mixture as you did the butter cubes.) Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, adjusting to your preference. Salt apparently interferes with the chemical composition of eggs, so it’s best not to add it until this stage. Remove from the heat and allow to thicken further.

A variation: Bearnaise sauce

This sauce works on the same principle but the acid kick comes from tarragon vinegar instead of lemon. Finely chop a shallot and add to a small saucepan with 3 fat sprigs of tarragon and about 100ml white wine vinegar. Bring to the boil and reduce until about 2 tbsp of liquid remain. (You can dispense with this stage and use ready-made tarragon vinegar if you’re feeling lazy.) Make your egg-butter sauce as described above, then at the seasoning stage, add the tarragon-infused vinegar, salt, pepper and a good handful of chopped fresh tarragon.

Sirloin steak with bearnaise sauce (marking the end of Veganuary 2021)

Published by motherrach

Alongside this blog, which records tried and tested family favourites, I’m documenting on Instagram (mother_rach_cooks) my efforts in repertoire expansion.

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