Sometimes, bad, bad things happen to good recipes. Until a few years ago, I imagined that salad cream had always been that unspeakable pasteurised egg product out of a bottle by Heinz. My grandma was a lady fond of boiled eggs and cucumber, which she always anointed with a hearty gulp of the stuff. It was perfectly repellent – eggy, slimy and wafting fumes of vinegar strong enough to knock out a medium-sized rodent. (Grandma was not characterised by her love for salad cream; she was, in fact, a lady of otherwise splendid taste. I think the salad cream thing was something to do with rationing in the war. I hope it was, because otherwise this means that I might have a vinegar-loving chromosome lurking somewhere in my genome.)
Then, I found a copy of Mrs Beeton, whose recipe for salad cream did not sound remotely like the wet slick Grandma used to top our salads with. It was a recipe full of good, fresh things; a hard-boiled egg yolk, cream, mustard and so on. I braced myself and made it. It was bloody marvellous. I’ve changed the recipe a little since then (fresh lemons are more freely available these days, and I think Mrs Beeton liked her salad cream rather more tart than modern salad-munchers might like), and present it for your eating pleasure.
1 hard boiled egg yolk
6 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (no seeds)
½ tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
Juice of ½ a lemon
Mash the egg yolk with the back of a spoon, and add all the rest of the ingredients except the lemon juice. Mash furiously with the spoon until you’ve got a creamy paste. (If you still have any lumps, pass through a sieve, and you’ll end up with a perfectly smooth mixture.) Add lemon juice to taste. (Mrs Beeton uses vinegar, which you can try if you like; use a white wine vinegar or a cider vinegar. She does, however, use two tablespoons of the stuff, which is far too much. Exercise caution.)
This is, against all reason, a really excellent salad dressing. It’ll keep in the fridge for about three days. It’s also extremely good with cold new potatoes, over warm asparagus and on eggs instead of mayonnaise. Spend the five minutes it takes to make some, and encourage your Grandma to stop buying the Heinz stuff.