A miracle! The English summer actually seems to be taking itself seriously this year – we have blissy sunshine, bone-loosening heat and, in my village at least, a lovely smell of hay in the air. These conditions do not lend themselves well to lots of roasts and meaty things, so I looked to Provence and Piedmont for today’s recipe – a bagna cauda, rich with garlic and anchovies, for dipping hunks of bread, crudités and hot, steamed artichoke petals into. (There have been some fabulous and enormous artichokes kicking around the market in Cambridge this week – if you’re local, go and grab a few now.)
This bagna cauda has a texture a lot like mayonnaise, and it’s made in a similar way, but without any eggs. (The proteins in the cooked garlic and anchovies help to emulsify the oil and butter in the way that an egg yolk does in mayonnaise.) Like mayonnaise, it keeps well in the fridge and works amazingly well in sandwiches, so if you don’t polish off the whole lot in one go, just treat it as a flavoured mayo for next week’s packed lunches.
To make enough to serve six as a robust dip with bread, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, asparagus, new potatoes…or anything else you can think of, you’ll need:
1 fat bulb garlic
1 tin anchovies
300ml extra-virgin olive oil
350g unsalted butter
Start by peeling the garlic. Choose the sweetest, fattest kind you can find – the Really Garlicky Company grow Porcelain garlic, which I think is the among the most reliable and delicious in the UK. They supply Waitrose, but if you don’t have a local branch, they also sell their garlic online. Pop the peeled cloves in a little pan, cover them with milk and simmer for ten minutes, until the garlic is soft and cooked through. Discard the milk.
Put the anchovies in a bowl with a cover and nuke in the microwave for 45 seconds. They should cook down to a paste. Scrape the anchovies into a saucepan (not the milk pan, which will have milky bits stuck to the bottom) with the garlic, and use the back of a fork to squish them together.
Chop the butter into little cubes about the size of the top joint of your thumb. Put four of the cubes into the saucepan with the garlic and anchovy mixture, and turn the heat on as low as possible under the pan. As soon as the butter starts to melt, start to whisk the contents of the pan with a balloon whisk. When the butter cubes are nearly melted, add four more, still whisking, and continue until all the butter is incorporated. As you continue to whisk, drizzle the olive oil very gradually into the warm mixture as if you were making mayonnaise. Eventually, you’ll have a thick, glossy bagna cauda. Remove to a bowl, plonk it down in the middle of the table, and get dipping immediately.