So now you’ve got your hands on some really fine mayonnaise, you’ll be wanting to use it to make a really fine potato salad. The ingredients list here is a simple one. Use the best waxy little potatoes you can; I used Roseval, which have a sweet, yellow flesh sometimes tinged with red rings. Pink Fir Apple, all knobbly and smooth-skinned, are another favourite, but Jersey Royals are best of all, and this is a great way to showcase their delicate flavour during their short season (around May and June). Don’t peel your potatoes or scrub off their delicate skins when you clean them; much of the potato’s flavour is held just below the skin, and the tasty skins themselves are a good source of vitamin C.
You can boil or steam your potatoes. Many varieties of new potato are perfectly happy being boiled, but if you’re not familiar with the variety you’ve chosen, steam them – they’re less likely to crack or collapse this way.
The sweet red onions in this salad should be sliced as fine as you possibly can. They’re less harsh this way, and their flavour gently infuses the whole salad. If you have a mandoline (mine, which I love and fear in equal measure, was a present from my lovely in-laws – I am pretty sure they are not trying to kill me, but that rather, they imagine I’m actually competent around razor-sharp blades), set it to slice paper-thin. If you’re using a knife, sharpen it before you start on the onion to help you slice thinly.
To make enough potato salad for a side-dish for four, you’ll need:
500g new potatoes
3 spring onions
½ red onion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 teaspoon nonpareil capers, drained of their vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped finely
Steam or boil the potatoes for 20 minutes, and allow to cool to a point where you can handle them. While the potatoes are cooling, slice the red onion into paper-thin half-moons, and chop the spring onions on the diagonal into 1cm pieces. Mix together the mayonnaise, crème fraîche, capers, mustard and parsley in a bowl.
Cut the warm potatoes into slices and toss them well with the onions in a serving bowl. Pour over the dressing, toss again and serve. You shouldn’t need any additional salt, but taste to check and season if you want to.
This is the second post in an occasional series on fundamental recipes which form the basis of a number of other dishes. The first recipe I posted was for Béchamel sauce, and I’ve gone with sauce again today. I know that making mayonnaise at home is one of those things that scares people stiff: you’ll have heard stories about it splitting and curdling from almost everyone who has made it, and most seem to avoid making it at home, relying instead on a jar of Hellman’s. It’s true that splitting can happen to the best of us (mine actually split when I was preparing this post – my own fault for taking a short-cut with the food processor), but what most people don’t seem to realise is that a split mayonnaise is the easiest thing in the world to rescue.
Mayonnaise is simply an emulsion of oil stabilised with egg yolks (raw, so the usual health warnings apply for those in at-risk groups – you know who you are), with a little lemon juice or wine vinegar. The sort of oil you use will affect the flavour; mayonnaise made with a strong-tasting olive oil, as with most European mayonnaises, will be fragrant and piquant. Sunflower oil is traditional in Russia, and gives a very different flavour. Many commercial mayonnaise manufacturers use flavourless vegetable oils and spike the finished product with sugar and other flavourings. Experiment, if you’re that way inclined – I rather enjoy a grapeseed oil mayonnaise, which has a delicate flavour and a lovely green tinge.
You’ll find yourself using mayonnaise as the basis for a huge number of other classical sauces. There’s garlicky aïoli, which becomes rouille when saffron is added. Sauce rémoulade, which you’ll find in cuisines from Denmark to Louisiana, has flavourings which vary from country to country, but which almost always include anchovy, herbs and mustard. Thick American salad dressings – ranch, Thousand Island, blue cheese – all have their beginnings in mayonnaise. Argentinian salsa golf is based around mayonnaise (and ketchup, unfortunately). One of my favourite mayonnaise-based sauces is tartare sauce (sometimes called tartar sauce); you’ll find a recipe for it below. Mayonnaise is essential in a number of sandwiches – and there are plenty of recipes from devilled eggs to potato salad which employ hearty dollops of the stuff.
I think Hellman’s mayonnaise is pretty good stuff, and if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own, it’ll serve in all the recipes I mentioned above. But a home-made mayonnaise is a different thing altogether, and you may find that family members who think they don’t like mayonnaise at all will be brought round if you make your own.
Home-made mayonnaise will keep in the fridge for a week. The recipe below will make about half a pint (enough for the tartare sauce and a potato salad, for which I’ll post the recipe on Friday), but if you need more or less, reckon on using another 200ml oil per every extra egg yolk.
2 egg yolks
400ml olive oil (choose one you’d be happy to dip bread in and eat straight)
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 large pinch salt
To whip up a bowl by hand, use a hand-whisk or electric whisk to blend the yolks, mustard, salt and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisking all the time, add the olive oil at first drip by drip, and as the mixture thickens, in a thin stream. You’ll end up with a glossy, wobbly bowlful of golden mayonnaise. Taste it – you may want to use more vinegar or salt.
You can make mayonnaise in the food processor, whizzing the yolks, mustard, salt and vinegar together, then drizzling the oil in while the blade turns. I find it’s actually less reliable this way, perhaps because unless you’re making gallons of the stuff, the machine can have trouble liaising all the ingredients right at the start, so the mixture is more likely to curdle. You’ll be able to tell – it won’t thicken, and the oil and eggs will separate. If your mayonnaise does curdle, it’s easy to rescue: just remove the curdled mixture to a jug, give it a stir and start again in a clean bowl with one new yolk and a teaspoon of mustard. Continue as you would as if you were starting from scratch, but use the curdled mixture with an additional 100ml oil instead of fresh oil.
To turn the mayonnaise into a piquant tartare sauce, you’ll need:
This is as easy as anything. Dice the cornichons as small as you can, chop the shallots into tiny pieces and dice the shallot into pieces as small as the cornichon bits. Stir all the ingredients together and chill for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavours to come together. You’re probably used to tartare sauce with fish, but it’s also very good with breaded chicken and in sandwiches.
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:
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.
Before we get onto the recipe, some family boasting is in order. Mr Weasel had his viva voce yesterday, and was let out after two hours fierce examining with no corrections to his thesis. This means that in June, he’ll become Dr Weasel at a ceremony for which I get to wear a hat. Well done, sweetheart!
Onto the food.
Evelyn Rose is an English cookery writer who specialises in Jewish family recipes and entertaining on a large scale. This recipe is from her The Entertaining Cookbook, published in 1980, which I seem to find myself drawn back to on every large family occasion. She has a calm and deft ability with cooking for large groups, and all the recipes I’ve tried have been foolproof. I use my mother’s copy, which she’s had for twenty years; most of its pages are falling apart now, and the cucumber salad page is splattered with two decades of the best sugary Swedish dressing in the world. Sadly, the book seems to be out of print now, although I have spotted second-hand copies online for around £40. Fortunately, I am frequently to be found in second-hand bookshops, so it’s likely I’ll find a cheaper copy some time before I get too old to read.
Update: I finally found a copy of the book in late 2007, at the tender age of 31, for a mere quid on good old eBay.
This dill mustard is far better than the stuff from a jar. It’s my favourite accompaniment for smoked salmon; try it with salmon, some buttered rye bread and a small salad. Evelyn Rose says it keeps in the fridge for a month – here, it’s never hung around long for enough for me to test that assertion. The ingredients list may sound a little unorthodox, but I promise you it’s the nicest honey-mustard dill sauce you’ve tried.
To make a small bowlful (enough for ten people or more) you’ll need:
4 rounded tablespoons mayonnaise (I used Hellmann’s)
1 level tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 level tablespoon clear honey
2 teaspoons soya sauce (I used Kikkoman)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill (or more to taste)
Just mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl until everything is well-blended, and chill for a few hours before serving so the flavours mingle. I prefer freshly ground black pepper in this recipe, and usually use far more dill – two of the regular-sized supermarket packs, or about five tablespoons when chopped finely.
Mr Weasel really should know better by now. It’s been nearly ten years; surely that’s enough time to realise that saying such a thing could only have one possible result?
I made some coleslaw.
¼ celeleriac, peeled
5 carrots, peeled
¼ white cabbage
2 tablespoons double cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (make it yourself or use Hellman’s – I’ve still not found another I’ll allow fridge space)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds
2 teaspoons walnut oil
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
Julienne (cut into fine strips) all the vegetables. This will be infinitely easier if you own a mandoline or a food processor with the relevant blade. The rest of the recipe is simplicity itself – just mix the lot together in a big bowl. Taste to see if you need more lemon, salt or sugar. Then serve immediately.
The idea with coleslaw is that it should be creamy and fresh. It’s really not good if you leave it hanging around (like supermarket or fast food coleslaw); it needs its crunch. This means that it doesn’t make for good leftovers. This will make enough for two people. Swap the mayonnaise for Greek yoghurt if you want a slightly lighter texture.
Mr Weasel’s verdict? He finished his bowl in under a minute, wiped his mouth and said:
Another item from the Great American Suitcase Load of Food I brought back last February was a large bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce. Frank’s is the traditional sauce used for gorgeous, buttery, spicy Buffalo wings; unfortunately it’s hard to find the dish or the sauce readily in the UK, so you’ll have to resort to importing sauce and making your own wings.
We’re in luck; chicken wings, being bony and a little unprepossessing, are not something the English, who seem to prefer meat that comes in boneless, skinless chunks, buy very often. While they’re usually available in the shops, they’re not expensive. This is great news for me; there are plenty of excellent Chinese chicken wing recipes (when I was little we’d fight over the wings, which my Dad always assured us were where the very tastiest, most succulent meat was), and I have an artery-clagging love for Buffalo wings with blue cheese dip and celery. I decided to break into my bottle of Frank’s, and pay no attention to the calories.
You’ll need to joint your chicken wings. It’s extremely easy; you just need a sharp knife. This wing is whole – spread it out and look for the two joints. Mr Weasel, taller, stronger and kinder than me, suggested that his extra height would make the jointing easier. Shamefully, I stood back, beaming, and let him do it. I really don’t enjoy handling raw chicken very much; I’m usually fine with raw meats, but for some reason I find chicken a bit difficult. There’s something about the way it smells raw which makes me enjoy the cooked product less. Poor thing; he does work for his supper. The joints themselves are softer than the bone itself, so your knife should penetrate cleanly and neatly.
Chop through both joints like this, and discard the wing tip. You’ll end up with a little drumstick-looking bit, and one with two little bones (much like your forearm, if you, like me, can only remember which bits of meat are where on an animal by comparing the animal with yourself).
Heat deep oil for frying to 190c (375f). I use a wok and a jam thermometer for deep frying; the wok means you use less oil, and having a wide container means you can fry more wings at once. Fry the winglets in batches ( I did six at a time) until they are golden brown.
When one batch of wings is ready (they should be about this colour), put them to drain on some kitchen paper in a very low oven, where they can keep warm until all their friends are ready. I cooked fifteen wings (so thirty chopped up wing bits), which should serve three people.
Meanwhile, you can get to work on the blue cheese dip while your sous chef gets on with cutting celery into strips. I used a recipe given to me by an American friend, which I’ve further messed about with and added to a bit; I think it’s pretty much perfect:
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (use the strongest cheese you can find; for me, this time round it was Gorgonzola, but Roquefort’s great in this too)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 grated shallot
1 clove grated garlic
1 handful fresh herbs, chopped finely (I used parsley and chives)
2 teaspoons Chipotle Tabasco sauce (use regular Tabasco if you can’t get the lovely smokey Chipotle version)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Easy as pie; just mix the lot up together.
Now warm half a bottle of that Frank’s hot sauce, transported across continents wrapped in your knickers like precious jewellery, with half a pat of butter. When the butter is melted, whisk it all together. Pour the lot over the crispy little winglets in a deep bowl, and toss like a divine salad.
Serve with the blue cheese dip and the sticks of celery. You’ll make a terrible mess; have lots of napkins on the table.
I really must find out who the hell this Frank fellow with the sauce is, find him and shake his hand.