Aioli is a flavour packed classic Provençal sauce made from garlic, olive oil, and egg and I use it as a dip with Devilled Whitebait. A portion of freshly fried thick cut chips, English not American are really great piping hot, dusted with sea salt and served with a large pot of pungent aioli. Aioli is traditionally served with seafood, hearty fish soup and at the centre of the classic Le Grand Aioli, a show-stopping dish of fish, normally salt cod, boiled eggs, chickpeas, and vegetables. There are an abundant number of local variations to Le Grand Aioli with the addition of extra mustard, quince or pear just a few examples. Every town, village and family have their own little twist on the recipe.
Spanish Allioli is a heavier paste-like cold sauce typically found in the region of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia. It is made by pounding garlic with olive oil and salt in a mortar until creamy and smooth and it does not use egg. It is a real test of your forearm strength. Spanish cooks pride themselves on their techniques to get the mixture to emulsify and blend together using the garlic as the only emulsifier. Aillade is the name used in southern France for either a garlic flavoured vinaigrette or a garlic flavoured mayonnaise used as a substitute for aioli.
8 plump fresh Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Coarse Sea Salt
3 large free-range Egg yolks, at room temperature*
120 ml quality extra-virgin Olive Oil
60 ml Sunflower Oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Lemon juice, plus more to taste
In a mortar, pound the garlic cloves with 1 teaspoon of sea salt until a thick paste forms. Set a medium glass bowl on a damp kitchen towel (to hold the bowl steady) and pour in the paste, stir in the egg yolks and let stand for five minutes. Slowly begin to whisk in the olive oil a few drops at a time. Slowly add half of the olive oil, whisking constantly, as the aioli starts to thicken, you can add the oil in a thin stream. When the aioli is very thick, add two teaspoons of the lemon juice. Gradually whisk in half of the remaining olive oil, then two more teaspoons of the lemon juice. Whisk in the remaining olive oil, then add the two remaining teaspoons of lemon juice, then whisk in the sunflower oil. Correct seasoning and acidity and chill. Can be stored tightly covered overnight in the refrigerator.
*There is a slight risk of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses from using raw unpasteurised egg, use only unbroken fresh eggs and do not consume if pregnant or feed to infants.
Nothing says France to me more than Le Grand Aioli, actually, it screams from the rooftops, it screams the flavours of incredibly fresh new season vegetables paired with a silky garlicky aioli. It is the perfect dish on a sun-drenched patio with a glass of something dry and crisp. Everything can be prepared well in advance, however, there is quite a lot of work to individually cook the vegetables to the correct point and then arrest the cooking process in plenty of iced water.
Le Grand Aioli serves 4
1 kilo thick Cod fillets
225 gr Chickpeas rinsed, soaked overnight and drained
2 Garlic cloves, peeled
8 medium Artichokes
8 large hard-cooked free-range Eggs, peeled
650 gr medium Beetroot, washed and peeled
650 gr medium Carrots, washed and peeled
8 medium Waxy Potatoes
1 Cauliflower, cut into large florets
500 gr French Beans, trimmed
Coarse Sea Salt and cracked Black Pepper
In advance sprinkle the fish fillets on both sides with two tablespoons of sea salt. Arrange the fish on a wire rack set over a tray to catch any juices. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight. The following day bring a large deep pan of water to a simmer and rinse the fish thoroughly. Add the fish to the pan and poach it gently over low heat until just cooked through, for about eight minutes. Remove the fish and drain.
In a saucepan, combine the chickpeas with the bay leaves, thyme and garlic and a generous pinch of pepper. Cover with water and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Cover and cook gently until the chickpeas are tender, for approximately two hours, adding more water if necessary. Drain and discard the bay leaves, thyme, and garlic.
Trim the stems from the artichokes and snap off the tough leaves. Cut off the top third of each artichoke and rub the artichokes all over with the lemon. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, simmer the artichokes over moderate heat until the bottoms are tender when pierced with a knife, about fifteen minutes. Drain the artichokes and, when cool enough to handle, pull out the inner leaves. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the hairy chokes. Quarter the artichokes.
In a second large pan of boiling salted water first cook the green beans for four minutes and remove with a slotted spoon to some iced water. Follow the process with the cauliflower for eight minutes, the carrots fifteen, the potatoes twenty to twenty-five and finally the beetroot for thirty minutes. To serve, arrange the fish, eggs, vegetables on platters and put the chickpeas and aioli in bowls.
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