Mayonnaise is what a chef calls a base sauce and it is used to make many, many derivate sauces that you will recognise. The classic mayonnaise recipe is essentially an emulsion with vinegar and sometimes lemon juice carried in olive oil. The mix is bound together with egg yolk. It can be made slowly using plenty of elbow grease to whisk the ingredients together or at high speed in a food processor. The mayonnaise can be flavoured with additional added herbs or spices or by using flavoured oils and vinegar.
Commercially produced mayonnaise is made from pasteurised egg yolks and sometimes the whole egg. The olive oil is content is often quite low or totally substituted by cheaper alternatives such as sunflower or soya bean oils. Quite often if you study the label of the mayonnaise container water is a major ingredient and the texture is created by the addition of extra emulsifiers and stabilisers. Mustard is added as an emulsifier and flavour enhancer.
Homemade mayonnaise can approach an 85% fat content before the emulsion breaks down, commercial mayonnaise has typically a 70-80% fat content. ‘ Low fat ‘ mayonnaise products contain starches, cellulose gel and other ingredients to simulate the texture of real mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is the base for many other chilled sauces and salad dressings such as Tartare, traditional Rémoulade, Marie Rose, Thousand Island dressing and Fry sauce. Ranch dressing is made of mayonnaise with buttermilk or sour cream and minced spring onions, garlic and herbs.
In the posthumous collection of essays by Elizabeth David ‘ Is there a Nutmeg in the House ‘ she strongly advocates the simple recipe outlined in the opening paragraph, relying on the peppery, green flavours of different olive oils to flavour the mayonnaise. Today we are perhaps even luckier with numerous oils from many different countries and regions available.
However, tastes change and many people prefer a slightly more uniform, stable product so the recipe below reflects that. One yolk is sufficient to hold the oil in the recipe but two yolks help reduce the chances of the mayonnaise splitting. The recipe below is an excellent neutral base for the many mayonnaise-based sauces you can experiment with in your cooking.
100 ml Virgin Olive Oil
100 ml Sunflower Oil
2 free range Egg Yolks*
2 tablespoons good White Wine Vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Lemon juice
½ teaspoon fine Salt
½ teaspoon English Mustard powder
A pinch of Caster Sugar
Place a glass bowl on a damp cloth to prevent slipping. Whisk together egg yolk and the dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a small jug then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Whisking briskly add the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid starts to thicken (you have formed an emulsion). Increase the flow of oil to a constant, thin stream. Once half of the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture. Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Store in the refrigerator.
If your mayonnaise separates or curdles you can recover the mix by whisking in a tablespoon of boiling water to the mayonnaise which should combine the mixture together. If this does not recombine the mixture start the process again with a further egg yolk in a clean bowl and whisk in the curdled mixture a tablespoon at a time.
*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.
Here are some top chef tips I have found that will help you make a really good mayonnaise.
Using the freshest eggs available will speed up the incorporation of the ingredients to form your mayonnaise.
Room temperature eggs will whisk up faster.
Don’t over egg the mixture you will be really surprised how much oil one egg yolk will accommodate.
Some Tasty Mayonnaise Sauces for you to Try.
For each recipe add the ingredients to eight heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise
Andalusian Sauce – add one heaped tablespoon of tomato purée, half a teaspoon of finely chopped tarragon, the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper and one ounce of thinly sliced pimento pepper. Serve with fish such as salmon or as a barbeque condiment.
Pesto Mayonnaise – add a heaped tablespoon of freshly made pesto sauce, the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon and season as necessary. Serve with prawns, scallops and char grilled vegetables.
Watercress Mayonnaise – wash, pick and very finely chop one bunch of watercress. Stir into the mayonnaise with the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon and season as necessary. Serve with hot and cold roast beef, Bresaola and smoked and oily fish such as salmon, trout and herring.
Sauce Verte – blanch fifty grammes each of picked washed baby spinach and watercress leaves, fifty grammes of chives and two tablespoons each of tarragon, dill and chervil leaves. Thoroughly squeeze out any water and blitz in a food processor. Work resulting purée through a very fine sieve. Add resulting liquid to mayonnaise with the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon, season as required. Serve with any barbecued meat, grilled pork and fish dishes.
Smoked Bacon and Tarragon Mayonnaise – fry one hundred grammes of smoked streaky bacon cut into very fine strips until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool add to mayonnaise with one tablespoon of finely chopped fresh tarragon and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with tomato salad, cheese or lentils.
Grain Mustard and Tarragon Mayonnaise – add two tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon, two tablespoons of grain mustard and one tablespoon of honey. Serve with chicken, guinea fowl, ham and broad beans.
Sweet Red Pepper and Chilli Mayonnaise – add fifty grammes of finely chopped pimento peppers, one medium heat red chilli pepper, very finely sliced, half a teaspoon of tabasco sauce and one peeled puréed clove of garlic with the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon and season as required. Serve with char-grilled vegetables such as artichokes, peppers and aubergines, grilled steaks, prawns and sausages.
Horseradish and Chive – add two tablespoons of prepared horseradish sauce, two tablespoons of finely chopped chives with the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon, season as required. Serve with smoked trout, mackerel and salmon and cold roast beef sandwiches.
Balsamic and Cracked Black Pepper – add two tablespoons of reduced balsamic vinegar or prepared balsamic syrup and one-half teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with cold meats, fries and with crusty bread as an appetiser.