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Homemade Mayonnaise

mayonnaiseWhen I moved to London in the early 2000s, it was a mythical land where you could afford the rent to live in Zone 1 and had to actually go out of your way to find a branch of Pret a Manger. Clutching a crayfish and rocket sarnie at lunch in those was a statement (mainly that you weren’t doing Atkins) but also that you were in some way young and trendy.

That feeling lasted about six months and then I realised that Pret’s utter obsession with mayonnaise was ruining my life. The occasional sandwich I bought from there was limp with the stuff. They applied it to unsuspecting bread the way estate agents apply gel to their hair. I didn’t just stop eating in Pret; I stopped eating mayonnaise completely.

I suddenly, after a childhood spent smuggling tubes of lemon juiced spiked Continental stuff home from Italy and eating potato salad at any opportunity, couldn’t even look at the stuff. Where only ‘low fat’ mayonnaise had seemed to have that shudderingly globular appearance, all mayonnaise started to resemble something as slick and oily as Vaseline.

I couldn’t bear it. I pitched myself firmly in team salad cream and only ventured back to Pret when they made the Jamon Buerre easier to get. My potato salad went vinaigrette based. And then on August Bank Holiday I woke up and craved mayonnaise so badly I almost made the effort to go out in the rain to get some.

It is testament to my combination of dedication to not getting dressed and agoraphobia that I decided it would actually be easier to just make my own homemade version for the first time. I had eggs, I had oil, I had a whisk and I had nothing better to do.

Turns out making it from scratch is quicker than trying to find a clean bra, locate your purse and find out where Tesco Express have moved everything to this time. It’s also easier and more fulfilling in every possible way. I had no fear of it splitting on me having heard a little trick from my friend Adriana about adding a teaspoon of water to the egg yolk first to stabilise it all (this article explains why but the video autoplays.)

I used some beautiful golden rapeseed oil from Broighter Gold from Northern Ireland to add some summer feel to my grey kitchen and then added dill, capers and anchovies. I ate it dolloped onto homemade oven chips and congratulated myself heartily on my life choices. The rest went into the most magnificient egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten to keep the Bank Holiday joy alive on a Tuesday.

Homemade Mayonnaise (makes about a cupful)

  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 45ml olive or rapeseed or garlic infused oil
  • 75ml flavourless oil such as sunflower oil
  • flavourings of choice such as lemon, mustard, fresh herbs etc

This is incredibly easy and much less hard work than you’d expect. I didn’t actually find it tiring to make and I’ve got spectacularly low energy levels. I wanted a mix of flavoured oil and something neutral so have gone for the balance above to allow you to add more flavours in as desired. Garlic infused oil is fodmap friendly so this a great way to add garlickiness to meals.

Separate your egg and put the yolk into a deep bowl. Beat lightly with a balloon whisk and add a pinch of salt. Add exactly a teaspoon of cold water and beat it in slightly.

Mix your two oils together in a small jug and start off by dripping a few drops of them into the egg yolk while beating steadily. Almost instantly you get a foreshadowing of what will happen and it starts to emulsify. Beat until the oil is combined and then add a drip or two more, repeating three of four times.

Start to add the oil a little more generously at this point as the mayonnaise goes from cautious baby steps to all singing all dancing emulsifying. It literally comes together into a smooth glossy miracle. It’s like comparing an Arab horse to the Shetland pony of commercial brands like Hellmans.

Leave it as it is or add a squirt of lemon and a pinch of mustard powder if you want a good basic mayonnaise you could lick off your fingers in joy. Allow your imagination to take over if you want to personalise it to a particular dish or desire. If I can crack making a garlic free harissa paste soon then that’s my next batch of this sorted.

You can scale the amounts up but remember it does involve raw egg so it will only keep for a day or two in the fridge and if you want more, you can just make more. This is the kind of stuff that impresses the hell out of people no matter their condiment of choice!

mayo & chips

Twice as nice… our daily bread

It’s said man cannot live on bread alone. Considering this statement, I’m surprised organised religion remained so popular for so long on our wee island, when you think what a cracking range of Irish breads there are (veda, potato bread, soda farls and wheaten bread amongst others). I’m all for a bit of decent bread, slathered with butter, rather than some dour sermonising or happy clapping. I’ll probably be smitten down by the hand of a deity for saying that, but at least I’ll go with a smile on my face and a full tum…

Sundays are ripe for laziness*, cooking, and loafing around the house. Today’s mission was to make a decent and homely wheaten bread, to help counter the autumnal blues outside. However we’d been out drinking in Leeds yesterday (sampling some great ales from Leeds and Ossett breweries amongst others), and after a late night and a fuzzy head this morning, something special was required for breakfast first.

I’d planned to make baked eggs, following the recipe from the Parlour Café Cookbook. These have rapidly established themselves as a brekkie standby, not least because they’re so easy to cook. Their simplicity belies their deliciousness. I swapped the Parma ham from their original recipe with some slivers of locally hand-crafted air-dried ham from my friends at Porcus. Their rare-breed pork is heavenly, and I’m privileged enough to get samples of their splendid ham from time to time. These were perfect to line the ramekins, before cracking a hen’s egg in each. But I felt I needed something a tad more substantial to accompany these, so I made some potato bread – a family favourite – for the first time ever.

As Miss South’s previously explained, it’s meant to be made with leftover mashed potato, but that’s rarer than hen’s teeth in my house, so I quickly cubed and boiled up a few spuds, ran them through the potato ricer, then mixed in some plain flour & a knob of butter to create a light dough with a bit of bite. Proportions may vary depending on how waxy/floury your spuds are, but normally you want 4 to 5 times more flour than mash. Miss South’s said it before and we’ll say it again: potato bread is dead easy… it takes a Herculean effort to mess it up. A perfect compliment to any kind of ham and eggs…

Wheaten bread, otherwise known as brown soda bread, is another one of those wonderfully yeast-free breads we love back home. As with soda farls, the secret is the baking soda which helps it rise. You can buy it in many supermarkets, ready-made and branded courtesy of Paul Rankin; and both it and the more well-known white soda breads are gaining popularity on this side of the water. No wonder, it’s both healthy and oh-so-tasty. The ever-reliable Dan Lepard popped up on Women’s Hour’s “Cook the Perfect…” last week with his own take on it, and this spurred me on to do it the North/South way…

We’re a bit more old school in our family, and the core ingredients for wheaten bread are normally just flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and a pinch of sugar. Wheaten bread’s at least as easy to make as potato bread, especially if you have some Northern Irish wheaten bread mix to hand (thanks to my mum for bringing some across this summer). Of course, you can instead use a good mix of plain and wholemeal flour instead… but try and use as coarse and bran-heavy a mix as possible, as this really contributes to the flavour. In a mix, the baking soda’s already in place, so today all I had to do was add buttermilk and sugar.

I’m lucky enough to be able to get buttermilk in my local Morrisons, but I hear it’s hard to source in many parts of the country, so you can use full-fat milk and sour it with some lemon juice, or mix in some live yoghurt instead. Use roughly 3 parts flour to 2 parts buttermilk… in this case I used 500g of flour and about 330ml buttermilk, with a teaspoon of caster sugar just to bring out that nuttiness of the bran even more.

Mix it all up until you get a nice dough, not too sticky or overworked. Then normally I’d roll it out into a roundish shape, about 1″ / 3cm thick, before scoring the top into quarters. I dusted it with a little plain flour, but it’s also good finished with some chopped rolled oats.

As I was mixing the dough I realised I’d not made this for far too long; in fact since I went to Rotterdam to visit friends from all over Europe and enjoy a good shared meal. My Italian mate knocked up some fantastic food, so I thought it’d be right to bring a decent Irish loaf to add to the mix. Most people smuggle addictive substances out of the Netherlands: I may be the only person to have smuggled a loaf of wheaten bread in!

This is a bread with instant gratification in mind, with no leavening or proving required. I baked this straight on the shelf in a pre-heated oven, rather than on a tray, for 35mins (200C/400F/Gasmark 6) straight. Once it came out, sounding hollow when tapped, it had to sit and cool down on a wire rack. This is one of my strongest kitchen memories as a kid. I used to hang around, greedily watching while my mum baked glorious bannocks of wheaten bread, but the hardest part was waiting for them to cool, far too slowly, on a wire rack, with a tea towel covering them. As I found out today, self-control still isn’t one of my strong points when it comes to wheaten bread, even after all these years. We succumbed while the bread was warm enough to melt great slatherings of butter.

Simple and effective with good butter, though I had a last-minute hankering for a bit of blue cheese, which works so well with the nutty sweetness of the bread. Cashel Blue would be the natural Irish choice, but I was able to pick up some very decent Jervaulx Blue instead, which I enjoyed along with a pot of Yorkshire Tea. Living just inside West Yorkshire, it seemed a perfect choice. It also makes superb toast. If you’re looking for something a little more special, slices of buttered wheaten bread alongside some good Irish smoked salmon, finished with a sprig of chervil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some cracked black pepper is to die for.

*”Oh wheaten it be nice…” with apologies to the Small Faces…

 

Salade Niçoise with guinea fowl eggs

guinea_eggs-7

To be honest; until I started writing this post I didn’t know very much about guinea fowl (or guinea-fowl), never mind their eggs. I’ve bought guinea fowl on a few occasions, to make Ghanaian dishes like Nkatenkwan, as their flesh is almost gamey and really benefits from slow, moist, covered cooking methods. I also knew the bird originated in West African, hence their name, and have long been a favourite with chefs (Larousse suggests they’ve been domesticated since Roman times).

Guineafowl egg & duck egg

I’ve also spotted them pecking around farmyards on a few occasions, looking a little haughty and slightly out-of-place with their blue faces and wonderful op-art speckled plumage. Last week my friends from Porcus persuaded me to leave their farm with a selection of wonderful guinea fowl eggs (these are the same people who sated my quest to enjoy turkey eggs last year too)

Guinea fowl eggs

So I came home with six speckly guinea fowl eggs, undecided on how best to use them. I’d been warned they had thick shells, which could prove a bit of a challenge to break through, but I had an extra pair of hands in the form of our mum who was visiting. A quick search on the web threw up very few recipes specifically for guinea fowl eggs, but a friend suggested making a niçoise salad. This proved to be an inspired recommendation, as the diminutive hard-boiled eggs (sized somewhat between a quail and a bantam egg) looked gorgeous nestled against the other ingredients. Not that we needed an excuse to enjoy a classic summer salad (even when the sun is somewhat lacking) which manages to combine some of our favourite family ingredients.

In this case I followed an Antony Worrall Thompson recipe from the BBC website, deviating a little from some other versions, but ticked all the boxes in terms of fresh flavours. I started by marinating the tuna steaks for an hour or so in the vinaigrette mix while prepping the veg. These and the other ingredients filled a large salad bowl. Once the tuna was sufficiently soused it got seared on a very hot ridged griddle, then rested gently.

Meanwhile we boiled the guinea fowl eggs for six minutes, then cooled them off in cold water. They proved quite difficult to peel: the shell was indeed tough, and the inner membrane was equally resistant. Eventually we managed to de-shell and slice them, and were rewarded with sight of bright yellow yolks. They looked wonderfully pretty set against the rest of the salad. Once they were in place the tuna steaks were added, everything was drizzled with the vinaigrette, and we sat down to eat.

The whole thing looked and tasted wonderful: salty, smooth, crisp, sharp and rounded flavours contrasted just as you’d expect a salade niçoise to do. The eggs were creamy and more flavoured than hen’s eggs. The final verdict: great salad, and really tasty wee eggs. If you’re lucky enough to find guinea fowl eggs, don’t pass up on the opportunity to enjoy their delights. Cracking!

Easy Peasy Lemon Curd

An impromptu breakfast at Wild Caper in Brixton has led me to a new summer obsession. Nestled in between the toasted sourdough, homemade jams and ricotta was a small dish of mellow yellow in the shape of proper lemon curd. Creamy as custard and bursting with the invigorating tang of sunshine soaked lemons, I fell in love with it. And went back the next week for more of the same. (Wild Caper doesn’t even advertise it does breakfast, but it’s the best in Brixton… you need to go there!)

I was tempted to buy a jar of it the third time I went in (this time for one of their sourdough doughnuts) but having found some proper unwaxed Italian lemons in The Fruit Garden in Herne Hill the day before, I postponed my original plans for limoncello and decided to make a vat of lemon curd instead.

I expected it would be delicious. I did not expect it would be easier than falling off a log to make it. The only remotely fancy thing you need is a bowl over a pan of water and a lemon zester or grater. I followed this recipe from the lovely Rachel Eats as it seemed the most straightforward I could find. I halved the amount of sugar as I loathe sickly sweet citrus things and wanted some sharpness to it. It made about a pint of curd and filled a small Kilner jar.

Start by sterilising your jars in the oven. This is very important. Then get down to zesting and juicing your lemons as your (unsalted) butter melts above the water. Revel in the citrussy spell of summer now infusing your kitchen as you go. Add the lemon to the butter and put in as much sugar as you choose and make sure it is all melted. Double check the water isn’t boiling under the bowl and things aren’t too hot and then add in your eggs, whisking firmly and making sure nothing scrambles and then cook it out until it looks thick and opaque. Resist the temptation to stick your finger in there. It’s hot and you need to be fussy about good preserve hygiene.

Pour into your sterilised jar promptly, close the Kilner jar or cover with a lid and leave to cool. Scrape the bowl out and lick the spatula with unreserved glee. This stuff is amazing. Light, yet buttery with an utterly moreish tingle of lemon. You’ll be hard pushed to walk past the jar without dipping into it.

Dollop it on bread or Ryvita with a base of cream or curd cheese. Perk up your porridge with it. Stir it into yoghurt for a luxury dessert. Ripple it through ice cream. Give crepes a new lease of life. Take your lemon drizzle cake up a notch. Fill lemon poppyseed muffins with it. Eat it off the spoon out of the jar. Try to resist the urge to turn everything you come across into curd, even though you imagine grapefruit and passion fruit would both be sensational with the sharpness and sweetness that a good curd has. Make friends and influence people with jars of this when they invite you for instead of a mediocre bottle of wine from the corner shop. The possibilities are endless. But just make sure you make it immediately…

Baked eggs

Egg-tastic!

Miss South is doing some visiting for the next few days and rather than leave her housesitter* with a miserable looking selection of vegetable ends and a half empty egg box in the fridge, I decided to use up the various bits and bobs therein and make baked eggs and kale for dinner the night before departure.

The iron rich goodness of kale accompanies eggs just as well as spinach does in the classic eggs Florentine and this dish is like a more hearty, less tricky version of that classic. A bit of Googling to get the timings and temperature right on the eggs led me to this Jamie Oliver recipe with smoked fish and cream which would succesfully fill an egg and spinach shaped hole in your life if you can’t be bothered to make hollandaise. Being incredibly lazy after a day’s packing and cleaning, I opted to completely omit the creamy portion of the dish completely and stick to the basics of kale, eggs and anchovies to make a simple supper.

I sweated the kale down slightly with some butter and two or three chopped anchovy fillets until it was slightly softened, then added some tomatoes from the garden that needed using up to soften them a bit too. I then cracked the three remaining Burford Brown eggs from the fridge into the pan and popped the open pan into the oven at 180° for about 10 minutes…

I got slightly sidetracked for about an extra four minutes thanks to some high drama on Coronation Street, but when I got to the oven, the contents of the pan looked perfectly happy. The kale underneath the eggs was soft and tender, the tomatoes were just cooked enough to have the juice bursting out, but not enough to collapse. The kale on top was slightly crispy more like the wonder that are kale chips and the eggs were neatly swaddled by these lovely leaves, looking just perfectly set.

I scooped the whole panful out onto a plate, seasoned it well with pepper, but skipped the salt due to the anchovies and tucked in. It was delicious, light crispy kale tinged with salty savoury umami anchovies and soft creamy eggs merging together in sheer loveliness. The eggs were slightly less runny than I would have liked, but it was my own fault that they ended up a tad overdone. I’ll stick to no more than ten minutes in the oven in future.

Even with the slightly overdone eggs, this was a fantastic dinner. Quick, easy, cheap and only one pan of washing up to boot! It would be terrific with a bit of chorizo thrown in or some sausages or the smoked fish in the above recipe. In fact, it is just a fantastically adaptable recipe for any evening when you can’t quite be bothered to cook, but there’s a rather long queue in Sainsbury’s to buy a ready meal…

*the housesitter got left with two bottles of wine instead!