With a few exceptions, commercial mayonnaise is to homemade as processed cheese is to mature cheddar – convenient, but hard to get excited about. Proper mayo, gently wobbly and yolk-yellow, is a quite different beast: too good to hide away in a sandwich, it deserves to be the star of the show, served with crunchy baby veg, fresh seafood or just a big pile of hot, salty chips.
Prep 5 min
Cook 15 min
1 egg yolk
1 big pinch salt
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp white-wine or cider vinegar, or lemon juice
250ml light olive, grape seed, sunflower or other neutral oil
25ml extra-virgin olive, walnut or rapeseed oil
1 Prepare the ingredients
Ensure everything is at room temperature before you get going. This makes the finished product much less likely to split. So, if you keep your eggs in the fridge, take them out at least 30 minutes before you start work.
2 Choose your tools
This small amount of mayonnaise is hard to make in most food mixers, but electric beaters will do the trick, as will a whisk and a bit of elbow grease. You will also need a large, sturdy bowl. If you happen to have a stick blender and a tall jug in which it fits snugly, go to step 7.
3 Start whisking
Put a damp cloth under the bowl to anchor it, then put the egg yolk and salt in the bowl. Whisk for about 20 seconds, until slightly thickened, then add the mustard and acid (and a teaspoon of cold water if you’re nervous, though it’s not strictly necessary). Whisk for another 30 seconds. Familiarise yourself with step 6 before going any further.
4 Start to incorporate the oil
Begin to add the oil into the bowl, drop by painstaking drop, whisking all the time. Don’t be tempted to use extra-virgin olive oil, because this will make a heavy, often bitter mayonnaise, especially if you’re using electric beaters. It’s far better, and cheaper, to start with a neutral oil and add some extra-virgin at the end.
5 Finish adding the oil
Keep whisking and pouring until the mayonnaise begins to thicken, at which point you can begin to add the oil more quickly, followed by a second, more flavourful oil, if you like. Once all 275ml of the oil has been incorporated and you have a thick, glossy mixture, season to taste. If you’d prefer a thinner consistency, beat in a little water, lemon juice or vinegar.
6 Don’t panic if the mayo splits
If your mayonnaise splits, it’s easily rescued, as long as you have another egg yolk. Crack this into a fresh bowl, whisk for a minute until thick and sticky, then gradually beat in the split mayonnaise a little at a time, followed by any remaining oil.
7 Alternatively, use a stick blender
If you have a stick blender, put all the ingredients except the extra-virgin olive oil into a jug just slightly wider than the blender head. Plunge the blender down to the base of the jug, then turn on and, keeping the blender still, blend on high power for 10 seconds, until you can see the mixture start to emulsify.
8 Finish by hand
Once the mayonnaise begins to billow out from the sides of the blender, very slowly move the head upwards through the oil until you have a creamy mayonnaise (repeat this process, if necessary). Beat in the extra-virgin olive oil by hand, then season to taste.
9 Customise to taste
Mayonnaise is easy to tailor to need or occasion: fold in a clove of crushed garlic, or a handful of chopped herbs, the zest of an unwaxed lemon, black pepper, chilli sauce, horseradish or wasabi, smoked paprika and lime juice, crumbled blue cheese and chives, curry powder, finely chopped capers anchovies or cornichons, wholegrain mustard – but preferably not all at once.
- Food styling: Iona Blackshaw