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I have a confession to make. I love mayonnaise. I even love the store bought stuff – especially slathered over potatoes with mustard and bacon and raw onion. Potato salad is the best. However, store bought mayonnaises are fairly heavy and pretty one dimensional – a bit sweet, very gloopy, a bit sharp and quite salty. Once you start making your own though you can make them looser and lighter through keeping the egg white in, sharper with more mustard or vinegar or even start experimenting with flavoured oils and spices.

I use mayonnaises for everything from really light salad dressings like in my duck breast salad, as a loose rich sauce for confit salmon, paired with chicken in ultimate leftover comfort food or even just simply as plain old mayonnaise in a sandwich. I’ve even used my vanilla and orange mayonnaise as a last minute gift. I was surprised at just how chuffed they were to get it as a present! Most recently, I used it to pair with some of the dishes in my previous posts: Barberi bread and Kuku-ye Sabzi.

I often think people don’t make mayonnaise at home because they think it’s hard and not worth the effort, especially since the store bought stuff is so readily accessible. The truth is that it’s quite simply one of the easiest things in the world to make and you can whip it up in under 5 minutes with ingredients you already have. The only hard bits are separating an egg (which you can skip for a lighter mayonnaise) and adding the oil slowly – so not too tricksy.

The basic principles of making a mayonnaise are actually really simple:

1.) Start with eggs in a bowl (or food processor). I like to have one egg yolk and one whole egg as I like my mayonnaise a little lighter but it really depends on the purpose of the mayonnaise.

2.) Add some flavour – could be mustard, could be white wine vinegar (could even be roasted garlic) and whisk to combine. Be light with it now as you can always add more once you’re done

3.) Season with salt – I can’t stress this enough, without adding salt your mayonnaise will be bland. It’s your own taste how much but it will need some. A good pinch is a good start

4.) Slowly add your oil whilst whisking continuously. If you used a food processor this step is even easier – just keep pulsing as you add the oil. This is also your opportunity to add more flavour by using a flavoured oil

5.) Stop adding oil when the mayonnaise is thick enough. Contrarily mayonnaise gets thicker the more oil you emulsify not looser. I’ve had lots of people panic that the mayonnaise is too loose and stop adding oil, when in fact they should have added more! Different oils add different flavours and colours and emulsify at different rates and it’s good to experiment. Olive oil works well but has a distinctive flavour (especially the extra virgin oils) and may be too overpowering if used solely, I normally mix in some sunflower, rice bran, rapeseed or some other neutral oil when using olive oil.

6.) Re season with salt, mustard and vinegar as required and add any spices to finish the flavour

I promise you, if you make your own, mayonnaise doesn’t have to be heavy-handed. It will never be super-healthy though. (If someone tries to sell you super healthy mayonnaise rich with omega 3 oils run a mile – I tried a mayonnaise made with fish oils once and it was truly, truly disgusting – California sometimes has a lot to answer for) However, if used sparingly it can even feel light, whether central to the dish or subtle and in the background.

This confit salmon with vanilla mayonnaise is delicious

I promised the recipe to the sumac and saffron mayonnaise, however, and I intend to deliver. I learnt two things about sumac recently, number one I’ve been saying it incorrectly for years. My friend from Iran politely informs me the c is silent. The second is it’s a berry that comes from a plant related to poison ivy. It is, however, entirely non-poisonous and has a beautiful tart citrusy flavour. It’s genuinely unlike most other spices and should be used fairly sparingly as it’s quite powerful. Be careful of how finely ground it is, if not finely ground enough it could impart a gritty texture to your mayonnaise. If this does happen, don’t worry – simply leave the mayonnaise overnight and the sumac will soften in the moist environment of the mayonnaise.

Sumac and saffron mayonnaise

  • 1 whole egg (if using the saffron water then use 2 egg yolks instead of a mixture of whole egg and yolk)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard
  • 1/3 clove of grated raw garlic
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 200-300ml rapeseed oil (it contributes to the glorious yellow colour, and does not have an overly oily mouthfeel in the mayonnaise)
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac
  • [optional] 20ml saffron water (take a pinch of saffron and toast the strands lightly. Grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle and soak in 300ml warm water until dissolved – will keep getting better for 3 days)
  1. Follow the steps above, add the grated garlic, saffron water and sumac along with the mustard in step two.
  2. Make sure to adjust the seasoning at the end with salt

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