Ask Peter: Mayonnaise
I make mayonnaise using the drop by drop method, usually a base of two egg yolks with a light canola-type oil, hand mixed. However even in the fridge it tends to separate out a couple of days after I make it. This doesn’t happen with my store-bought mayonnaise. Can you recommend how I can stop this separation? And any novel uses for mayonnaise while we’re at it? Thank you for a most useful column each Monday.
I can well remember when I made my first batch of real mayonnaise, aged 18, at Sardi’s restaurant in Melbourne. Sardi’s no longer remains, but my love of mayonnaise, like yours, is well and truly in place.
I was fascinated to see how the oil was emulsified into the mixture as the lecithin in the egg yolks and the mustard (which I always add as it also contains a little lecithin, plus it gives the final sauce a bite) turned oiliness into creaminess. At college we were always told to whisk a dessert spoon of almost boiling water into it at the very end to help stabilise it — although it sometimes made it go a little thin and I still don’t understand the science of that part of the equation.
However, adding a teaspoon of tepid water, along with the vinegar or lemon juice in the initial stage, will help it emulsify and may solve your problem. These days in the restaurant when I’m making mayonnaise in large batches, I always add an egg white — or rather I’d use 2 yolks, plus 1 whole egg rather than 3 yolks — as this seems to lighten the mayonnaise and I’ve never had it split.
As a child, mayonnaise was made by beating malt vinegar and mustard powder into condensed milk, and I still love it that way, although it’s a far cry from the “real’’ thing. But nostalgia is strong and when my step-mum Rose serves it up I always go back for seconds, spread thickly over a ham and tomato sandwich, or used to dip hot fat chips into — just as the Dutch like to.
I’ve also been making a version of aioli that uses milk and no eggs — which in some ways is certainly not a mayonnaise as such, but it’s a fool-proof and fabulous alternative. In fact I made it on my TV show Fusion Feasts last year, adding some fresh kawakawa leaves to the mixture and serving it with trout cooked in the thermal sands of Lake Tarawera. Recipe follows.
As to why your mayonnaise separates, I can’t be sure, but mine always lasts a good 5-6 days in the fridge. Try adding a teaspoon of mustard to your yolks in the initial beating — it helps keep the oil emulsified. Store-bought versions will likely have stabilisers and commercial emulsifiers added so don’t expect theirs to be anything like yours.
And as to flavouring it — you can add anything from wasabi paste, sweet chilli sauce, or peanut butter to lime zest or pureed sundried tomatoes.
Eggless basil aioli
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
20 basil leaves
300ml whole milk (don’t use trim milk)
Approximately 300ml sunflower oil
- You’ll need a stick blender to make this as there isn’t a lot of volume and you can make it in a jug — something narrow and deep, rather than flat and wide.
- Blitz the garlic and milk for 20 seconds, then add the basil and blitz for 10 more.
- Drizzle in the milk, slowly at first, then a little faster as it begins to thicken, lifting the blender up and down as it thickens to make sure it’s all incorporated. You may not need to use all the oil.
- Season with salt. Store covered in the fridge.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.